14 things you need to know about Pope Francis’s new encyclical

by Jimmy Akin

in +PopeFrancis, The Church, The Pope, Theology

Pope Francis has just released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei. Here are 14 things you need to know about it.

Pope Francis has just released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei. Here are 14 things you need to know about it.

Pope Francis has just released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, or “the light of faith.”

The first encyclical of a pope is always closely watched, because it frequently signals the way in which he intends to govern the Church.

This new encyclical is even more intriguing because much of it was actually written by former Pope Benedict.

Here are 14 things you need to know . . .


1. What is an encyclical?

An encyclical is a kind of letter. Papal encyclicals usually deal with matters of Church teaching (doctrine). Popes write them when they feel they have something important to say about particular teachings.

Although they are not infallible, encyclicals are authoritative.

The word “encyclical” comes from the Greek word for “circle,” indicating that it is to be circulated among different people.

The encyclical Lumen Fidei is addressed to “the bishops, priests, and deacons, consecrated persons, and the lay faithful.” This indicates a broad audience.

You can read the full encyclical here.


2. How did this encyclical come to be?

The encyclical was originally begun by Pope Benedict in order to commemorate the Year of Faith and to complete a trilogy of encyclicals he had been writing on the three theological virtues—faith, hope, and charity.

The preceding two were Deus Caritas Est, on the theological virtue of charity, and Spe Salvi, on the virtue of hope.

Pope Benedict’s health did not allow him to remain in office, however, and so the draft of the encyclical was inherited by Pope Francis, who chose to complete it.


3. Has this ever happened before?

Yes. In fact, Pope Benedict’s first encyclical was based, in part, on an encyclical that John Paul II had begun preparing but had not finished.


4. Does Lumen Fidei acknowledge Pope Benedict’s role in its composition?

Yes. In it, Pope Francis writes:

These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own. [LF 7].


5. Does Lumen Fidei sound like Pope Benedict?



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Bill912 July 9, 2013 at 7:49 am

Like I said, the well-proven anti-Catholic bigot is back. Yawn.

Bill912 July 9, 2013 at 9:00 am

I guess I got his goat, because it didn’t take long for him to prove me right.

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