Useful information about Pope Francis’ first encyclical

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. Continue reading


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