Vatican City, 5 July 2013 (VIS) – A press conference was held at 11.00 this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present Pope Francis' first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei”. The conference was presented by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Archbishops Gerhard Ludwig Muller and Rino Fisichella, respectively prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization.
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller began the presentations, explaining that “'Lumen Fidei' is divided into four parts, which can be seen as four aspects of one whole”.
“In the first part”, he said, “we move from the faith of Abraham, the man who recognised in the voice of God 'a profound call which was always present at the core of his being', to the faith of the People of Israel. The history of the faith of Israel, in its turn, is a continual passage from 'the temptation to unbelief' and the adoration of idols, 'works of the hands of man', to the confession 'of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfilment of his promises'. This leads ultimately to the history of Jesus, a summary of salvation, in which all the diverse threads of the history of Israel are united and fulfilled. In Jesus we are able to say definitively that 'we know and believe the love that God has for us' because He is 'the complete manifestation of God’s reliability'”.
Archbishop Muller continued, “In the second part, the encyclical forcefully raises the question of truth as one which is 'central to faith'. Because faith has to do with knowledge of reality it is intrinsically linked to truth: 'faith without truth does not save… it remains a beautiful story…or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment'”.
“Faith, which opens us to the love of God, transforms the way we see things 'because love itself brings enlightenment'. … Love is authentic when it binds us to the truth and truth attracts us to itself with the force of love. 'This discovery of love as a source of knowledge, which is part of the primordial experience of every man and woman' is confirmed for us in the 'biblical understanding of faith' and is one of the most beautiful and important ideas emphasised in this encyclical”.
He explained, “Faith helps us to draw out the profound meaning of reality. In this way we can understand how faith is able to 'illuminate the questions of our own time about truth', the great questions which arise in the human heart when faced either with the beauty of reality or by its dramas”.
Archbishop Muller went on to highlight several key points of the encyclical, starting with “the origin of faith, which if it profoundly touches the believer, is an event which does not close the person in on himself in an isolated and isolating 'face-to-face' with God. Faith in fact 'is born of an encounter which takes place in history' and 'is passed on…by contact from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another'”.
Secondly, he pointed out “a quotation from the Sermons of St. Leo the Great that is included in the third part of the encyclical: 'If the faith is not one, then it is not faith'. We live today in a world which, despite all its connectedness and globalisation, is fragmented and divided into many 'worlds' that, even if in communication with one another, are often and intentionally isolated and in conflict. The unity of the faith is, therefore, the precious gift that the Holy Father and his fellow Bishops are called to foster, guarantee and witness to, as the first fruits of a unity that wants to give itself as a gift to the whole world”.
Finally, he referred to a passage from the fourth chapter of the encyclical: “While it is true that authentic faith fills one with joy and 'a desire to live life to the fullest' – here we see concretely the connection between the teaching of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI – 'the light of faith does not make us forget the sufferings of the world'. Rather it opens us up to 'an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light'”.
The encyclical, concluded Archbishop Muller, “wishes to restate in a new way the truth that faith in Jesus Christ is a good for humanity 'truly a good for everyone; a common good': 'Its light does not simply brighten ... the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope”.
This was followed by a presentation by Cardinal Ouellet, who emphasised that the encyclical “speaks of faith like an experience of communion, of the enlargement of the 'I' and solidarity in the path the Church takes with Christ for the salvation of humanity. … Objectively, the light of faith guides the meaning of life, brings comfort and consolation to unsettled or despondent hearts, but also commits believers to place themselves at the service of the common good of humanity through the announcement and authentic sharing of the grace of God. … Subjectively, faith offers an opening to Christ's Love, a welcome, the opportunity to enter into a relationship that enlarges the 'I' to the dimensions of 'we' which is not merely human, within the Church, but also truly divine, and therefore an authentic participation in the 'we' of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Starting from this trinitary 'we' that is extended to become an ecclesial 'we', the encyclical naturally refers back to the 'we' of the family, the most privileged context for the transmission of faith. … On the other hand the encyclical reminds us of the deep affinities between faith and the endless love a man and woman promise to each other when they unite in matrimony. … The encyclical also offers a considerable contribution regarding the pertinence of faith to social life, that our cities may be constructed in justice and peace, with respect for every individual and his or her liberty, thanks to the contribution faith offers in the comfort of the suffering and the settlement of conflicts. … The tendency to confine faith to the private sphere is calmly but decisively rejected here” and “many aspects developed previously in the encyclicals on charity and hope are complemented here by this depiction of faith as communion and service for the common good”.
“Finally”, the cardinal concluded, “the encyclical contemplates Maria, the ideal personification of faith, who heard the Word and cherished it within her heart, she who followed Jesus and let herself be transformed by Him”.
The final presentation was given by Archbishop Fisichella, who returned to the words of the Holy Father. “'Those who believe, see'. This expression … encapsulates the teaching of Pope Francis in this, his first encyclical. It is a text situated on the horizon created by the binomial 'light' and 'love'. It teaches a path the Pope proposes to the Church in order that she might recover her mission in today's world. … Presenting faith, the encyclical invites us to return our attention to the basis of the Church and of every believer. This is the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God who, through his death and resurrection, revealed to us the fullness and depth of His love. … beginning from the assumption that faith is born of love, the knowledge of faith and the knowledge of love are linked as an inseparable pair in which love, however, assumes a role of undisputed primacy. The “light of faith” is brought into the “light of love”.
Archbishop Fisichella commented that “Lumen Fidei” is published in the middle of the Year of Faith, and that it was signed on 29 June, the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, first witnesses to the faith of the Church of Rome, where Peter's Successor is called to confirm all brothers in the unity of faith. He stated that Benedict XVI was frequently asked to write an encyclical on faith, so as to conclude the triad he had begun with “Deus caritas est” on love, and “Spe salvi” on hope. The Pope was not convinced that he was able to take on this further task”, explained the archbishop. “Nonetheless, this insistence eventually prevailed, and Benedict XVI decided that he would write the encyclical to offer it at the end of the Year of Faith. However, history took a different turn and this encyclical is now offered to us today by Pope Francis ... as a 'programme' for how to continue to live this Year of Faith which has seen the Church involved in many highly formative experiences”.
He added, “It must be said without hesitation while 'Lumen Fidei' resumes some of the intuition and themes typical of the ministry of Benedict XVI, it is fully Pope Francesco's text. Here we encounter his style … the immediacy of his expressions, the rich images he uses and the peculiarity of his use of quotations from ancient and modern authors, make this text a true introduction to his teaching. … For example, a close reading of these pages immediately reveals a strong recurrence of the three verbs that Pope Francesco used in his first homily to the Cardinals on the day following his election: proceed, build, confess. In a certain sense it may be said that this encyclical is structured on the basis of these three verbs and clarifies their meaning”.
In “Lumen Fidei” the Pope does not forget this year's two key dates: the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “With regard to the first event, Pope Francis confirms that it was a 'Council on faith', with the aim of placing at the centre of the life of the Church the primacy of God and the need to restate this today, in different cultures and societies, in a comprehensible and credible way. With regard to the Catechism, the encyclical reiterates its validity as a tool by which the Church carries out its task of transmitting faith with the living memory of the proclamation of Jesus Christ. It is also worth noting that in this context Pope Francis underlines the great value of the Profession of the Faith, the Creed … which allows faith to be experienced as living and effective in the lives of those who believe, who frequently experience an unjustified illiteracy regarding matters of faith. In these pages, the profound value of the Creed is reiterated, not only to recall the synthesis of the faith but above all to make clear the necessary commitment to change one's life … those who believe, in summary, are called to live responsibly in the world”.
“'Lumen Fidei'”; he concluded, is an encyclical with a strong pastoral connotation. … Pope Francesco, with his pastor's sensibility, manages to translate many questions of a strictly theological character into themes that can assist in reflection and catechesis. … No-one should be afraid to look to great ideals and to pursue them. Faith and love are the first to be proposed. In a period of cultural weakness such as the present age, this invitation is a provocation and a challenge to which we cannot remain indifferent”.