Monday, July 01, 2013

Francis "Lights" Up – Pope's First Encyclical Due Friday

At a pre-Noon briefing today, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis' first encyclical, entitled Lumen Fidei – "The Light of Faith" – will be released this Friday, 5 July.

A trio of Vatican heavyweights – the prefect of Bishops, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the CDF chief Archbishop Gerhard Müller and the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization Archbishop Rino Fisichella – are slated to unveil the text at 11am Rome time in the Vatican Press Office.

While the less than four month period between Francis' election and the rollout of his first major document is a modern record, the pontiff let slip in mid-June that he was reworking a draft text given him by Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, and that the finished product – ostensibly prepared to mark the ongoing Year of Faith – would be "the work of four hands."

In conversation with the Council of the Synod of Bishops, Francis said that the draft provided by his predecessor "is a powerful document, although I will say that I received this great work: he began it and I carried it forward."

The last encyclical, B16's Caritas in veritate – the German pontiff's third, its focus on social teaching and human development – was released four years ago this week.

For purposes of context, while Benedict's first encyclical, Deus caritas est, was likewise rooted in a late effort of Blessed John Paul II, it emerged some nine months after Joseph Ratzinger's 2005 election. Until now, the quickest time-lapse between a Pope's ascent and first encyclical was held by John Paul, whose Redemptor hominis was given in March 1979, four and a half months into his pontificate, while Paul VI and Blessed John XXIIII respectively waited fourteen and eight months before publishing their first top-tier messages.

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On a separate note, as immigration reform dominates the late-session landscape in Washington, the Vatican said this morning that the Pope will spend next Monday visiting Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island where news of the recent capsizing of a boat carrying African refugees among other local tragedies is said to have "deeply touched" him. 

"Given the particular circumstances" of the place – a common entry-point into Europe for migrants – the statement emphasized that the visit would take place "in the most discreet form possible, even in regard to the presence of the bishops of the region and civil authorities."

The date of the trip coincides with the previously-announced first day of the Pope's summer "vacation" period, during which Francis is slated to cease both his morning Masses and private audiences.