Instead of our usual weekly giveaway, today I’m distributing Pope Francis’ new encyclical. At 6:00am ET this morning (noon Rome time), the Pope released Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith). Described as “the work of four hands,” the document originated with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI before Pope Francis “made it his own.”
An encyclical is simply an open letter from the pope to the entire Church. It comes from the Latin word encyclicus meaning “general” or “encircling” and carries significant authoritative weight. For the pope, encyclicals are second in importance only to Apostolic Constitutions.
Though most popes release several encyclicals during their pontificate, it’s unusual for a pope to release one so quickly. It took Pope Francis only four months, fewer than any pope in modern history.
It’s also unusual for an encyclical to feature two major emphases. Lumen Fidei reflects on the theological virtue of Faith (Pope Benedict devoted encyclicals to Hope and Charity.) But Lumen Fidei also sums up and expands on the recent Synod on the New Evangelization. The Pope typically releases an Apostolic Exhoration after each synod, such as Evangelii Nuntiandi (Paul VI), Christifideles Laici (John Paul II), and Verbum Domini (Benedict XVI). However, Pope Francis didn’t think it was a good idea to release an encyclical and an Apostolic Exhortation so close together, deciding instead to cover both topics in one document.
This morning the Vatican posted the full text of Lumen Fidei online. Yet in case you’re not a fan of parchment background, I’ve converted it to many other popular formats. Enjoy!
(PS. If you’re more of a paper fan, Ignatius Press is taking pre-orders for the hardcover edition.)
In the last couple hours, I’ve received a litany of emails from both the USCCB and the Vatican accusing me of “[violating] both civil and moral law” and “stealing from the pope” (actual words used) by making the encyclical available in other formats. They’ve ordered me to remove the documents with full knowledge that this would prevent hundreds of people from reading it who otherwise wouldn’t read the encyclical online or in print.
In my view, this is tragic and unjust. It’s valuing profit over catechesis, and I have to believe Pope Francis (and Pope Benedict) would be extremely perturbed. Their goal and the goal of the Church is to evangelize—to spread the message of Jesus Christ, especially through papal encyclicals—not to make a dime off each copy printed.
I’m heading out the door for a three-day spiritual retreat without access to the Internet, so I’ll save my fuller reaction for another time. But per their request, I’ve removed the documents. Feel free to read the encyclical online or pre-order the Ignatius hardcover version.
I’ve finally had time to process the problem, which has actually frustrated me for months, well before the Lumen Fidei incident, and I’ve published a manifesto in response:
Free the Word: Why the Church Needs to Release Her Teachings to the World (SIGN THE PETITION)