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Much of Benedict XVI and all of Pope Francis

· In the Press Office ·

The question least expected at the Holy See Press Office on 5 July was: “Why has the order been reversed?”. Someone from the Wall Street Journal, present for the launch of the first Encyclical of Francis’ Pontificate, did not in fact focus on the question of the attribution — where Benedict XVI left off and where Francis’ picked up, a question which, understandably, monopolized much of the question-answer time. The “reversed order” refers in fact to the trilogy which began with Deus Caritas Est, continued with Spe Salvi , and now reaches its culmination with Lumen Fidei . These three accompany the Christian in rediscovering the three cardinal virtues, the object and instrument of the journey: faith, hope and love. In the traditional order, faith comes first, love last; evidently there was a message in the choice to reverse the order, the Wall Street Journalist concluded.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, who present the Encyclical together with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, answered him saying that the “primacy of love” as the origin and foundation of everything has a solid scriptural basis: where the First Letter of John speaks explicitly about the nature of God as agape.

“Hope — Cardinal Ouellet continued — is entrusting oneself always to God, during times of trial too, certain that there is no disappointment for the one who trusts in the Lord, while we can define faith as the moment of acceptance, of adhesion to love”. Love, however, is a movement, it is faith that becomes action, deriving “from the ‘espousal’ of the movement of love itself”.

To the question of what parts were attributed to Francis and what parts to his Predecessor, Both Müller and Ouellet answered with a quip: “It wasn’t patched together” and “I wasn’t there when they wrote it”.

It is not much use to section and pull apart the text, added Cardinal Ouellet: “In the Encyclical there is much of Benedict XVI and all of Francis, because he assumed the entire text in his role of bearing witness to faith. We shouldn’t look for catch phrases from one or from the other”. “It is one single text”, reiterated Archbishop Müller.

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