Pope’s 1st encyclical: Faith isn’t old-fashioned

Paterno Esmaquel II
In his first papal letter, Pope Francis says faith isn't an 'illusion' in the modern world, but a light for humanity's future

1ST ENCYCLICAL. Pope Francis says faith is not an 'illusory light.' Photo from Vatican News' Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Releasing his first papal letter on Friday, July 5, Pope Francis sought to prove that faith is not an old-fashioned “illusion” in the modern world, but a light for humanity’s future.

In his encyclical Lumen Fidei (“Light of Faith”), Francis said faith is a light that “is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence.”

“There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim,” the Pope said in the 84-page document, which was begun by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Francis released the encyclical during the Year of Faith, a period to reignite religious belief at a time of rising secularism.

The Vatican said an encyclical “is the most authoritative teaching a Pope can issue.”

‘Everything becomes confused’

In his encyclical, the Pope lamented: “In modernity, that light might have been considered sufficient for societies of old, but was felt to be of no use for new times, for a humanity come of age, proud of its rationality and anxious to explore the future in novel ways. Faith thus appeared to some as an illusory light, preventing mankind from boldly setting out in quest of knowledge.”

Francis, however, said that, without faith, “everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.”

This confusion, the Pope said, poses an “urgent need…to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.”

Francis explained: “The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God.”

Written with ‘4 hands’

The encyclical echoes the thoughts of Benedict, who began and wrote most of it.

Francis earlier said the encyclical was written “with 4 hands” – his hands and those of Benedict.  “It’s a strong document,” he said.

It was only signed by Francis, however, as the Catholic Church recognizes only one pontiff. (Read the full encyclical in the PDF below.)

Divided into 4 chapters, the encyclical completed a trilogy begun by Benedict on the 3 theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Benedict had written encyclicals on hope and charity. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.