VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Breaking with tradition,
Benedict XVI decided to present personally his encyclical "Deus
Caritas Est" to readers of Famiglia Cristiana, the biggest
weekly magazine in Italy.
The Pope wrote the lines which
follow, taking advantage of the decision of the magazine´s editors,
St. Paul´s Publications, to give readers a copy of the
document with the Feb. 5 issue.
* * *
Dear Readers of Famiglia Cristiana
I am very pleased that
Famiglia Cristiana has sent you at home the text of
my encyclical and has given me the possibility to accompany
it with some words to facilitate its reading. Initially, in
fact, the text might seem a bit difficult and theoretical.
However, when one begins to read it, it becomes evident
that I only wished to respond to a couple of
very concrete questions for Christian life.
The first question is
the following: Is it possible to love God?; more than
that: Can love be something that is obligatory? Is it
not a feeling that one has or does not have?
The answer to the first question is: Yes, we can
love God, given that He has not remained at an
unreachable distance but has entered and enters into our lives.
He comes to meet each one of us: in the
sacraments through which he acts in our lives; with the
faith of the Church, through which he addresses us, making
us meet with men touched by Him, who transmit light
to us; with dispositions through which he intervenes in our
lives; also with the signs of the creation he has
Not only has he offered us love, above
all he lived it first and knocks on the door
of our hearts in many ways to elicit our response
of love. Love is not only a feeling; to it
also belong the will and the intelligence. With his Word,
God addresses our intelligence, our will and our feelings, so
that we may learn to love him "with our whole
heart and our whole soul." We do not find love,
in fact, suddenly all ready; instead, so to speak, it
matures. We can learn to love gradually, so that love
will involve all our strength and will open the way
to an honest life.
* * *
question is the following: Can we really love our "neighbor"
when he is strange or even disagreeable? Yes, we can,
if we are God´s friends, if we are Christ´s friends
and, in this way, it becomes ever clearer that He
has loved and loves us, though we often turn our
gaze from Him and live according to other criteria. If,
instead, friendship with God becomes for us something ever more
important and decisive, then we will begin to love those
whom God loves and who are in need of us.
God wants us to be friends of his friends and
we can be so, if we are interiorly close to
* * *
Finally, this question is also
posed: With her commandments and prohibitions, does not the Church
embitter the joy of "eros," of feeling ourselves loved, which
pushes us toward the other and seeks to be transformed
into union? I have tried to show in the encyclical
that the most profound promise of "eros" can mature only
when we do not seek transitory and sudden happiness alone.
On the contrary, together we find the patience to discover
the other increasingly in the depth of his person, in
the totality of body and soul, so that, finally, the
other´s happiness is more important than our own. Then, we
no longer want to receive something but give ourselves and
in this liberation from his "I" man finds himself and
is filled with joy.
I speak in the encyclical of
a journey of purification and maturation necessary so that the
true promise of "eros" may be fulfilled. The language of
the tradition of the Church has called this process "education
in chastity," which, in the end, means nothing other than
to learn the totality of love in the patience of
growth and maturation.
* * *
In the second
part there is talk of charity, in the service of
the communal love of the Church toward all who suffer
in body or soul and are in need of the
gift of love. Two questions arise here above all: Can
the Church leave this service to other philanthropic organizations? The
answer is no. The Church cannot do so. The Church
must practice love toward the neighbor including as a community;
otherwise, it would proclaim the love of God in an
incomplete and insufficient way.
The second question: Would it not
be better to promote an order of justice in which
there are no needy, and charity would become something superfluous?
The answer is the following: Undoubtedly the end of politics
is to create a just order in society, where what
is proper to each one is recognized and where no
one suffers from abject poverty. In this case, justice is
the true object of politics, as peace cannot exist without
justice. By her very nature, the Church does not engage
in politics in the first person; rather, she respects the
autonomy of the State and of its institutions.
for this order of justice corresponds to common reason, just
as politics is something that affects all citizens. Often, however,
reason is blinded by interests and the will to power.
Faith serves to purify reason, so that it may see
and decide correctly. Therefore, it is the task of the
Church to cure reason and reinforce the will to do
good. In this connection, without engaging in politics, the Church
participates passionately in the battle for justice. It corresponds to
Christians involved in public service to always open, in their
political action, new ways for justice.
However, I have only
answered the first half of our question. The second half,
which I like to stress in the encyclical, says thus:
Justice never makes love superfluous. Beyond justice, man will always
need love, which alone is able to give a soul
to justice. In a world so profoundly wounded, as the
one we know in our days, this affirmation does not
need demonstrations. The world expects the testimony of Christian love
that is inspired in faith. In our world, often so
dark, the love of God shines with this love.
[Translation by ZENIT]