Benedict XVI's Surprising Encyclical
Interview With Father Thomas Williams, Theology Dean
ROME, JAN. 26, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's choice of "love" as the focus of his first encyclical will likely surprise both his supporters and critics, says a dean of theology.
Download your Free copy of "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"), courtesy of Catholic Online.
Legionary of Christ Father Thomas D. Williams, a dean at Rome's Regina Apostolorum university, talked with us about the importance, content and uniqueness of the Pope's document, published today.
Q: In a word, why is this encyclical so important?
Father Williams: Vatican watchers emphasize the importance of a Pope's first encyclical -- a teaching letter of highest papal authority -- as a reliable indicator of the tone and direction a given pontificate will take.
Benedict's choice of "love" as the topic for this important statement flies in the face of critics' characterization of Benedict as a hard-liner.
Q: But with so many practical concerns facing the Church, such as bioethical issues, ecumenical questions and terrorism, why would the Pope choose such an ethereal theme?
Father Williams: Obviously, the Holy Father considers the topic of love to be paramount. Remember that love of God and love of neighbor stand at the very heart of the Gospel message.
Love is the illuminating principle for evaluating other important issues, like the ones you mention. If we get love right, the whole orientation of our existence squares with God's plan for our lives and the true good of humanity.
Q: What do you mean by "getting love right"?
Father Williams: Love has many different meanings and is easily cheapened and spoiled.
As Benedict acknowledges early on in his letter, we speak of love of country, love of one's profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbor and love of God.
Moreover, people often associate love with mere feelings that come and go, or with selfishness and desire.
In this letter Benedict insists that love means more than that, and eventually leads to the self-giving exemplified in Christ's redemptive sacrifice.
Q: So love, in a Christian sense, has nothing to do with love as the world understands it?
Father Williams: Not at all. The Christian understanding of love embraces and uplifts more worldly or merely "human" notions of love.
In his encyclical, in fact, Benedict rejects a polarization of "eros" -- desiring love -- and "agape" -- self-giving love -- as if eros were pagan and agape Christian, and argues instead that these two types of love are intermingled.
"Eros," he says, "is rooted in man's very nature." At the same time, to become fully human, "eros" must mature into "agape" -- the Christian notion of charity or self-giving to others, modeled on Christ.
It isn't enough for us to "feel" love, we must "choose" love as a free decision.
Q: Would you characterize this as a "theological" encyclical?
Father Williams: Benedict clearly takes a deeply theological and biblical approach to the topic of Christian love.
The rehabilitation of love, Benedict notes, requires a return to its divine origins. To understand the nature of love, we must look to God who is love itself.
At the same time, the letter is thoroughly "human." Christian theology sees the human person as created in the image and likeness of God. Loving and being loved is the very meaning of human existence. Therefore, the rediscovery of love means the rediscovery of humanity.
Moreover, Benedict devotes the entire second half of the encyclical to the practical question of the Church's charitable commitment to the poor and the vulnerable, as an essential part of the Church's identity.
Q: Is there any significance with the timing of the encyclical?
Father Williams: Poetically, this encyclical coincides with Benedict's nine-month anniversary as Pope, eliciting unavoidable comparisons with childbirth.
Benedict's firstborn takes the form of a 71-page reflection, notably shorter than John Paul's encyclicals, which regularly were double that length.
Though a small baby by modern standards, the encyclical tackles tough questions and makes up in depth what it lacks in breadth.
Q: Are there any major surprises in the document?
Father Williams: Since his election, Pope Benedict has proved a surprise for supporters and critics alike.
When Joseph Ratzinger was elected to succeed John Paul II as Pope last April, many expected a firebrand and ecclesiastical house-cleaner. This hasn't been the case.
Today's release of the Pope's first encyclical letter will only further befuddle those seeking to pigeonhole Benedict as a doctrinal hard-liner and disciplinarian.
Benedict has used his first big teaching moment to convey a message of hope. Rather than an "everybody get in line" message, "Deus Caritas Est" focuses on the love of God that all of us are called both to accept and to imitate.
If, as many suspect, this first encyclical sets forth Benedict's papal "mission statement," we can expect more surprises as this pontificate continues.
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000
Pope, Benedict, Encyclical, Williams, Love
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Daily Readings for Tuesday, July 25, 2017
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 HD Video
- Scientists discover elusive 'Angel Particles' are real
- Oh no! Is El Nino coming back to California?
- Will We Use Our Ears To Hear?
- St. James the Greater: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, July 25, 2017
- Pope Francis is set for something big, but what is it? HD Video
- Statues of the Virgin Mary triumphantly return to Iraq, after defeat of ISIS HD
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 HD
- Daily Reading for Monday, July 24th, 2017 HD
- Daily Reading for Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 HD