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Pope Benedict’s Introduction to “Deus Caritas Est”

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Below is a translation I made for the introduction to "Deus Caritas Est" which Pope Benedict XVI wrote for Famiglia Christiana:

 I am happy that "Famiglia Cristiana" sends to your home the text of my encyclical and gives me the possibility of accompanying it with a few words that will facilitate its reading.  At the beginning, in fact, the text can appear a bit difficult and theoretical.  However, when one progresses in its reading, it would become evident that (in the encyclical) I had wanted to respond to a pair of very concrete questions for the Christian life.

The first question is this:  "Can one really love God?" And again:  "Can love be imposed?"  Isn’t (love) a sentiment that we either have or not?  The response to the first question is:  "Yes, we can love God since He is not at a distance, unreachable, but has entered our lives.  He comes towards us — to each of us — in the sacraments through which he works within our existense;  with the faith of the Church through whose faith he turns towards to us, making us encounter human beings whom He has touched and who reflect his light; in events and happenings through which He interevenes in our lives; with the signs of creation which he has given us.

He did not only offer love, He lived it first and knocks in many different ways on our hearts so as to awaken our love as a response.  Love is not only a sentiment; the will and the intellect are involved in it.  With His word, God addresses Himself to our intelligence, to our will and to our emotion in such a way that we can learn to love Him "will the whole heart and with the whole soul."  Love, in fact, is not found already beautiful and ready; love grows.  In a manner of speaking, we can learn to love slowly in a way that all the more it involves all our strength and opens for us the way to right living.


The second question is this:  Can we truly love "the neighbor" who is a stranger and even unlovable?  Yes, we can, if we are friends of God.  If we are friends of Christ and in this way it becomes all the more clear to us that He has loved and continues to love us, although perhaps we often take away our eyes from Him and we live following other guidelines.  If however his friendship should become, little by little, important and incisive for us, then we begin to love those whom He loves and who have need of our hlep.  He wants that we become friends of His friends and we can do so if they are interiorly near to us.

Finally, there is this question:  With His commandments and His prohibitions, does not the Church transform into bitterness the joy of eros and of being loved, which draws us to the other and wishes to become union?  In the encyclical, I tried to show that the most profound promise of eros can mature only when we do not use it for instant happiness.  On the contrary we we should try together to find the patience to discover all the more the other in depth, in the totality of body and soul, such that finally the happiness of the other becomes more important for me.  That way, one will no longer simply want to take but also to give and it is truly in this liberation of the "I" that a human being finds him/herself and becomes filled up with joy.

In the encylical, I speak of a process of purification and maturation that is necessary because the true promise of eros may be fulfilled.  The language of tradition has called it "education in chastity" which ultimately does not mean anything other than this:  that learning to love in patience, in growth and in maturity.

In the second part we discuss charity, the service of  the Church’s communitarian love for all those who suffer in body and soul and have need of the gift of love.  Here, two questions emerge:  Can the Church not leave this service to other philanthropic institutions that are established in different ways?  The answer is NO, the Church will not do it.  She has to practise love for the neighbor even as a community, otherwise, her proclamation of the God of love becomes incomplete and insufficient.

The second question is this:  "Shouldn’t we focus on a better order of justice in which there are no longer needy persons so that charity should then become superfluous?  here is the answer:  Undoubtedly, the goal of politics is to create a just order of society in which what belongs to each is recognized and no one suffers in misery.  In this sense, justice is the true goal of politics; being the way it is, peace cannot exist without justice.  By nature, the Church does not do politics in first person, rather it respects the autonomy of the State and the way it runs.

The search for this just order belongs to common reason, just as politics is the interest of all citizens.  Often, however, reason is blinded by self interests and the will to power. Faith serves to purify reason so that it can see and decide correctly.  It is the task therefore of the Church to heal reason and to strengthen the will towards the Good.  In this sense, without herself doing politics, the Church participates passionately in the battle for justice.  To Christians committed to the public professions belong political action and the task of always opening new ways towards justice.

This however is only the first half of the response to our question.  The second half, which to me is at the heart of the encyclical is this:  justice can never make love superfluous.  Beyond justice, man will always have need of love which alone gives the soul to justice.  In a world so wounded — like what we experience in our days — there is no real need to demonstrate what has been said.  The world waits for the testimony of Christian love which is inspired by faith.  By this love, the light of God shines on this world so often covered in darkness.

Translated from this document.

Originally posted 2006-02-06 22:19:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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