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Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 24, 2013)
John Thavis reports (ht: Deacon Greg Kandra) that we may soon have another first (as far as I know; I could well be wrong on this count): an encyclical started by one pope and finished by his successor:

First, it looks like Pope Francis will be finishing ex-Pope Benedict's encyclical on faith. The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said he would not exclude the possibility that Francis' first encyclical would be issued later this year. The spokesman noted that before his resignation, Pope Benedict had already done initial work on an encyclical to mark the "Year of Faith."

Father Lombardi also said Pope Francis would continue to reside in the Vatican guest house, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, instead of moving into the more formal (and much larger) papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace. The pope like his room at the guesthouse, and apparently enjoys the relative freedom of movement it offers him.

"At the moment, he doesn't seem to want to change his lodging, although this is not a definitive decision," Lombardi said.

Pope Benedict, meanwhile, is still scheduled to move into a monastic building located behind the Vatican Gardens, probably sometime in early May.

Thavis also reports that Pope Francis has plans for just one major trip this year, to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day in July. Is the small number of foreign trips a surprise? Yes, I think it is to some degree. After all, in 2012, Benedict XVI made trips to Cuba, Mexico, and Lebanon, and some believed he was scaling back his travels due to age and exhaustion (in 2011, he made five foreign trips, including visits to Spain and Germany). While Pope Francis is hardly young, he is ten years the junior of Benedict, and has demonstrated a robust, active nature. However, he has also never really lived in Rome or the Vatican before, unlike Benedict, who was there for over two decades prior to his election, and it is evident that he wishes to emphasize that he is the Bishop of Rome. And, of course, there is the whole matter of reforming the Curia and, to come full circle, concluding the Year of Faith. Speaking of the Year of Faith, I suspect that the encyclical on faith will include some or many of the points made by Benedict in his October 2011 Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, which announced the Year and includes the following:

Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”  It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.

3. We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51). Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (Jn 6:27). The question posed by his listeners is the same that we ask today: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (Jn 6:28). We know Jesus’ reply: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (Jn 6:29). Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.

Read the entire Letter on the Vatican site.

 
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Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight.
 
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