Pope's Next Encyclical in the Works

Expected to Give Fresh Look at 21st Century

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By Jesús Colina



ROME, JULY 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is reportedly working on his third encyclical this summer, which could be ready as early as this fall.

The Pope's secretary of state confirmed the existence of the document in an interview with the APCOM news agency last May. He even proposed a possible title: "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in the Truth) and said this, the Holy Father's third encyclical, could be ready in the fall.

"For now, it is a hypothesis," Cardinal Bertone said. "I don't want to say that the title will definitely be this -- for now, yes, and for the moment, it's this idea, but later, a successive inspiration could arrive."

According to the secretary of state, the encyclical "comes and goes from the Pope's desk, because he doesn't want to repeat common concepts of the Church's social doctrine, but wants to offer something original, according to the challenges of today."

"We could think of the great problem of globalization and the other problems that afflict the international community, such as the food crisis and climate change," the cardinal said. "These are themes that could motivate an evaluation and commentary from the Church from the moral point of view."

Sneak preview?

The Holy Father may have given an insight into the themes of his encyclical when he addressed the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences last May. Their meeting was focused on "Pursuing the Common Good: How Solidarity and Subsidiarity Can Work Together."

He cited the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church in noting that the academy's session was devoted to examining the interrelationship between "four fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity."

"These key realities," the Pontiff said, "which emerge from the living contact between the Gospel and concrete social circumstances, offer a framework for viewing and addressing the imperatives facing mankind at the dawn of the 21st century, such as reducing inequalities in the distribution of goods, expanding opportunities for education, fostering sustainable growth and development, and protecting the environment."

Benedict XVI suggested that "we can initially sketch the interconnections between these four principles by placing the dignity of the person at the intersection of two axes: one horizontal, representing 'solidarity' and 'subsidiarity,' and one vertical, representing the 'common good.' This creates a field upon which we can plot the various points of Catholic social teaching that give shape to the common good."

Nevertheless, though the graphic gives an idea of the principles' interweaving, the Pope stated, "the reality is much more complex."

And he said that solidarity and subsidiarity must be placed within the context of the Trinity. He further proposed that these two principles "have the potential to place men and women on the path to discovering their definitive, supernatural destiny."

He added: "The eyes of faith permit us to see that the heavenly and earthly cities interpenetrate and are intrinsically ordered to one another, inasmuch as they both belong to God the Father, who is 'above all and through all and in all.'"

"At the same time, faith places into sharper focus the due autonomy of earthly affairs, insofar as they are 'endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order.'"