Amid all the news, speculation, reading and thinking about the new encyclical and the forthcoming canonisation of Pope’s John XXIII and John Paul II, I was still mostly touched by this photo (and photos like it):
Although it is a bit strange to see Pope emeritus Benedict XVI take a (literal) back seat as Pope Francis does the honours of consecrating a statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the Vatican Gardens, that is compensated by simply seeing him appear healthy and relaxed again. It is said that the first weeks of his retirement were difficult for him, but Benedict has since adjusted to his well-deserved rest in the solitude of the Vatican gardens. Yesterday’s ceremony, in which the Vatican was consecrated to the protection of St. Michael the Archangel should also serve to safeguard the retired Pope, who basically lives just around the corner of the saint’s new statue.
Happy birthday to Bishop Everardus Johannes de Jong, who today marks his 55th birthday.
Bishop de Jong was born in Eindhoven, and became a priest and later auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Roermond.
As announced today, Pope Francis will be releasing his first encyclical on Friday. Titled Lumen fidei, “The light of faith”, it has been co-authored by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. Pope Francis has reworked a draft created by the emeritus pontiff, and as such the encyclical will be the third in a series on the theological virtues of hope, charity and faith. Benedict XVI published Deus caritas est – on Christian love – in 2005, and Spe Salvi – On Christian hope – in 2007.
Lumen fidei is published very early in this pontificate – less than four months into it – , a fact no doubt due to the fact that the previous Pope already drafted an initial version. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI took eight months to release his first encyclical. Pope John Paul II, in 1979, released his first five months after his election. Pope Paul VI took more than a year, Pope John XXIII eight months, Pope Pius XII seven months, Pope Pius XI ten months, and Pope Benedict XV released his first a mere two months after his election in 1914.
The encyclical will be presented on Friday morning at the Vatican by Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella and Gerhard Müller, the heads of the Vatican offices for bishops, new evangelisation and the doctrine of the faith. That, in itself, may give us some hints at how we should read Lumen fidei: as an integral element of the Year of Faith and the new evangelisation, and with perhaps a special focus on the role of the bishops in that endeavour.