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Pope hopes encyclical will explain true love


Pope Benedict said yesterday that his long-awaited first encyclical will be published next week and that he hopes it can show Christians the proper relationship between erotic love and spiritual love.

Reuters reports that he told pilgrims at his weekly general audience that the encyclical, called "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love), will be published on next Wednesday to coincide with the week in which the Catholic Church joins other churches to pray for Christian unity. (In Australia, the Week of Prayer is deferred until May).

"In this encyclical, I want to show the concept of love in its various dimensions," he said, speaking without prepared remarks to make the surprise announcement.

"In the terminology used today, love often appears very far from what a Christian thinks," the Pope, elected in April, told listeners in the Vatican audience hall.

The main theme of the encyclical, the highest form of papal writing, is love and charity. A pontiff's first encyclical is always keenly awaited because it is seen as a keynote for his entire papacy.

In the writing, about 50 pages long, the Pope discusses the relationship between "eros", or erotic love, and "agape", the Greek word referring to unconditional, spiritual and selfless love as taught by Jesus.

In his comments on Wednesday, the Pope suggested that his encyclical will warn that erotic love risked being degraded to mere sex or merchandise if it did not have a balancing component of spiritual or divine love founded on the Christian faith.

"Eros, this gift of the love between a man and a woman, comes from the same source, from the goodness of creator," he said.

He said erotic love can be blended with and transformed into spiritual love, "where two people really love each other and one no longer seeks his or her own joy or delights but seeks above all the good of the other person".

The Pope told the audience he hoped his first encyclical would "illuminate and help our Christian life".

The encyclical was due to have been published on 8 December 8 but Vatican sources said it was delayed by a series of additions, deletions and changes after observations from various Vatican departments and cardinals who had read a draft.

Pope John Paul wrote 14 encyclicals during his nearly 27-year reign, but Pope Benedict has said he does not expect to write as much as his predecessor did but wanted to spread John Paul's teachings and see that they were properly understood.

SOURCE
Pope hopes encyclical will explain true love (Reuters 18/1/06)

LINKS
Benedict XVI General Audience - text (17/1/06)

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19 Jan 2006