Benedict’s first encyclical a labor of love

first_imgVATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI releases his long-awaited first encyclical today, an exploration of God’s love and charity that has surprised even some Vatican officials because it isn’t at all controversial. Monsignor Josef Cordes, who heads the Vatican’s charitable initiatives, told a symposium on the encyclical this week that the pope’s chosen topic was “unexpected and astonishing” considering the Vatican’s former doctrinal chief could have delved into a burning current issue such as bioethics to make his inaugural mark. But Vatican and other church officials say Benedict’s theme of “God is Love” is very much in line with his thinking, teaching and his pledge from the start of his papacy to be a peacemaker. And they say it shows the pope in a different light than the rigid disciplinarian he was often perceived as during his nearly quarter-century as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “This is the pope as theologian and now as universal pastor,” Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, said in an interview Tuesday. “So it’s a very pastoral theme – it shows that side of him which was always there but perhaps not able to be expressed as easily in his former work.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card George was one of the keynote speakers at the Vatican symposium on the encyclical – a somewhat awkward event considering the text at the heart of the conference hadn’t yet been released. But in an unusual break with tradition, Benedict has elaborated at some length in the past week on his chosen topic and his motivations behind it, giving conference participants as well as the general public plenty of material to discuss well before today’s official launch. Benedict has said he chose the theme of God’s love and charity to show that they were the central tenets of the Christian faith. He said Monday that he believed the word “love” today has been so abused and misunderstood that it needed to be purified. “In an era in which hatred and greed have become superpowers, an era in which we witness the abuse of religion until the triumph of hatred, neutral rationality alone cannot protect us,” the pope told symposium participants in describing his text. “We need a living God, who loves us to death.” last_img read more