Pope Francis issued his first encyclical Friday, a meditation on faith that is unique because it was written with someone else: Benedict XVI.
Benedict's hand is evident throughout much of the first three
chapters of "The Light of Faith," with his theological style, concerns
and reference points clear.
Francis' priorities come through strongest in the final chapter,
where the Argentine Jesuit insists on the role of faith in serving the
common good and giving hope to those who suffer.
He cites his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, as well as Mother
Teresa, in saying "How many men and women of faith have found mediators
of light in those who suffer!" And he concludes with a prayer to Mary,
to whom he is particularly devoted.
The encyclical didn't appear to break any new ground in church
teaching, its novelty was entirely in the dual authorship, signed and
Francis acknowledges in the introduction that he merely "added a few
contributions of my own" to Benedict's "fine" first draft, which the
German theologian left unfinished when he retired in February. Together,
the two popes crafted the final installment of Benedict's conceived
trio of encyclicals on the three Christian theological virtues: charity,
hope and faith.