CARTA DO PAPA BENTO XVI aos leitores da revista “Famiglia Cristiana” explicando a sua Encíclica: “Deus Caritas Est”
“I am happy that “Famiglia Cristiana” is sending to your home the text of my encyclical, and giving me the chance to introduce it with a few words to facilitate its understanding.
At the beginning, in fact, the text can appear a little bit difficult and theoretical. Nevertheless, when you get into the reading, it is evident that the only thing I wanted is to answer to very concrete questions for Christian life.
The first question is this: Is it truly possible to love God? And moreover: Can love be imposed? Isn’t it a feeling that we either have or not?
The answer to the first question is: yes, we can love God, since he has not remained at an unreachable distance, but has entered and is entering in our life. He comes to us, to each one of us, in the sacraments through which he operates in our existence, with the faith of the Church, through which he addresses us; letting Himself be found by men, which have been touched by Him and transmit His light; with the event with which he intervenes in our lives; with the signs of creation, which he has given us. He has not only offered us his love, be he lived it first and knocks in so many ways in our hearts to awake our responsive love. Love is not just a feeling; will and intelligence belong as well to it. With his word, God addresses our intelligence, our will and our feelings in a way that we can learn how to love him “with all the heart and all the soul.” Love, in fact is not found beautiful, but it grows. In a sense, we can learn it slowly in a way that it will embrace more and more all of our strength and open to us the way to a straight life.
The second question is: Can we really love the neighbor, which can be strange to us and even nasty?
Yes, we can, if we are God’s friends. If we are friends of Christ we find each time more evident that He has loved us and loves us, even if we frequently take away from Him our eyes and live following other influences. Nevertheless, if His friendship becomes, step by step, important and decisive, then we will start to love those whom He loves and who are in need of my help. He wants us to become friends of his friends and we can do that if we remain spiritually close to Him.
And finally there is the question: with his commandments and prohibitions is not the Church making bitter the joy of the Eros, of being loved, that pushes us to the other in the desire to become a union?
In the encyclical I have tried to demonstrate that the deeper promise of the eros can grow only when we don’t seek to grab a sudden happiness. On the contrary, we find together the patience of discovering the other in a deeper way, in the fullness of body and soul, in a way that, at the end, the other’s happiness becomes more important than mine one. Then we not only want to grab, but to give, and is in this liberation from the self that man finds himself and becomes fulfilled with joy. In the encyclical ’encyclical I speak of a road of purification and growth that are necessary to fulfill the true promise of the eros. The language of our tradition has call it “education for Chastity”, which at the end, it doesn’t mean anything else but the learning of full love in the patience of growing up.
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In the second part I speak about charity, the service of community love of the Church for all those who suffer in the body or the soul, and that are in need of the gift of love.
Here we find two questions: Can’t the Church leave this service to so many other philanthropic organizations?
This is the answer: No, the Church cannot do that. She has to practice love for the neighbor also as a community, otherwise she will announce the God of love in an incomplete and insufficient way.
The second question: Should not we strive for an order of justice in which there are no needier and in which charity becomes superfluous?
This is the answer: Without doubt, the goal of politics is to create a more just order of society, in which each one receives what is owed to him and nobody suffers misery. In this sense, justice is the true goal of politics, just as is peace, which cannot exist without justice. By its nature, the Church does not make politics in the first person, but respects the autonomy of the state and its order. The quest for such order of justice belongs to common reason, just as much as politics is a matter for all citizens. Nevertheless, quite frequently reason becomes blinded by interests and by the will for power. Faith then helps in purifying reason, so that it may see and decide correctly. Is therefore a duty of the Church to heal reason and strengthen the desire for good? In this sense –without making politics per se– the Church passionately participates in the battle for justice. To Christians involved in the public square belongs the task of opening always new ways to justice.
This, nevertheless, is just half the answer to our question. The second half, which is very close to my heart in the encyclical, says: justice can never make love superfluous. Beyond justice, the human person will always need love, which gives justice a soul. In a deeply wounded world like todays, there is no need to further demonstrate this. The world awaits the witness of Christian love which is inspired by faith. In our world, frequently so dark, the light of God shines with this love.”