Bishop says Pope Francis' influence seen throughout encyclical

Sunday Mass July 7 Pope Francis CNA US Catholic News Credit Lauren Cater CNA 4 7 8 13 Pope Francis at Mass on July 7. | Lauren Cater/CNA.

Bishop Juan A. Reig Pla of the Spanish diocese Alcala de Henares said that the thought of Pope Francis is evident throughout his recent encyclical.

"Lumen Fidei," or "The Light of Faith," was released July 5, and is the first encyclical promulgated by Pope Francis. Much of the rough draft was prepared by Benedict XVI, who was not able to finish it before resigning from the office of Pope.

However, Bishop Pla told CNA that "the hand of Francis can be seen in the entire encyclical."

"First, in saying that the way in which we explain the light of faith, which is Jesus Christ, must be done through a narrative and testimonial theology," the bishop explained on July 5. "That is, not through grandiose concepts or centered on speculative theories, but in a narrative and testimonial way."

Bishop Pla also noted that Pope Francis has explained many times that the faith much reach each human person.

He said that the Holy Father's contribution is seen in the final chapters, "which refer to faith for the building of the city and for achieving the common good."

"The faith must not be kept to ourselves but must bring light to the building of human life, the person, the family, and the Church," he explained.

"Faith is for the whole world, and for this reason the hand of Francis can be seen in the last chapter, because faith should also lead to charity, to what man needs, and without Jesus Christ that cannot be done," he added.

The bishop noted that Pope Francis has inherited the legacy of Benedict XVI not only in this encyclical but in the continuity of the whole Magisterium.

"Francis has made this encyclical his own, and he is expressing the continuity that exists in the Catholic Church between the magisteriums of the Popes, and in this case between Benedict XVI and Francis."

For this reason, he continued, tradition is important in the life of the Church.

"Continuity in the Church takes place through tradition and faith. In other words, what one Pope says is accentuated and reaffirmed by his successor, and this is very clear in the case of the encyclical 'Lumen Fidei.'"

In certain phrases, Bishop Pla stated, "one can perceive the direct influence of Pope Francis in this encyclical that commemorates the Year of Faith decreed by Benedict XVI."

"Francis could not have adopted a better program for beginning his pontificate" than such continuity with his predecessor, the bishop said.

The initial intention of the encyclical on faith was to form a trilogy with two of Benedict's encyclicals on the theological virtues: hope in "Spe salvi," and charity in "Deus Caritas est."

"This encyclical completes the series on the three great virtues: faith, hope and charity," Bishop Pla reflected.

"And in the Year of Faith, it is a wonderful opportunity that Pope Francis has picked up and used in order to publish his first encyclical on the faith, which gives us the very strength of Jesus Christ."

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Bishop Pla said Pope Francis "emphasized that in our entire lives, our faith should be in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is found in the Church. This is an encyclical that helps us encounter Jesus Christ through the faith," he concluded.

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