(Photo: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito)
Pope Francis has released his first encyclical on theological thoughts, called "Lumen fidei" or "The Light of Faith," where he argues that faith without truth is an illusion, while truth without love is cold and oppressive. It completes a trilogy of papal teachings that was started by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with the first two focusing on the topics of charity and hope.
In a summary of the document, Vatican radio reported that "The Light of Faith," which is divided into four chapters, has the mission to show "how Faith in the Risen Christ can lead us beyond the narrow confines of individual existence into the all-inclusive community of God's love."
"Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society. As an experience of the mercy of God the Father, it sets us on the path of brotherhood," Pope Francis writes.
"Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure."
The document offers numerous examples in both the Old and New Testament that show how important faith has been to biblical figures throughout the ages. The first chapter begins with the story of Abraham, who first hears God's voice, and continues with an overview of the Israelites traveling toward the Promised Land, and God's ultimate act of love for humanity, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
The document then analyzes the link between faith and truth, noting that without the latter, belief becomes "nothing more than a fairy story, an illusion of happiness, unable to sustain us when the going gets tough." However, it adds, love is vitally important as well, for without it, truth becomes "cold, impersonal, oppressive, unable to transform the lives of others."
"The Light of Faith" reminds Christians that faith allows people to hold a more fruitful dialogue with non-Christians and nonbelievers.
Another important point brought up in the third chapter concerns the passing of faith from one generation to the next – which the Roman Catholic Church sees in the sacraments of baptism and eucharist, through profession of the Creed, praying to God and obeying the Ten Commandments. The fourth and final chapter focuses on how faith can promote peace and reconciliation, as well as teach respect for God's creation.
Pope Francis explains that while faith cannot eliminate the suffering in this world, it can bring people hope and remind them of God's love.
"When faith is weakened, the foundations of humanity also risk being weakened," the pontiff concludes. "Faith illumines life and society. If it possesses a creative light for each new moment of history, it is because it sets every event in relationship to the origin and destiny of all things in the Father."
Francis previously explained that the encyclical was written "with four hands," acknowledging Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's contributions to the document.
"It's a strong document. I will say in it that I received it and most of the work was done by him and I completed it."
The full text of "The Light of Faith," which is available in several different languages including English, can be found on the Vatican's official website.