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CURRENT ISSUE:  January 23, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 2Oakland, CA

Love is focus of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI is expected to delve into the nature of unconditional and erotic love with his first encyclical, the most authoritative form of papal writing, expected to be released this week.

The 50-page document entitled “Deus Caritas Est,” Latin for “God Is Love,” could set the tone of Benedict’s young papacy. Italian media reports say it will warn Catholics not to disassociate their feelings of erotic love from their understanding of unconditional love.

“I know that it’s going to be on love, on the different types of love,” Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington said, speaking on the sidelines of an academic conference held in Rome.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA the encyclical draws upon the ancient Greek concept of love known as “agape,” or spiritual love, and “eros,” erotic love.

Benedict notes that marriages that base themselves solely on “eros” risk being “degraded to pure sex,” turning love into a form of “merchandise ... that can be bought and sold.”

“A marriage based on an exclusive love becomes a representation of God with his people and vice versa,” Benedict reportedly writes.
“Deus Caritas Est,” which takes its name from the first letter of St. John the evangelist, is also expected to address the need for Catholic charity in the world.

ANSA reported that former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, Benedict’s successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will present the encyclical.

Cardinal McCarrick said he expects the encyclical to demonstrate that Benedict is both “a true successor of John Paul II and his own man.”
John Paul wrote 14 encyclicals on themes ranging from Church doctrine to workers’ rights and geopolitics. Benedict has said he intends to focus his efforts on buttressing John Paul’s legacy.

Pope Benedict XVI makes a blessing at the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican January 18, 2006.

REUTERS/Chris Helgren

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