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  February 6, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 3Oakland, CA

articles list

Pope’s first encyclical focuses on meaning, practice of love

Excerpts from Pope Benedict’s encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’

‘Miracle’ healing advances the cause
of sainthood for Pope John Paul II

Survivors tell bishops about desired
responses to incidents of clergy abuse

Bishops’ office names its top 10 films of 2005

Local Catholics get
jail time for protest
at Ft. Benning

Father Moran assumes leadership in Danville

Homeless thespians create powerful theatre

Organ donation — giving life to another

Bishop’s Appeal seeks funds to sustain essential ministries

Holy Names University offers a ‘Saturday semester’ on March 25

EWTN celebrates 25 years

Post-abortion healing
retreat, March 3-5

School board challenge



A Pope focused on changing his Church, not the world

Benedict XVI’s emerging legacy
is ending the imperial papacy

State budget challenges option for the poor

Americans fear
increase in poverty

























Pope’s first encyclical focuses
on meaning, practice of love

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI issued the first encyclical of his papacy, Jan. 25, dedicating Roman Catholicism’s highest form of writing to a reflection on love and charity that called for a “purification” of erotic love between men and women.

The encyclical, titled “Deus Caritas Est” or “God Is Love,” also called on Catholic charities around the world to reaffirm their ties with church hierarchy. He urged charities not to allow secular influences to blur their religious identity.

Benedict cited a “problem of language” that has led history to divide love into two distinct concepts based on the Greek words “eros,” or erotic love, and “agape,” spiritual love. These distinctions, Benedict said, distort the meaning of erotic love, reducing sexual attraction to a form of “intoxication” that transforms sex into a “debasement of the human body.”

“Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence,” he wrote. “Eros, reduced to pure sex, has become a commodity, a pure `thing’ to be bought and sold.”

A pope’s first encyclical is usually scrutinized for indications of what direction his papacy will take. Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, was elected pope last April.

Benedict’s document did not make any explicit policy changes but reflected long-standing church teaching on sexual morality that has troubled many liberal Catholics for decades.

He reaffirmed, for example, Catholic teaching that says sex is only acceptable between married couples, asserting that purification of love can only take place in “monogamous marriage.”

“Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa,” he wrote.

In anticipation of the encyclical’s release, Benedict took the unusual step of making his intentions clear during multiple public appearances. For example, addressing the Vatican’s department for charity on Jan. 23, Benedict said the Church needed to return to the theme of love, which had become “consumed and abused.”

The encyclical was published in two parts. The first focused on definitions of love while the second addressed the role of Catholic charities in the world.

According to reports in Italian news media, Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, initiated the section on charity. The effort to blend the two sections resulted in a month-long delay of the document’s publication.

Addressing the theme of charity, Benedict restated the Church’s recognition of the right of separation between state and church. Catholic charities working in various parts of the world, he said, should not become too closely involved in local politics.

“Christian charitable activity must be independent of parties and ideologies,” Benedict said, warning that Marxist arguments in favor of class struggle should not influence the church’s charitable works.

“For this reason, it is very important that the church’s charitable activity maintains all of its splendor and does not become just another form of social assistance,” he wrote.


Pope Benedict signs his first encyclical at the Vatican, Jan. 25. Archbishop Leonardo Sandri is at the right.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Osservatore Romano


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