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Fraternally, Francesco (Update-2)

Pope Francis has accomplished another extraordinary first. Here's an account:

Like all newspapers, La Repubblica receives many letters from its readers. These range from ordinary citizens complaining about litter on the streets to the great and good commenting on the pressing issues of the day.

But on Tuesday the paper received an unprecedented letter, signed simply, “yours fraternally, Francesco.” I wish I had been in the newsroom when it arrived.

The back story is that the founder of La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari, who epitomizes Italian laicità and calls himself an atheist with a fascination for Jesus of Nazareth, wrote two columns during July and August, with explicit questions posed to Pope Francis.

The columns were occasioned by the encyclical Lumen Fidei, issued under Francis' name, but clearly the work of "four hands."

Now the Pope has responded with a long letter featured on the first page of today's edition of the newspaper. Here is  brief notice in English (from which the paragraphs I quoted above are taken). I will be alert for English translations of the letter when they appear. In the meantime, here is the summary from Vatican Radio.


Those who care to read the letter in Italian may find it here.

Update 2:

Claire has thoughtfully provided the link to the Zenit translation in her comment below. Here is the hinge paragraph:

For me, faith is born from the encounter with Jesus. A personal encounter, which has touched my heart and given direction and new meaning to my existence. But at the same time an encounter that was made possible by the community of faith in which I have lived and thanks to which I found access to the intelligence of Sacred Scripture, to new life that, as gushing water, flows from Jesus through the Sacraments, to fraternity with everyone and at the service of the poor, true image of the Lord. Believe me, without the Church I would not have been able to encounter Christ, also in the awareness that the immense gift that faith is is kept in the fragile earthen vessels of our humanity.

The entire letter is here.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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Francis is clearly not an Empire pope. While most Curial people rarely give credence to the independence of conscience, Francis trumps conscience. Revolutionary for a pope or any bishop. Francis made another first with his urging bishops to turn old churches into homes for immigrants rather than lucrative hotels as the practice is widely in vogue today.. 

I like the way he champions Mark, correctly identifying it as the oldest of the gospels (this is the sort of exegetical common sense that Benedict surrounded in mist in his Jesus trilogy) and I like the way he expresses the teaching of the Council and his predecessors on the Jews: " the Jewish people are still for us the holy root from which Jesus germinated... God’s fidelity to the close covenant with Israel never failed and through the terrible trials of these centuries, the Jews have kept their faith in God. And for this, we shall never be sufficiently grateful to them as Church, but also as humanity. They, then, precisely by persevering in the faith of the God of the Covenant, called all, also us Christians, to the fact that we are always waiting, as pilgrims, for the Lord’s return and, therefore, that we must always be open to Him and never take refuge in what we have already attained."

Father O'Leary,

I think that the Pope's recourse to Mark was an "accommodation" to Scalfari's question regarding the "historical experience of Jesus of Nazareth." As a good teacher, Francis sought to show that already in Mark one is confronted with high claims regarding the person of Jesus.

But Francis then goes on to affirm what Scalfari cannot presently accept (indeed, it appears a stumbling block to him):

The Christian faith believes this: that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open to all the way of love. Because of this you are right, egregious Doctor Scalfari, when you see in the Incarnation of the Son of God the foundation of the Christian faith. Tertullian already wrote “caro cardo salutis,” the flesh (of Christ) is the foundation of salvation. Because the Incarnation, namely, the fact that the Son of God came in our flesh and shared our joys and sorrows, the victories and defeats of our existence, to the cry of the cross, living everything in love and fidelity to Abba, attests to the incredible love that God has for every man, the inestimable value that he gives him. Because of this, each one of us is called to make his own the look and the choice of love of Jesus, to enter into his way of being, of thinking and acting. This is the faith, with all the expressions that are described unfailingly in the encyclical.

Did he really call him "egregious"? What word is that a translation of? Ha ha!

NM: egregio. I guess its primary meaning isn't negative, as it is in English.

"egregia cum laude -- with outstanding honor; less common; intended to be higher than summa cum laude in spite of summa meaning highest."

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