Encyclical Letter ‘Deus Caritas Est’ on Christian Love from Pope Benedict XVI
25 JANUARY 2006
ENCYCLICAL LETTER DEUS CARITAS EST
ON CHRISTIAN LOVE FROM POPE BENEDICT XVI
The Vatican has today published an Encyclical Letter from Pope Benedict XVI
on Christian Love, entitled Deus Caritas Est. This is Pope Benedict
XVI’s first Encyclical.
In his introduction to the Encyclical Pope Benedict XVI says: “God is love,
and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16).
These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity
the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting
image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers
a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe
in the love God has for us”.
“We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can
express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the
result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an
event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the
world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should …
have eternal life” (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love,
Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the
same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily
the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his
existence: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and
with all your might” (6:4-5). Jesus united into a single precept this
commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour
found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”
(19:18; cf. Mk 12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10),
love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift
of love with which God draws near to us.
“In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance
or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and
significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of
the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with
others. That, in essence, is what the two main parts of this Letter are
about, and they are profoundly interconnected. The first part is more
speculative, since I wanted here—at the beginning of my Pontificate—to
clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously
and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between
that Love and the reality of human love. The second part is more concrete,
since it treats the ecclesial exercise of the commandment of love of
neighbour. The argument has vast implications, but a lengthy treatment
would go beyond the scope of the present Encyclical. I wish to emphasize
some basic elements, so as to call forth in the world renewed energy
and commitment in the human response to God’s love.”
The Encyclical is divided into two parts as follows:
Part I – THE UNITY OF LOVE IN CREATION AND IN SALVATION HISTORY
Part II – CARITAS THE PRACTICE OF LOVE BY THE CHURCH AS A “COMMUNITY OF LOVE”
The full text of the Encyclical is available on the Vatican website
(www.vatican.va) or at:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
* An Encyclical is a pastoral letter written by the Pope to the entire Church,
generally concerning matters of doctrine, morals or discipline, or significant
* The word encyclical comes from the Latin encyclicus and the Greek
enkyklios, meaning circular.
* This is Pope Benedict XVI’s first Encyclical Letter
* Pope John Paul II published 14 encyclical letters during his papacy –
see list below:
1. “Redemptor Hominis” (“The Redeemer of Man”), 1979: On Jesus Christ
and the dignity his redemption brings to the human race.
2. “Dives in Misericordia” (“Rich in Mercy”), 1980: On God the Father
and the meaning of God’s mercy.
3. “Laborem Exercens” (“On Human Work”), 1981: Social encyclical on
workers’ rights and dignity marking the 90th anniversary of Pope Leo
XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum.”
4. “Slavorum Apostoli” (“The Apostles of the Slavs”), 1985: Affirming
Eastern Europe’s Christian culture in a commemoration of Sts. Cyril
and Methodius on the 1,100th anniversary of St. Methodius’ death.
5. “Dominum et Vivificantem” (“Lord and Giver of Life”), 1986: On the
living presence of the Holy Spirit in the church and the world.
6. “Redemptoris Mater” (“Mother of the Redeemer”), 1987: On Mary’s role
in the mystery of Christ and in the church.
7. “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis” (“On Social Concerns”), 1987: Second social
encyclical, marking 20th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s social encyclical
8. “Redemptoris Missio” (“The Mission of the Redeemer”), 1991: On spreading
the Gospel as the central and permanent mandate of the church.
9. “Centesimus Annus” (“The Hundredth Year”), 1991: Third social encyclical,
analyzing the social situation in the light of communism’s collapse on
the 100th anniversary of “Rerum Novarum.”
10. “Veritatis Splendor” (“The Splendor of Truth”), 1993: First papal
encyclical in history on the foundations of moral theology.
11. “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), 1995: On abortion,
euthanasia, embryonic experiments and other threats to human life,
its sacredness and dignity.
12. “Ut Unum Sint” (“That All May Be One”), 1995: On the importance
of striving for Christian unity.
13. “Fides et Ratio” (“Faith and Reason”), 1998: On philosophy.
14. “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” 2003: On the Eucharist in its relationship
to the church.