Pope Benedict XVI is to publish a new encyclical on faith sometime during the first six months of 2013, the Vatican has confirmed.
"The Pope is preparing a new encyclical on the subject of faith, to be published in the first half of next year, during the Year of Faith," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register Nov. 12.
The encyclical will be the Pope’s fourth; he has already written two encyclicals on the other two theological virtues of hope and charity.
In 2006, he published Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), followed by Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) in 2007. Both were also related to his third "social" encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), published in 2009.
Many have, therefore, long speculated the Holy Father would address the third theological virtue of faith and, more recently, that such an encyclical would coincide with the Year of Faith.
According to a Nov. 11 article on the Italian website Vatican Insider, the encyclical is likely to focus on Easter, with a publication date expected during Lent 2013.
Quoting Vatican sources, the website says the Holy Father completed the encyclical during his summer vacation at Castel Gandolfo and is now making "finishing touches." It says the Vatican wanted to avoid any "overlap" with the publication of the final volume of the Pope’s book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, to be published Dec. 4.
Father Lombardi noted that, in August this year, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, mentioned the likelihood of an encyclical, but it remained only a possibility, and the cardinal gave no other details.
The new encyclical will also coincide well with some major landmark anniversaries in the life of the Church: the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the 1,700th anniversary of the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
At the battle, Emperor Constantine and his men had a vision of the Chi-Rho, one of the earliest symbols of Christ, with the words "Under this sign you will conquer." His victory heralded the beginning of Christian civilization in the West.
All these anniversaries took place in October this year.
It’s understood that during this Year of Faith the Pope will use the encyclical to share his reflections on what it means to be a Christian today, the role of faith in the life of man and society and the value of Christian truths. These will be linked to the "mystery" of Easter, at a time when, in many respects, the world is in crisis.
Vatican Insider claims the new encyclical has been getting "rave reviews" from those who have already seen drafts.
"The text of the Pope is beautiful," a senior prelate in the Curia is reported as saying. "With his simple language, Benedict XVI expresses even the most complex and profound truths which are able to reach a diffusion that goes beyond imagination."