VATICAN CITY — As its title suggests, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith) — the first encyclical by Pope Francis, released July 5 — is truly a “light,” said Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican Publishing House.
In a July 5 interview with Catholic News Agency, he described the new encyclical as “really beautiful and spiritually exciting.”
“It well portrays the spirit of a spiritual renewal. It really is a light.”
Father Costa observed that Lumen Fidei, which translates as “The Light of Faith,” contains a style that is “part Benedict’s and part Francis’, especially the introduction where Pope Francis makes the encyclical his own.”
However, unlike other commentators, he said that he would not describe the encyclical as being “written by four hands.”
“Pope Francis presents the encyclical as his,” the priest explained. “This was a gesture of spiritual fraternity between his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis himself. This is why I would not say that the encyclical has been written by four hands.”
In the document’s introduction, Pope Francis notes that Benedict XVI had worked before his resignation to nearly finish a first draft of the encyclical. Pope Francis explains that, “as his brother in Christ, I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own.”
During the document’s release, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, pointed out that the document bears only the signature of Pope Francis and not of the former pope because “the Church has just one pope.”
Discussing his work at the publishing house, Father Costa told CNA that “serving Pope Francis is no different from serving Benedict XVI. We are simply at the service of the Pope.”
The only difference lies in the approach, he explained, saying that “Benedict XVI’s audience was of a high cultural level and connected with a cultural stimulus that could be gained from Ratzinger’s writings.”
He said that Pope Francis also offers writings that are “full of stimuli,” but he described him as having “a straightforward approach based on the observation of reality.”
Father Costa maintains that “behind Pope Francis’ simplicity there is a great understanding of the human being and a considerable ability to think critically.”
The Vatican Publishing House owns all of the Pope’s copyrights since the moment of his election, and it has already published several collections of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s writings and homilies, as well as the first speeches and homilies that he delivered as Pope.
Father Costa said that “books of and on Pope Francis are having an amazing reception. I can say that a message of hope is spreading.”
The Vatican Publishing House will distribute 400,000 copies of the Italian version of the encyclical. It has also authorized four Catholic publishing houses in Italy to produce a customized edition of the encyclical.
The distribution of the encyclical in foreign countries is being taken care of by nuncios and bishops’ conferences throughout the world, Father Costa said.