Fr Federico Lombardi

Continuing a papal tradition of finishing a predecessor’s work in progress, Pope Francis intends to complete an encyclical — on the virtue of faith — begun during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. “I can confirm that the plan for an encyclical on faith, begun by Benedict XVI, has been taken up by the new pope,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said in a May 24 email response to questions. He said it would “be premature” to guess when the encyclical would be completed.

The statement followed reports in Italian media claiming that the retired pope would be completing the encyclical himself. In an article for his diocesan bulletin, Bishop Luigi Martella of Molfetta, Italy, had said that when he met Pope Francis in mid-May with other bishops from Italy’s Puglia region, the pope told them that he had been worried about Pope Benedict’s health, “but now he is much better.” Bishop Martella said Pope Francis “wanted to share a confidence, almost a revelation with us: Benedict XVI is finishing writing the encyclical on faith that will be signed by Pope Francis.” Responding to questions, Father Lombardi said, “I can absolutely deny that Benedict XVI is working on the planned encyclical.”