Pope Francis on Friday credited his
predecessor, Benedict XVI, with writing much of his first encyclical
- a meditation on faith that includes a defence of traditional family
The document - Lumen Fidei, or The Light of Faith - is unique in Catholic Church history, because never before has an encyclical been co-authored by two living popes.
An encyclical is the most authoritative document a pontiff can issue on Catholic doctrine.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who published three such documents during his eight-year papacy, left the work unfinished when he quit his position in February, in the first papal resignation for almost 600 years.
Benedict "had almost completed" his task, Francis wrote in the document, which bears only his signature. "I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own," he noted.
Francis' admission confirmed his readiness to interact with his predecessor, despite concerns by traditionalists that the current "two popes" situation might undermine the authority of the reigning pontiff.
The previous pope was seen as an intellectual who lacked a popular touch and was overwhelmed by Vatican intrigues, while the current pontiff has a reputation as a reform-oriented crowd-pleaser.
Their joint encyclical reasserts the supremacy of religious faith over scientific knowledge or political belief, and states that it should "illuminate" areas like traditional marriage, "understood as a stable union between man and woman."
It also states that faith should guide Catholics to respect nature, strive for fairness in politics and economics, educate children, accept suffering and death and be open to dialogue with non-believers and those who follow other religions.
"The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence," the document says.
Vatican officials have refused to comment on which parts of the 88-page encyclical were written by whom.
Monsignor Gerhard Mueller spoke of "differences in style, sensibility and accent," but stressed the "substantial continuity" in the writings of the two popes. Cardinal Marc Ouellet said the encyclical had "much of Pope Benedict and all of Pope Francis."
Friday's release completed a trilogy started by Benedict on three Christian theological virtues - love, hope and faith.
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