The pope’s message combines a pastor’s concern for his people with a scholarly use of the scriptures and an effective appeal to some great voices in the Catholic tradition: from St Augustine of Hippo down to the late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, a prisoner for thirteen years, nine of them spent in solitary confinement. The encyclical is peppered with references and insights of every kind: biblical, doctrinal, spiritual, philosophical, historical and artistic.
For all its richness, the encyclical does not include everything. It does not invoke the Second Vatican Council, which concluded by issuing as its longest document, Gaudium et Spes ("Joy and Hope") and declaring: "The future of humanity lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping." The encyclical does not mention of the Holy Spirit, whose powerful presence works to bring all things to final salvation (Romans 8:23)."As some readers may recall, O’Collins--the author of 50 (!) books--reviewed Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth for America in June. Tim Reidy