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Magisterial Documents: Deus Caritas Est

Magisterial Documents: Deus Caritas Est

Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter on Christian Love
December 25, 2005
The full document is available on the internet.

Brief Introduction

Deus caritas est ("God is Love"), signed on December 25, 2005 and promulgated on 25 January 2006, is Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical. It reflects on God as the author of love and the Christian’s response to that love. The encyclical, consisting of 42 articles, begins with a reflection on the forms of love known in Greek philosophy—eros (possessive, often sexual passion), agape (unconditional, self-sacrificing love), and philia (friendship)—and their relationship with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Pope notes that both eros and agape are inherently good, but that eros risks being down-graded to mere sex if it is not made transparent to God.  In the first part, Benedict XVI traces the philosophical meaning of love. In doing so, he juxtapositions Virgil’s Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori (Love conquers all, let us also yield to love; Eclogues, Book X, line 69), and Nietzsche’s claim that Christianity has poisoned eros, turning it into a vice. Moreover, the pope refers to the conjugal love exhibited in the Song of Songs, and analyzes passages from the First Letter of St. John from which the title of the encyclical is taken. The Pope concludes that eros and agape are not distinct kinds of love, but are separate halves of complete love, unified as giving and receiving.

The second more practical part considers the charitable activities of the Church as an expression of love which draws its efficacy from contemplative union with God. The encyclical stresses that social justice is the primary responsibility of politics and the laity. While it is the church’s responsibility to inform the debate on social justice with reason guided by faith, her main social activity should be directed towards charity. Benedict rejects both Marxist arguments that the poor "do not need charity but justice", and the merger of church and state functions (theocracy); rather, he encourages cooperation between the church, the state, and other Christian charitable organizations.

The three concluding paragraphs consider the example of the saints, ending with a prayer to the Virgin Mary. 


Introduction (1)


A problem of language (2)

“Eros” and “Agape” – difference and unity (3-8)

The newness of biblical faith (9-11)

Jesus Christ – the incarnate love of God (12- 15)

Love of God and love of neighbor (16-18)


The Church's charitable activity as a manifestation of Trinitarian love (19)

Charity as a responsibility of the Church (20 – 25)

Justice and Charity (26-29)

The multiple structures of charitable service in the social context of the present day (30)

The distinctiveness of the Church's charitable activity (31)

Those responsible for the Church's charitable activity (32-39)


Core Marian Passages

The lives of the saints are not limited to their earthly biographies but also include their being and working in God after death. In the saints one thing becomes clear: those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them. In no one do we see this more clearly than in Mary. The words addressed by the crucified Lord to his disciple—to John and through him to all disciples of Jesus: “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:27)—are fulfilled anew in every generation. Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers. Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavours. They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart. The testimonials of gratitude, offered to her from every continent and culture, are a recognition of that pure love which is not self- seeking but simply benevolent. At the same time, the devotion of the faithful shows an infallible intuition of how such love is possible: it becomes so as a result of the most intimate union with God, through which the soul is totally pervaded by him—a condition which enables those who have drunk from the fountain of God's love to become in their turn a fountain from which “flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of love:

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world. 42

© This material has been compiled by Danielle M. Peters, S.T.D.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2017.

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