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The following is the English-language text of Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"), dated Dec. These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny.

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Far from rejecting or "poisoning" eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur.

This is due first and foremost to the fact that man is a being made up of body and soul.

In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us".

We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life.

As for the term philia, the love of friendship, it is used with added depth of meaning in Saint John's Gospel in order to express the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.

The tendency to avoid the word eros, together with the new vision of love expressed through the word agape, clearly point to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love. The Greeks--not unlike other cultures--considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a "divine madness" which tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness.The first part is more speculative, since I wanted here--at the beginning of my Pontificate--to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love.The second part is more concrete, since it treats the ecclesial exercise of the commandment of love of neighbour.Amid this multiplicity of meanings, however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness.This would seem to be the very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade in comparison.The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might" (6:4-5). 1 Jn ), love is now no longer a mere "command"; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

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