03/25/2021, 15.14
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Pope: Dante, Christian poet, prophet of hope and witness of the desire for happiness

Apostolic letter of Francis on the seventh centenary of the death of the Poet which "can help us to advance with serenity and courage in the pilgrimage of life and faith that we are all called to make" towards the ultimate goal.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Dante, a Christian poet, although a man of his time, is a "prophet of hope" and "can help us advance with serenity and courage in the pilgrimage of life and faith that we are all called to make" towards the ultimate goal.

This is the final consideration and, in a certain sense, the reading that Pope Francis makes of the father of the Italian language in the Apostolic Letter "Candor Lucis aeternae" dedicated to the seventh centenary of the Poet's death, published today.

The lengthy document begins with Francis retracing what the popes wrote about Dante in the last century, highlights how everyone emphasized his being "ours", that is Christian. From Benedict XV who in 1921 wrote: " who can deny that our Dante nurtured and fanned the flame of his genius and poetic gifts by drawing inspiration from the Catholic faith", to Paul VI, who in 1966 affirmed ", Dante is ours! Ours, by which we mean to say, of the Catholic faith, for he radiated love for Christ; ours, because he loved the Church deeply and sang her glories; and ours too, because he acknowledged and venerated in the Roman Pontiff the Vicar of Christ", up to Francis, for whom" Dante's work is an integral part of our culture, it refers us to the Christian roots of Europe and the West, represents the patrimony of ideals and values ​​that even today the Church and civil society propose as the basis of human coexistence.”

Francis underlines the fact that his Apostolic Letter is published on the day on which the Church celebrates the Incarnation, defined by Benedict XVI as " the novelty of a love that moved God to take on a human face, and even more, to take on flesh and blood, our entire humanity” and which is for Francis “is the true heart and inspiration of the entire poem”.

Outlining Dante's life, Francis notes that "His deep disappointment over the collapse of his political and civil ideals, together with his dreary wanderings from city to city in search of refuge and support are not absent from his literary and poetic work; indeed, they constitute its very source and inspiration ".

And " the poignant melancholy of Dante the pilgrim and exile in his celebrated verses of the eighth canto of the Purgatorio: “‘Twas now the hour that turneth back desire In those who sail the sea, and melts the heart, The day they’ve said to their sweet friends farewell” (1-3).” But he never resigns himself and for this reason he is a "prophet of hope": because he pushes us to free ourselves from the "dark forest" of sin to find "the just path" and thus reach "the fullness of life in history" and "eternal bliss in God ". His is therefore "a prophetic mission" that does not spare the denunciation even for those popes who "transform the Church into an instrument for their own interests".

In the Divine Comedy it is then evidently manifested that “God’s mercy and human freedom The journey that Dante presents is not illusory or utopian; it is realistic and within the reach of everyone, for God’s mercy always offers the possibility of change, conversion, new self-awareness and discovery of the path to true happiness. Significant in this regard are several episodes and individuals in the Comedy which show that no one on earth is precluded from this path”, such as Traiano and Manfredi.


Francis's document also underlines the importance in the Comedy of three female figures: Mary, mother of God, emblem of charity; Beatrice, symbol of hope, and Lucia, image of faith. These three women who accompany Dante in the different stages of his journey demonstrate that "we cannot save ourselves", but that we need the help of those who "can support and guide us with wisdom and prudence".

And among the figures of the Divine Comedy, the document highlights a profound harmony “between Dante and St. Francis. Both addressed the people, the first "going among the people", the second choosing to use not Latin, but "everyone's language"; both, moreover, are open to the "beauty and value" of Creation.

But Dante's work, "an almost infinite mine of knowledge, experiences, considerations in every area of ​​human research" Rather, he asks to be heard and even imitated; he invites us to become his companions on the journey. Today, too, he wants to show us the route to happiness, the right path to live a fully human life, emerging from the dark forest in which we lose our bearings and the sense of our true worth”. For this reason, his message must be made “be made accessible beyond the halls of schools and universities. I urge Christian communities, especially in cities associated with Dante’s life, academic institutions and cultural associations to promote initiatives aimed at making better known his message in all its fullness”.

Francis concludes: “At this particular moment in history, overclouded by situations of profound inhumanity and a lack of confidence and prospects for the future, the figure of Dante, prophet of hope and witness to the human desire for happiness, can still provide us with words and examples that encourage us on our journey. Dante can help us to advance with serenity and courage on the pilgrimage of life and faith that each of us is called to make, until our hearts find true peace and true joy, until we arrive at the ultimate goal of all humanity: “The Love which moves the sun and the other stars” (Par. XXXIII, 145).” (FP)

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