A Gift of Joy and Hope by Pope Francis. Translated from the original Italian by Oonagh Stransky (Hodder & Stoughton, €17.99/£16.99) This title will be released on 29 September.
This book by Pope Francis, his third official book, may seem to follow very quickly on the Pope’s recent pamphlet about the meaning of Christmas and the Nativity for the family today.
This, however, is an illusion. This 200-page text has been in preparation over some years, piece by piece, part by part, in other articles and speeches (all listed at the end). Far from appearing too quickly with little consideration, this book has been profoundly pondered and carefully considered in the Pope’s heart, soul and mind. In it he is continuing his pastoral vocation begun in Argentina, but now to a global audience, rather than merely to the people of Buenos Aires.
Among the stresses of his reign so far, one of the worst has been for many the Covid-19 lockdown. Faced with this sore trial, the Pope’s wish was to expound the idea that if God means anything, it means the spirit of joy, and at the heart of this joy is the hope of the Christian vision.
The Pope encourages people to look outside themselves, to the beauty and character of God’s creation, to embrace others rather than find reason for excluding them as we so often do, and to resolve in ourselves to meet the challenges of life as a whole with native courage. Hope is always possible, and with hope the feelings of joy, real joy.
“Hope is a gift of God,” he writes. “We need to nourish the roots of hope so that they can bear fruit: whatever evil we may have committed, we must be aware of the certainty of God’s closeness and compassion. There is no corner of our heart that God’s love cannot touch.”
These words provide, in a way not only a summary of the thought at the heart of this book, but also a resume of what the pontificate of Pope Francis is all about.