Theology of Love of Neighbour in Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est
The Encyclical Deus caritas est of Benedict XVI, issued in 2005, examines the subject of love, as seen from a Christian perspective, and God’s place within all love. It presents a theological and philosophical reflection on the different dimensions of love, and explains certain essential facts concerning God’s love for man and the intrinsic connection of this love with man’s love for his neighbour. In a way that is reminiscent of the principle enunciated by St. Augustine – that the higher does not negate, but elevates and perfects, the lower – Benedict XVI presents the three forms of love, that is, eros, philia and agape, as essentially ordered to one another. When the lower is properly ordered to the higher, love perfects love. This is the sense in which “love of neighbour” is studied in this essay. The essay seeks to achieve two things. In the first place, to examine how Benedict XVI’s theological reflection on love helps make the connection between love of God, love of self and love of neighbour; and, secondly, to explore the theological significance of Thomas Aquinas’ proposition that “a man ought to love himself more than his neighbour”, and then draw the conclusion that “love of neighbour” is perfected by “love of God”.