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BLINDED BY LOVE

by Mark Vernon

Opinion polls repeatedly show that the love which people desire and value above all others is friendship. This is encouraging, given the omnipresence of images of romantic love and sex in advertising and on TV. And you might think that church leaders would take comfort in the fact too, as they negotiate the treacherous waters of moral leadership.

     Which is why I was surprised and disappointed to find that friendship is almost wholly absent in Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). If you turn to the encyclical to find a steer on the theology of friendship, you will find nothing.

     In fact, friendship is mentioned only twice and in passing –in section three: "Let us note straight away that the Greek Old Testament uses the word eros only twice, while the New Testament does not use it at all: of the three Greek words for love, eros, philia (the love of friendship) and agape, New Testament writers prefer the last, which occurs rather infrequently in Greek usage. 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."

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