700 years after his death, Dante still inspires popes


ROME – During the 2015 celebration of Dante Aligheri’s 750th anniversary, Pope Francis invited Catholics around the world to read The Divine Comedy, one of the most important works of Western and Christian civilization.

For those who find the task of reading this medieval poem daunting, the Argentine pontiff publishes an apostolic letter called Sincerity Lucis Aeternae, to dial 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet.

Although the Holy See press office has not confirmed it, Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi has been hinting for more than a month that it will come out on Thursday, March 25, the day Dante allegedly began writing. The Divine Comedy.

On October 10, Francis had said that he was preparing “a more extensive reflection” on Dante while addressing a delegation from the Italian Archdiocese of Ravenna-Cervia, where Dante died in 1321.

“It may seem, at times, as if these seven centuries have opened an insurmountable distance between us, men and women of the postmodern and secularized era, and he, the extraordinary exponent of a golden age of European civilization,” Francis said in time. “And yet something tells us that this is not the case.”

“Adolescents, for example – even those of today – if they have the opportunity to find Dante’s poetry in a way that is accessible to them, they inevitably find on the one hand a great distance from the author and his world, and yet, on the other, they perceive a surprising resonance ”.

The Divine Comedy

The Italian poet Alessandro Rivali, editor of the Italian publishing house Ares, said that Dante’s masterpiece was a work “that wants to bring man to God. The Divine Comedy it’s a great travel project. “

Divided into three parts – Hell (Hell), Purgatory (Purgatory), and Paradise (Sky) – Rivali argued that Dante had many reasons to write The Divine Comedy, but the main one was “to return man to the original design of God, that is, away from sin and towards happiness.”

The Divine Comedy It is a kind of great encyclopedia in which he put everything that was known about man until then, ”said Rivali. Crux. “He was an extraordinary man, a first-rate actor not only from a poetic point of view, but also from a philosophical and theological point of view. In Florence he had studied with the Franciscans and with the Dominicans, for which he had a completely unusual preparation ”.

Dante influenced much of the poetry produced for centuries after him, and he himself was inspired by those who preceded him, notably Virgilio, whom Rivali defines as “his teacher, and a very current figure.”

In The Divine ComedyVirgilio holds Dante’s hand both in Hell and in Purgatory: “It is a very interesting metaphor of our time that does not recognize the masters, it presents this war between generations and hatred of the past.”

“In today’s life what is lacking are teachers, people with the patience and generosity to give themselves to the youngest, in a time marked by individualism”, Rivali, who recently published his latest book of poetry. The land of Cain.

Beyond being a book that also speaks this time, the 300 pages Divine Comedy also has resonance with the present pontificate: The second part, PurgatoryIt has to do with mercy, something that Pope Francis particularly emphasizes.

Dante and the popes

Although he is often labeled a “pope of the first,” Francis Sincerity Lucis Aeternae It is not the first reflection of a pontiff on the poet: Benedict XV published the encyclical entitled In Praeclara Sumorum (“Among the many famous geniuses”) in 1921, which was dedicated to the memory of Dante and written on the occasion of the sixth centenary of his death. Pope Saint Paul VI also wrote an apostolic letter in 1965, Altissimi Cantus, on the occasion of the seventh centenary of his birth.

“Someone might wonder why the Catholic Church, by the will and work of its visible Head, is serious about celebrating the memory of the Florentine poet and honoring him,” wrote Paul VI. “The answer is easy and immediate: Dante Alighieri is ours by a special right: ours, that is, of the Catholic religion, because everything breathes love for Christ; ours, because he loved the Church very much, of which he sang honors; ours, because he recognized and venerated the Vicar of Christ on earth in the Roman Pontiff ”.

In 2015, before the inauguration of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Francis said that Dante “is a prophet of hope, herald of the possibility of redemption, liberation and profound transformation of every man and woman, of all humanity.”

The two most recent predecessors of Francis also praised the poet.

In a reading of The Divine Comedy In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II noted that “almost seven centuries later, Dante’s art evokes heightened emotions and the greatest convictions, and still proves capable of instilling courage and hope, guiding contemporary man’s difficult existential quest for the It is true that you do not know any scenario. “

Benedict XVI also expressed great admiration for the poet, and while he was still a priest and wrote his famous book Introduction to Christianity in 1968, he uses The Divine Comedy to explain the “scandal of Christianity”.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma



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