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Papal book completed, new encyclical possible

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has finished the third volume of his opus, "Jesus of Nazareth," and perhaps also will publish an encyclical letter during the upcoming Year of Faith, said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state.

The cardinal, Pope Benedict's top collaborator, told reporters Aug. 1 that the pope had finished his manuscript on Jesus' infancy and childhood.

"It is a great gift for the Year of Faith," the cardinal told reporters in Les Combes di Introd, a village in Italy's northwestern Alps where Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict have vacationed in the past.

The first volume of "Jesus of Nazareth," covering the period from Jesus' baptism to his Transfiguration, was published in 2007. The second volume, looking at his passion and death, came out in 2011.

In a statement Aug. 2, the Vatican press office said the book is being translated into a variety of languages from the German original. "It is hoped that the book will be published simultaneously in the most widely spoken languages; this will require a certain amount of time to ensure the accurate translations of a text that is important and long-awaited."

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The press office did not comment on a possible new encyclical.

However, many observers expect there to be a document focusing on the virtue of faith to complete a series of Pope Benedict's reflections on the theological virtues. His encyclical on charity ("Deus Caritas Est") was published in 2005, and two years later he released his encyclical on hope ("Spe Salvi").

The pope has called for special Year of Faith, which will open Oct. 11 -- the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council -- and run through Nov. 24, 2013.

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