Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit cantankerous but I have problems with the meme on the right. Catholics are floating this picture, produced by CatholicVote, around Facebook.
Now I have to confess that I think it is a bit silly to try to encapsulate any pontificate with a single word.
But, having said that, I have to admit that what is really irritating me is this: if any recent papacy should be linked with "charity" it is Pope Benedict's! Why?
From the start of his pontificate and all throughout it, "charity" was really the theme of Benedict's teaching!
At the beginning of his very first address he cited Vatican II in describing the Church as "a great family of all the peoples by means of the unifying power of Truth and Love" (cf. Lumen Gentium 1).
His very first encyclical was Deus Caritas est--"God is Love (Charity)".
The importance of the theological virtue of Charity was emphasized throughout his Petrine ministry.
Whatever his topic, Benedict seemed to always treat it in relation to Charity.
How did he approach the Eucharist? His letter on it was entitled, Sacramentum caritatis, that is, "The Sacrament of Charity".
What about his approach to Catholic Social Teaching? He laid out his teaching here in Caritas in veritate, that is, "Charity in Truth".
I love Pope Francis but let's not have such a short memory! If there ever was a pontificate devoted to proclaiming "charity" it was Benedict XVI's!
Of course, the final act of his papacy, his resignation, is probably best viewed as an exceptional act of "charity" on behalf of the Church.
But--and this is really important--I think it is really absurd to try to figure out which pope has more "faith" or "love". Did Benedict have more "Faith" than John Paul II? Did John Paul II have more hope than Francis? This is dangerous!
The question here should be which pope emphasized which theological virtue the most in his teaching, not trying to assign who was the most loving or faith-filled!
And there can be no doubt, as Francis has emphasized "poverty", Benedict emphasized "charity".
Again, this is not to suggest that John Paul II or Francis was or are unconcerned about love/charity. But let's not forget that "Charity" really and truly was the major motif of Benedict's ministry.
How would I then assign the theological virtues? Again, this is facile. But if someone were to put a gun to my head and insist that I find a way of linking each pope to one of them, I'd say the following.
John Paul II as "Faith": It was John Paul II who wrote the great encyclical, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason).
Moreover, he was the one who also gave us the Catechism of the Catholic Church (though it was Cardinal Ratzinger who oversaw the project, it was published as the magisterium of John Paul II). In fact, in his Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum (Deposit of Faith), a work which also emphasizes the role of faith, he tells us why he gave us the Catechism: to provide the Church with "a sure norm for teaching the faith".
Francis as "Hope": Given what I've said above, "hope" would seem best attributed to Francis. Indeed, in his address to the Cardinals he highlighted as a chief danger the temptation to "bitterness".
Still, I have to say, linking each pontificate with one theological virtue is probably too difficult. But if there is one thing I'm sure of it is this: Benedict put greater emphasis on "Charity" than any other recent pope. Let's not forget that--and certainly not so soon!