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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis issued his first encyclical on Friday with a message on the importance of Christian faith that showed he plans no radical departure from the doctrinal stance of his predecessor Benedict.
"Lumen Fidei" (Light of Faith) was originally intended to form a part of a series by Benedict on the theological virtues, following earlier encyclicals on love and hope, but was not completed by the time of his shock resignation in February.
The encyclical stresses the central importance of the Christian faith as a defense against the "massive amnesia in our contemporary world" caused by excessive trust in technology and the "subjective truths of the individual".
"When faith is weakened, the foundations of humanity also risk being weakened," Francis said, in a text issued three days before he visits Lampedusa, the tiny island south of Sicily which thousands of desperate migrants from North Africa have died trying to reach.
Francis, the first Latin American pope, has struck a sharply different tone from his austere German predecessor, refusing to occupy the sumptuous papal apartments and shunning many of the ceremonial trappings in which Benedict appeared to revel.
But the 82-page encyclical, a letter to bishops and the faithful laying out a pope's views on doctrinal or other matters, made clear he sees no fundamental departure in theological terms from Benedict to whom he expressed his gratitude.
Reporting By James Mackenzie, editing by Gareth Jones