Pope Benedict's new encyclical, Spe Salvi (which means 'in hope we were saved') has just been published. It follows on from his first letter to the Church, Deus Caritas Est , which dealt with love, by considering the theological virtue of hope. Care to take a bet that the next one might be about faith? Christopher Howse writes :

A colleague, staring at the Pope's latest encyclical, remarked, "There's no news here. It's all about God." He was right, after a fashion, for the document, the second encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI since his election two and a half years ago, is about hope and salvation. Its title, Spe Salvi, is from a phrase in St Paul's Epistle to the Romans, "In hope we were saved."

But it is a very unusual kind of encyclical, quoting Dostoyevsky and discussing the Jacobean philosopher Francis Bacon. Enyclicals usually stick to the Bible and the Fathers of the Church. After all, they are universal letters to the Catholic faithful.

Yet Spe Salvi speaks to the anguish and foreboding that are clearly marks of the modern world. As a German who experienced some of the evil of Nazism, Pope Benedict spends a proportion of his 25-page letter pondering another letter, "a letter from 'Hell', which lays bare all the horror of a concentration camp".

As the saying goes, read it all . And then take some time and read the Pope's own words .