The Vatican has posted the new encyclical online.
Here are some impressions I had in my first reading.
Pope Benedict shows the many facets of his personality. In some places the encyclical reads like he is teaching a class--wouldn't it be great to have taken one of his courses! For example, he gives an extended exegesis of the famous definition of faith from Hebrews: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
In other places he appears as a pastor, citing remarkable examples from the lives of the saints. He mentions St Josephine Bakhita as an outstanding example of hope. She went from slavery in Africa to being a religious sister in Italy. The Pope speaks of the great Cardinal Van Thuan, and specifically recommends Prayers of Hope, a book which we published! He also has a long quote from one of the Vietnamese martyrs.
In more posts I'll talk a little more in detail about my impressions, but please do read the encyclical for yourself. All comments on it are most welcome!