Two social documents of the Church turned 50 in 2021: Paul VI’s apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens (OA) and the document Justice in the World (JW) from the World Synod of Bishops. While both deserve to be remembered for their intrinsic value, we do so especially in relation to Pope Francis and his notable theological-moral contributions.
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Pope Francis chose yesterday, the Feast of St Joseph and the anniversary of Francis’ installation as Pope, to release the new constitution for the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium, or “preach the gospel”. The document has been worked on over the last nine years by the Pope and his cardinal advisers and in consultation with local bishops’ conferences.
On March 19, 2022, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Pope Francis promulgated the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium (PE) on the Roman curia and its service to the Church in today’s world. It comes into effect on June 5, 2022, the Solemnity of Pentecost, repealing John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus (PB) of June 28, 1988.
Conflict, poverty and corruption have stifled Africa’s potential in the post-independence era, yet the Church has been reluctant to involve itself in politics. Now one of its most prominent voices argues it is time for its leaders to urge Catholics to put their faith into action for a just society.
As of 2022, the Catholic Church has named 37 Doctors of the Church. Among the 37 recognised Doctors, 28 are from the West and nine from the East; four women (three nuns, one consecrated Virgin; 19 bishops, twelve priests, one deacon; 27 from Europe, three from Africa, and seven from Asia.
It cannot be denied that Christianity is one of the essential components of Western Europe. Think of art and literature, but also of the street names, monuments and historic buildings of our cities; they would be largely incomprehensible without the Bible. This presence is detected even by those who have distanced themselves from the Christian faith, but who strive to ensure that such richness is not lost.
Pope Francis spoke of the crisis of faith and apathy in religious practice, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. “We need a faith built upon and constantly renewed in the personal encounter with Christ, in daily listening to his word, in active participation in the life of the church and in authentic popular piety,” the Pope said yesterday at a prayer service outside the Ta’ Pinu National Shrine.
The temptation to triumphalism – Christianity without the cross – and its more insidious form, spiritual worldliness – is difficult to discern. If there is a theme in the magisterium of Bergoglio-Francis that recurs with particular frequency, it is precisely this. In the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, pronouncing a “no to spiritual worldliness,” Francis put it in black and white.
How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer.” All the people who work, pray and suffer for the common good “can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. […] A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
“For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” is the title of a journey solemnly begun on October 9-10, 2021, in Rome, and then again on October 17 in each particular Church around the world. On March 7, 2020, the announcement had been made that Francis wanted to hold the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2022 on the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
Christianity first came to China over one thousand years ago but it did not last long. Alopen, a Syrian monk, introduced Nestorian Christianity in the Tang Dynasty and founded several monasteries and churches. Nestorian Christianity reemerged in the Mongol era in the early 14th century.
European communities, with their sprawling churches, ancient cities, culinary skills, dance, music, et al, were once proud of their Christian roots. They slowly became secular in the 20th century and the evolution continues to move in a trajectory of despising the Christian faith and its followers.
Among the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance), the only one currently under philosophical investigation is justice, thanks mainly to its being proposed by a new contractualism. This is an attempt to present it without using a metaphysical and religious perspective, but identifying evaluation criteria that allow each person to decide as “a free and equal rational being.”
Reluctance of some Catholic priests to take part and fear and mistrust among lay people that their voices will not be heard are among challenges facing the synodal process, according to initial findings of the listening process. The Covid-19 pandemic has also made the process more difficult. A further challenge has been to keep meetings spiritual so they do not turn into parliament-style debates.
Some years ago, during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Father General Adolfo Nicolás sketched points for a possible letter to the Society. Although he never wrote the letter, he did share these points with a few friends. The following text, while still rough and informal, expresses clearly the direction of his thinking. With the permission of Father Nicolás, we share it now.
Catechisms and Canons are important, but they must be shaped by the Word of God, measured by the Word of God and in service to the Word of God. As Vatican 2 declared, “like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.” In September 2019, the pope issued Aperuit illis, a motu proprio (a teaching on his own initiative) that declared “that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.”
The week of prayer for Christian unity begins on 18 January. Many gifts have been exchanged between previously divided Christian traditions over the past hundred years – but Nicholas Sagovsky wonders how far the fruits of dialogue have been taken to heart by the leaders and members of the Churches.
The term “spiritual” is one of those words which, although it had a profoundly rich meaning in the early days of Christianity and in all the great epochs of the history of the Church, every now and then it becomes weakened by more superficial meanings, or is transformed into a synonym of largely negative terms – such as “incorporeal, immaterial” – and becomes just one of many edifying words, a synonym of “religious” or “supernatural.”
After the years of this pontificate, what is its driving force? Some commentators and analysts have wondered if Francis’ drive still exists; others have tried to reflect on its substance. The question could be re-phrased as follows: What kind of government does Francis exercise, and how do we interpret it in the light of these seven years? I intend to address this question here, examining the meaning of his way of governing, which comes from his personality, his own life and formation.
In the dramatic health situation that is upsetting our current historical situation, reflections on the theme of leprosy in Sacred Scripture can perhaps help us to deal with the threatening contagion of Covid-19 from the always therapeutic perspective of salvation history.