02/21/2018, 10.22
VATICAN-CHINA-RUSSIA
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The Ostpolitik of today and the 'outgoing' Church (III)

by Stefano Caprio*

The collapse of Soviet communism gave reason to the Vatican political choices in opening up to Russia and Eastern Europe. The new Ostpolitik announces a new world without geographic or confessional delineations. Pope Francis pushes the Church towards the peripheries and towards the high sea, as St. John Paul II had hoped. Part III of an expert analysis.

Rome (AsiaNews) - The collapse of Soviet communism and the "religious renaissance" of Eastern Europe in the era of the Polish Pope seem to have justified Vatican calculations. Yet the victory did not lead to the hoped reconciliation of peoples, nor to the re-evangelization of the secularized world. The conflicts between East and West are more extensive and frightening than ever, not only because of the threats of Middle Eastern terrorism or the North Korean race to nuclear weapons, but above all because of the globalized economic war of the new peoples against the old ones, of China and India against America and Europe, with the endless economic crisis of the financial markets and the unstoppable migration of excluded peoples in all directions of the globe.

In this latest edition of Ostpolitik, today the Church seems to be detaching itself from this scenario, as the announcer of a different world, of a different civilization, without geographic or confessional delineations. Rome is no longer caput mundi not because it has been replaced by Moscow or Beijing, but because it believes it has to re-establish itself in a world with no head or center, or perhaps by accrediting new centers and reference points. Everyone can take responsibility for everyone: if Russian Orthodoxy believes the world needs to be saved from moral degradation, the Vatican supports it by contradicting its own more liberal openings; if the neo-Communist China pretends to command the laws of the market, both material and ideological, the Pope supports it, even sacrificing the clandestine structures that have barely survived decades of persecution.

All this also happens with the work of the Argentine Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio who in today's Catholicism is leading a truly revolutionary movement of detachment from the Italian and European context, in which it has always gravitated.

And it is not just a matter of "Third Worldism", consistent with the paupers choice to bring the Church closer to the "peripheries" of the neediest humanity, but of a true geopolitical conversion: the Roman Catholic Church, as it is customarily defined, is becoming an a-centric Church. It is as if Pope Francis, like his namesake and saintly inspirer, has come to rupture the residential bonds of the papacy itself, dispersing it on the streets of the world as did the medieval Medicean orders with their members.

The Church of Francis is actually moving outwards from itself, not only from the Vatican walls which hold its temporal power, but from the demands a of historical-political centrality with which it has exercised itself throughout the second millennium. If the "Byzantine" imperial Church was erased by the Ottoman invasion, and only lives on in the illusions of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and its ancient and modern tsars, the Roman Papacy as we have always conceived it is disappearing amid the enthusiasm of the few and the indifference of the many.  The ship of Peter is being launched onto an open and unknown sea, which , in the end, was the express wish of Saint John Paul II with the evangelical Jubilee motto: Duc in altum

Only time will tell if the new Ostpolitik, a politics of self-reduction or the "evangelical growing smaller", is a true prophecy or a new flight from the world, like that of the Egyptian monks at the time of Constantine. What is certain is that the Church of Pope Francis is forcing everyone to abandon the certainties linked to the positions and outcomes of history, and partly also to the reassuring definitions of dogmas. Perhaps, more than a Pope who comes from the "ends of the world", he is a Pope chosen by God to guide us towards the end of an overwhelmed and crystallized world, to open ourselves up to a new creation.

(End of Part Three. For Part One, click here. For Part Two, click here).

* Professor of History and Russian Culture at the Pontifical Oriental Institute of Rome

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