Pope: Proclamation and dialogue, keys to theology

Those who study theology must be encouraged to learn about the great monotheistic religions and the languages ​​in which the sacred texts are written. Theology is not only rationalism, it must be lived in compassion with a heart fixed on the merciful God. The Mediterranean is a bridge "and not a border between the North and the South of the world": Without mercy, "our theology, our laws, our pastoral care, run the risk of collapsing into bureaucratic pettiness or ideology, which of its nature wants to tame the mystery". Francis  in Naples, at a Conference on the theme:" Theology after Veritatis gaudium in the context of the Mediterranean ".

Naples (AsiaNews) - Theology after Veritatis gaudium "is a kerygmatic theology, a theology of discernment, of mercy and of welcome, which places itself in dialogue with society, cultures and religions for the construction of peaceful coexistence of nations and peoples. The Mediterranean is the historical, geographical and cultural matrix of kerygmatic welcome practiced with dialogue and mercy," said Pope Francis this morning, speaking at the conference on the theme: "Theology after Veritatis gaudium in the context of the Mediterranean".

Starting from the Mediterranean, which the Pope defines as "always the place of transits, exchanges, and sometimes even conflicts", Francis asks some questions "that we asked ourselves in the Abu Dhabi interreligious meeting: how do we keep each other in the one human family? How do we nurture a tolerant and peaceful coexistence that translates into authentic fraternity? How do we make the acceptance of the other and of those who are different from us prevail in our communities even though they may belong to a religious and cultural tradition different from ours? How can religions be paths of fraternity rather than walls of separation? "

Speaking to scholars and professors of theology - the Conference is hosted by the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy - the pontiff emphasized how theology is called to be "a theology of hospitality and to develop an authentic and sincere dialogue with social and civil institutions, with university and research centers, with religious leaders and with all women and men of good will, to build in peace an inclusive and fraternal society and for the custody of creation ”.

And that is why "in the dialogue with cultures and religions, the Church announces the Good News of Jesus and the practice of evangelical love which He preached as a synthesis of all the teaching of the Law, of the visions of the Prophets and of the will of the Father. Dialogue is first and foremost a method of discernment and proclamation of the Word of love which is addressed to each person and which in the heart of each wants to take up residence ”. Dialogue, understood in this way, "is a form of acceptance, above all of the love of God the Father, revealed in the Person of Jesus and given with the Holy Spirit".

But theology needs discernment, it requires  two movements: "A movement from the bottom up that can dialogue, with a sense of listening and discernment, with every human and historical instance, taking into account the vast breath of the human; and a movement from above to below - where "the high" is that of Jesus raised on the cross - which allows, at the same time, to discern the signs of the Kingdom of God in history and to understand prophetically the signs of the anti-kingdom that disfigure the soul and human history. It is a method that allows - in a constant dynamic - to confront each human instance and to grasp which Christian and Easter light illuminates the folds of reality and which energies the Spirit of the Risen Cross is ​​arousing, from time to time, here and now " .

Dialogue and proclamation of the Gospel, the Pope says, "can occur in the ways outlined by Francis of Assisi in the earlier Rule, the very day after his journey in the East Mediterranean. For Francis there is a first way in which one simply lives as Christians: "One way is that they do not make quarrels or disputes, but are subject to every human creature for the love of God and confess to being Christians" (XVI: FF 43). Then there is a second way in which, always docile to the signs and action of the Risen Lord and to his Spirit of peace, the Christian faith is announced as a manifestation in Jesus of God's love for all men ".

"Dialogue", he continued, "is not a magic formula, but certainly theology is helped in its renewal when it takes it seriously, when it is encouraged and favored between teachers and students, as well as with other forms of knowledge and with other religions, especially Judaism and Islam. Theology students should be educated in dialogue with Judaism and Islam to understand the common roots and differences of our religious identities, and thus contribute more effectively to building a society that values ​​diversity and fosters respect, fraternity and peaceful coexistence. With Muslims we are called to dialogue to build the future of our societies and our cities; we are called to consider them partners to build peaceful coexistence, even when there are shocking episodes by fanatical groups that are enemies of dialogue, such as the tragedy of last Easter in Sri Lanka ". He then quotes Giorgio La Pira: "He would tell us that it is a question, for theology, of contributing to building a" great tent of peace "over the entire Mediterranean basin, where the different children of the common father Abraham can live together in mutual respect"

The "multicultural and multi-religious reality of the new Mediterranean is formed in the dialogue that comes from listening to the people and texts of the great monotheistic religions, and especially in listening to young people. I am thinking of the students of our faculties of theology, of those of the "secular" universities or of other religious inspirations. "When the Church - and, we can add, theology - abandons rigid schemes and opens up to an attentive and available listening to young people, this empathy enriches it, because" it allows young people to give their contribution to the community, helping them to grasp new sensibilities and asking innovative questions "" (Exh. ap. postsin. Christus vivit, 65).  Kerygma is deepened through a dialogue that comes from listening and that generates communion.

Theology after Veritatis gaudium, underlined Francis, "is a theology oin conjunction and, in the context of the Mediterranean, in solidarity with all the" castaways "of history. In the theological task that awaits us, we remember Saint Paul and the path of early Christianity that links the East with the West. Here, very close to where Paul landed, it cannot be forgotten that the Apostle's journeys were marked by obvious criticalities, as in the shipwreck at the center of the Mediterranean (Acts 27: 9ff). A shipwreck that makes one think of that of Jonah. Paul does not flee, and may even think that Rome is his Nineveh. He may think of correcting Jonah's defeatist attitude by redeeming his escape. Now that Western Christianity has learned from many mistakes and critical issues of the past, it can return to its sources hoping to be able to witness to the Good News to the peoples of the East and of the West, of the North and of the South. Theology - keeping the mind and heart fixed on the "merciful and compassionate God" (cf. Gn 4,2) - can help the Church and civil society to resume the road in the company of many castaways, encouraging the Mediterranean populations to refuse every temptation to reconquer and close the identity ”.

In this sense, "even doing theology is an act of mercy". Citing one of his messages to the Argentine Catholic University, the Pope addressed the students present: "I encourage you to study how, in the various disciplines - dogmatic, moral, spirituality, law and so on - the centrality of mercy may be reflected . Without mercy, our theology, our laws, our pastoral care, run the risk of collapsing into bureaucratic pettiness or ideology, which by its nature wants to constrain the mystery".

Before concluding, Francis adds: "I dream of theological faculties where the conviviality of differences is lived, where you practice a theology of dialogue and acceptance; where the model of the polyhedron of theological knowledge is experimented instead of a static and disembodied sphere. Where theological research is able to promote a challenging but compelling inculturation process ".

Theology after Veritatis gaudium is therefore "a kerygmatic theology, a theology of discernment, of mercy and of welcome, which places itself in dialogue with society, cultures and religions for the construction of peaceful coexistence of people and peoples. The Mediterranean is the historical, geographical and cultural matrix of kerygmatic acceptance practiced with dialogue and mercy. Naples is an example and a special laboratory of this theological research ”.