In a video-message addressed to the International Congress of Theology in Buenos Aires, Francis said: “The great fathers of the Church were great theologians because they were great pastors.” And “doctrine is not a closed, private system deprived of dynamics able to raise questions and doubts”
Taken from Vatican Insider ANDREA TORNIELLI
vatican cityDoctrine and pastoral care are linked, just as prayer and life are. They cannot be separated. Francis said this in a video-message sent to the International Congress of Theology in Buenos Aires, which concluded yesterday. The Pope’s carefully thought-out words are also connected in some way to the Synod debate on the family.
“Any attempt, any intention to reduce communication and to break the relationship between the Tradition received and concrete reality places the faith of God’s people at risk,” the Pope said. “To break this communication will easily lead to us turning our outlook and our theology into an ideology.”
Francis then explained that “Christians in today’s Argentina are not the same as they were in in Argentina 100 years ago. Christians live their faith differently in India, in Canada and in Rome. Thus, one of the main tasks of a theologian is to discern and reflect: what does it mean to be a Christian today?, in the “here and now”? How does this river of origins manage to irrigate these lands and become visible and liveable?”
“To make this challenge our own,” the Pope added, “we need to overcome two possible temptations: that of condemning everything, clinging to the phrase “all was better in the past”, taking refuge in conservatism and fundamentalism. Or on the contrary, legitimising everything, diminishing anything that brings nothing new, relativizing all the wisdom of our rich ecclesial heritage. The way to overcoming these temptations is reflection, discernment, taking ecclesial Tradition and reality seriously, creating a dialogue between them.”
“A contrast is often created between theology and pastoral care, as if they were two different and opposing elements that have nothing to do with one another,” the Pope said, giving an illuminating interpretation of many debates that have taken place in recent months. We often identify doctrine with backward conservativism. On the contrary we think of pastoral care in terms of adaptation, reduction and compromise. As if they were not in any way related. This creates a false contrast between the so-called “pastoralists” and “academicists”, those who are on the people’s side and those who support doctrine.” “This creates a false opposition between theology and pastoral care; between Christian reflection and Christian life; in life then, there is no room for reflection and reflection finds no space in life. The great Fathers of the Church, Irenaeus, Augustine, Basil and Ambrose – to name but a few – were great theologians because they were great pastors.”
“Doctrine is not a closed, private system deprived of dynamics able to raise questions and doubts. On the contrary, Christian doctrine has a face, a body and flesh in the form of Jesus Christ and it is his Life that is offered through the generations to all men and women around the earth. Looking after the doctrine requires faithfulness to what one has received. At the same time, it means bearing the recipient in mind, knowing them and loving them. This encounter between doctrine and pastoral care is not optional, it is integral to a theology that intends to be ecclesial.”
Hence, “the questions our people pose, their anguish, their quarrels, their dreams, their struggles, their concerns all have hermeneutical value we cannot ignore if we are to take seriously the principal of incarnation. Their questions help us ask ourselves questions, their questions call us into question. All this helps us to delve deeper into the mystery of the Word of God, a Word that demands and calls for dialogue and communication. For this reason, we cannot ignore our people in theology. Our God has chosen this path. He was incarnated in this world that is riddled with war, injustice and violence and home to hopes and dreams.”
“People and their specific conflicts, their peripheries, are not optional, but rather necessary for a better understanding of faith. Therefore, it is important to ask whom we are thinking of when we engage in theology. Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit in a praying people is the subject of theology. A theology that is not born of this would offer something beautiful but not real”.