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Theologians must find new ways to express, share the faith, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church needs theologians who know how to transmit the truths of faith in a way that will speak to people today, help them live the faith in their daily lives and inspire them to share the Gospel with others, Pope Francis wrote.
“The community needs the work of those who attempt to interpret the faith, to translate and retranslate it, to make it understandable, to expound it in new words; it is a work that must be always done again, in every generation,” the pope told staff from Milan’s archdiocesan seminary in a text given to them June 17.
The seminary staff were in Rome as part of their celebration of the 150th anniversary of the seminary’s theology journal, which Pope Francis described as being “a bit like a store window, where a craftsman displays his work, and you can admire his creativity.”
“What has matured in the workshops of academic classrooms, in the patient exercise of research and reflection, of debate and dialogue, deserves to be shared and made accessible to others,” the pope said in his written text.
The Vatican press office said the pope handed his prepared text to the staffs of the seminary and the journal, but it provided no information about what he discussed with them.
In the text, the pope had written that the Church needs theologians who know how “to communicate the truths of faith today, taking into account linguistic, social, cultural changes and competently using the media, without ever watering down, weakening or ‘virtualizing’ the content.”
“The Church encourages and supports the effort to redefine the content of faith in every age, in the dynamism of tradition,” he said. “That is why theological language must always be alive, dynamic, cannot help but evolve and must work to make itself understood.”
Unfortunately, he said, “sometimes the sermons or catechesis we hear are mostly composed of moralism and are not ‘theological’ enough, that is, able to speak to us about God and to answer the questions of meaning that accompany people’s lives, and which we often do not have the courage to formulate openly.”
To be of real service to the Church and its members, he said, theologians must “always keep in mind the link between faith and life” and “cherish and communicate the joy of faith in the Lord Jesus.”
At the same time, he said, they also must have “a healthy restlessness, that quivering of the heart before the mystery of God. And we will know how to accompany others in the search the more we experience this joy and restlessness. That is, the more we are ‘disciples.'”
To truly support evangelization today, the pope said, theology must know how and show others how to “dialogue with the world, with cultures and religions.”
“A theology that evangelizes is a theology nourished with dialogue and welcome,” he said. “Dialogue and a living memory of the witness of the love and peace of Jesus Christ are the paths to follow to build together a future of justice, fraternity and peace for the whole human family.”
Pope Francis also used his text to talk about the role of seminary staffs today in identifying and nurturing those who have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.
“Those who are called are not mushrooms that sprout spontaneously,” he said. Each person is “an immense mystery” and comes with a range of personal experiences and a past molded by family, community and parish.
“Seminarians and young people in formation,” the pope wrote, “must be able to learn more from your life than from your words; to be able to learn docility from your obedience, industriousness from your dedication, generosity with the poor from your sobriety and availability and fatherhood from your chaste and nonpossessive affection.”