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Church and theology "on the way out


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Ramiro Pellitero

Professor at School of Theology

10 years with Pope Francis

The Christian life (the consistent life of Christians), far from being routine and boring, is one of the most fascinating adventures that anyone can propose. All Christians have received grace in baptism. Grace is not a thing or a substance, but the "free" friendship with God, who offers us the financial aid to live this adventure in the midst of the circumstances of life.

Apparently, most days "nothing special" happens. But we all need to appreciate every day not so much things, as Saint-Exupéry said, but "the meaning of things". Moreover, there is no lack of surprises, joys and sorrows, and even crises that affect us. We Christians have more light and strength to face them and take advantage of them to grow. And also more responsibility to help others.

The Second Vatican Council, returning to the "sources" of the Christian faith (the Sacred Scripture and Tradition, represented in the first centuries by those great spiritual authors who are the Fathers of the Church), proclaimed the universal call to holiness and apostolate for all Christians, and even for all people. For God calls everyone. And to all, sometimes in very unknown ways, He gives the means to meet Him and to live with Him. Not only in the afterlife, but already in this world. This is what we call holiness.

Holiness does not mean to be comfortable in this life by looking down on others. On the contrary, and to understand this, it is enough to look at the example of Christ. Holiness means a commitment on the part of each of us to respond to the needs of others, to improve the world around us and to care for it for all. From the beginning, Christians have sought to extend this call, following the Master's command to baptize and make disciples of all peoples.

After the bing-bang of the Council, the Popes - Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI and now Francis - have been developing the impulse that was given there, successively underlining its anthropological and ethical, theological and pastoral or evangelizing content.

What role does theology play in this? It must be recognized that theology, reflection on the faith, for many centuries, has often developed far from daily life, as the exclusive task of specialists. Today, on the other hand, theology is and should be above all a great financial aid for evangelization, that is, for the free and joyful proposal of the Christian faith.

Within theology, pastoral theology - understood as the theology of the Church's evangelizing mission statement - points out three main tasks: the missionary task (directed to non-Christians); the renewed evangelization "inward" of the Catholic faithful, so that they may respond better each day to the Gospel message; and the ecumenical task, aimed at restoring unity among Christians, historically broken above all in the 11th century (separation of the Orthodox and Protestants); and the ecumenical task, which is aimed at restoring unity among Christians, historically broken especially in the 16th century (separation of the Orthodox and Protestants). XI century (separation from the Orthodox) and in the XVI century (separation from Protestants). These tasks are today closely intertwined and almost inseparable.

In this way, theology has become today a necessary instrument for the "Church in going out", to which all Christians belong. This is why we can and should speak of "Theology in going out".

A "way out" that can be represented by pastoral theology or evangelization. Its method is to situate itself in the "here" and "now" of what God asks of Christians, in order to collaborate in the advertisement and the transmission of the faith; that is to say, to collaborate in evangelization. Its center and foundation is the action of Christ, to make men and women participate in his redemptive (cross and resurrection) and sanctifying (through the action of the Holy Spirit) work, around the Eucharist, which is source and summit of Christian life and of the life and mission statement of the Church. And the exercise of this "going forth" is the participation of each one of us, staff or in association with others (whether Christian or not), in the improvement of this world in view of eternal life. Holiness, as I said before, leads to concern for improving the living conditions of people and the quality of life of the planet. It is a way out that commits us to serve everyone, through our work, our family and cultural, social and ecclesial life.

For all this, pastoral theology is situated in the evangelizing vanguard that corresponds, we said, to the whole Church. And in the Church, to each one, according to his condition and vocation, in unity of mission statement and in diversity of tasks (if one wants to say, ministries) and charisms.

A former professor of pastoral theology in his Argentina in the 1970s, Pope Francis has been promoting "evangelizing with joy" since the beginning of his Petrine ministry, which will be 10 years old on March 13.

His most important teachings have dealt with faith (beginning with his "four-handed" encyclical with Benedict XVI, Lumen fidei), care for the common home (encyclical Laudato si') and fraternity and social friendship (encyclical Fratelli tutti) .

After his programmatic document - the post-synodal exhortation Evangelii gaudium -it is worth highlighting his promotion of the culture of Mercy, as well as his pastoral accompaniment of families (cf. Exhortation Amoris laetitia) and young people (cf. Exhortation Christus vivit).

Personally, he has gone out of his way to bring the closeness of Jesus Christ to all, especially to the most fragile and forgotten and to those affected by conflicts and wars, as a sign of evangelization.

Pastoral theology has found in Pope Francis, especially since his pastoral ministry, a support and a standard bearer.