Friday, November 18, 2011

Pope Benedict Talks Pentecostals and Evangelicals On Plane to Benin

There was the usual Press Conference on Papal One or whatever we now call the airplane that the Pope is on when he goes on this visits. The full transcript is here .

I thought this part was interesting and has more than just a Africa focus:

Holy Father, here on board the plane there are forty journalists representing various agencies and broadcast outlets. In Cotonou, there are a thousand journalists waiting who will follow the visit on-site. As usual, I’ll ask you a few questions collected in these days from our colleagues.
While Africans suffer from a weakening of their traditional institutions, the Catholic church is confronted by the growing success of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which are sometimes created in Africa. They propose an attractive faith, with a great simplification of the Christian message. They emphasize healing and mix their cult with traditional religious practices. How should the Catholic church react to these communities, which are often aggressive towards the church? How can the Catholic church seem attractive, when these communities present themselves as warm and inculturated?

Benedict XVI

These communities are a global phenomenon, on all the continents. Naturally, they’re present above all, in different ways, in Latin America and in Africa. I would say their characteristic elements are very little ‘institutionality’ and few institutions, giving little weight to institutions; a message that’s simple, easy, and understandable, and apparently concrete; and, as you said, a participative liturgy expressing the sentiments of the local culture, with a somewhat syncretistic approach to the religions. All this guarantees them, on the one hand, some success, but it also implies a lack of stability. We know that some [followers of these groups] return to the Catholic church, or they move from one of these communities to the other.

Thus, we don’t need to imitate these communities, but we should ask ourselves what we can do to give new life to the Catholic faith. I would suggest, as a first point, a message that’s simple and understandable, but also profound. It’s important that Christianity doesn’t come as a difficult European system, one which someone else can’t understand or realize, but as a universal message that God exists, God matters, God knows us and loves us, and that in concrete, religion provokes collaboration and fraternity. Thus a simple, concrete message is very important.

Second, it’s important that our institutions not be too heavy. What must be prevalent is the initiative of the community and the person. Finally, I would say that a participative liturgy is important, but one that’s not sentimental. Worship must not be simply an expression of sentiments, but raise up the presence and the mystery of God into which he enter and by which we allow ourselves to be formed.

Finally, I would say with regard to inculturation that it’s important we not lose universality. I would prefer to speak of “inter-culturation,” not so much inculturation. It’s a matter of a meeting between cultures in the common truth of our being as humans, in our time. Thus we grow in a universal fraternity. We mustn’t lose this grand thing that is Catholicity, that in all parts of the world we are brothers and sisters, we are one family, where we know each other and collaborate in a spirit of fraternity.


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