An Asian plea for humility at the Synod of Bishops

Anybody who’s seen the movie “Pulp Fiction” probably recalls the scene where John Travolta explains to Samuel L. Jackson that in France, McDonald’s calls the quarter-pounder a “Royale with cheese” because, in light of the metric system, the French wouldn’t know what a quarter-pounder is.

(It turns out that the movie got the French slightly wrong. It’s actually just the “Royal Cheese,” but the point’s the same.)

Although director Quentin Tarantino is nobody’s idea of a Christian evangelist, there’s nevertheless a missionary insight here: Whether we’re talking about cheeseburgers or eternal salvation, the same product often has to be packaged in different ways for different audiences based on the languages they speak and the cultural worlds they inhabit.

That, believe it or not, is a way of introducing a report from the Oct. 7-28 Synod of Bishops in Rome on the new evangelization.

Whatever its defects, a synod is always a kind of graduate seminar about the realities of life in a global church, bringing together bishops and other church leaders from every nook and cranny of the planet. The opening week of this one has been devoted largely to surveying what works and what doesn’t in terms of Catholic evangelization in various parts of the world, and some distinctive regional accents have already emerged.

To be sure, a bewildering variety of points are always made in the opening stages, and not all the voices from a given region are singing from the same hymnal. In broad strokes, however, here’s what some leading Catholic voices seem to believe is required to make the church relevant in their neighborhoods:

  • Asia: humility, simplicity and silence
  • Africa: ministering to people scarred by poverty and violence
  • Latin America: taking cues from what’s already working, such as popular piety and small Christian communities (often called “base communities”)
  • Europe and the States: sound doctrine and sacramental practice as an antidote to the influence of a largely secular culture Read more


Additional reading

News category: Features.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,