Dialogue and mercy at the heart of theological development

theological development

Theological development comes through dialogue, Pope Francis said in a speech at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.

He also identified an aggressive defence of doctrine as unhelpful as it seeks to impose its beliefs on others.

Fidelity to the Gospel “implies a style of life and of proclamation without a spirit of conquest, without a desire to proselytise and without an aggressive intent to refute,” the pope said.

Francis warned opposing sides of theological discussion of the “Bable syndrome”.

“The confusion that comes from not understanding what the other says,” the “Babel syndrome means not listening to what the other says and believing that I know what the other person is thinking and what the other will say,” the pope said.

“This is a plague.”

Welcoming theology is fostered through dialogue, Francis told participants at a conference on “Theology after Veritatis Gaudium in the context of the Mediterranean”.

Francis said a more “welcoming theology” is fostered through dialogue, particularly with Judaism and Islam, in order “to understand the common roots and the differences of our religious identity and thus contribute efficaciously to the building of a society that appreciates diversity and promotes respect, brotherhood and peaceful coexistence.”

Departing from his prepared notes, Francis said that during his seminary days he and his colleagues played a game which went like… “First, things seem this way. Second, Catholicism is always right. Third, therefore ….”

“I studied in the time of crumbling theology, of crumbling scholasticism, a time of manuals. And among ourselves we would joke around and would prove theological theses with this pattern, a syllogism,” he said.

“It was the kind of theology that was defensive apologetics closed in a manual. We joked around but it was how things were presented to us in the time of scholasticism in decline.”

Rather than recite formulas by rote, he said, theologians must be “men and women of compassion” who are touched by the social ills of war, violence, slavery and forced migration and who are nourished by prayer.

The pope added that when theologians lack communion, compassion and prayer, “theology not only loses its soul, but loses its intelligence and its ability to interpret reality in a Christian way.”

“Without compassion drawn from the heart of Christ, theologians risk being swallowed up in the condition of privilege of those who prudently place themselves outside the world and share nothing of risk with the majority of humanity,” he said.

Mercy, the pope said, is not solely a pastoral attitude but the backbone of the Gospel.

“Without mercy, our theology, our law, our pastoral work run the risk of collapsing into bureaucratic pettiness or ideology, which by its very nature wants to tame the mystery,” Francis said.

“Theology, through the path of mercy, defends itself from taming the mystery.”

The pope traveled to Naples to deliver the closing address at the two day conference.

Sources

News category: World.

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