Faith today in the ‘afternoon of Christianity’

Faith today in the afternoon of Christianity presents real opportunities, says under-ground priest Tomáš Halík.

Halík, also an acclaimed author, lecturer, psychotherapist, psychologist of religion and pastoral theologian at Charles University in Prague, joined in conversation at  Victoria University Wellington’s Law faculty.

Halík focussed on a number of issues facing the Church that he said were metaphorically the “afternoon of Christianity”.

In an evocative address that spanned the personal and the theological, Halík, who is also a Czech theologian and clandestine priest ordained under communist suppression, delivered a powerful address highlighting the urgent need for reform within the Christian Church.

The crux of Halík’s address was his call for a “deep reform” of the Church, extending beyond structural reorganisation to a profound transformation of its mentality and approach to spirituality.

Halík focussed on a number of issues facing the Church. He emphasised the concept of synodality, he advocated for a Church that fosters dialogue and openness, not just within its own hierarchy but also in its engagement and communication with the world at large. This includes other religions, non-believers and the broader ecological environment.

Halík argued that the challenges facing the Church are an opportunity.

In stark contrast to the institutionally rigid Church of the past, he drew on his experiences of ecumenical unity among persecuted Christians in communist prisons, stressing the importance of an open, serving and poor Church.

One of the most controversial aspects of Halik’s speech was his critique of the reasons used to oppose the ordination of women.

Halík openly challenged traditional justifications for excluding women from priesthood by questioning the relevance of Christ’s selection of male Jewish apostles for shaping contemporary Church practices.

His comment underscores a broader critique of the Church’s resistance to modern societal values including gender equality.

Reflecting on what he metaphorically called the “afternoon of Christianity” he suggested a hopeful vision for the future of the Church, one that embraces change and seeks to find God in all aspects of life.

He called for a new chapter in Christian history, marked by a contemplative approach to faith that recognises the diverse spiritual journeys of all individuals, regardless of their formal religious affiliations.

Halík suggested that, in rapidly changing times, the Church faces both internal challenges and external pressures,

Halík says that going backwards, or even the status quo, has no future outside creating a small, almost ideological Church. He said that reform and inclusivity offer a pathway toward a more open, vibrant and engaged Christian faith in the 21st century.

Halík, a prolific author, is also a close advisor to the last President of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel, and a prestigious Templeton prize winner.

Victoria University of Wellington, Te Kupenga and the Archdiocese of Wellington sponsored the Conversation.


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