WelCom December 2023
Pope Francis recently issued a short apostolic letter motu proprio titled ‘Ad Theologiam Promovendam’. The text introduces new statutes for the Pontifical Academy of Theology and, in so doing, captures some of the essential reforms Francis has initiated.
The Pope has called for a ‘paradigm shift’ in Catholic theology that takes widespread engagement with contemporary science, culture, and people’s lived experience as an essential starting point.
Citing the need to deal with ‘profound cultural transformations’, Pope Francis presented his dramatic vision for the future of Catholic theology in the new motu proprio issued in November.
The ‘Ad Theologiam Promovendam’ or ‘to promote theology’ document revises the statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Theology (PATH) ‘to make them more suitable for the mission that our time imposes on theology’.
‘Theology can only develop in a culture of dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different knowledge, between different Christian confessions and different religions, openly engaging with everyone, believers and non-believers,’ the Pope wrote in the apostolic letter.
Pope Francis wrote that Catholic theology must experience a ‘courageous cultural revolution’ in order to become a ‘fundamentally contextual theology’. Guided by Christ’s incarnation into time and space, this approach to theology must be capable of reading and interpreting ‘the Gospel in the conditions in which men and women live daily, in different geographical, social, and cultural environments’.
The Pope contrasted this approach with a theology that is limited to ‘abstractly re-proposing formulas and schemes from the past’ and repeated his long-standing criticism of ‘desk-bound theology’. Instead, he emphasised that theological studies must be open to the world, not as a ‘a tactical attitude’ but as a profound ‘turning point’ in their method, which he said must be ‘inductive’.
Pope Francis emphasised this bottom-up re-envisioning of theology is necessary to better aid the Church’s evangelising mission.
‘A synodal, missionary, and “outgoing” Church can only correspond to an “outgoing” theology’, the Pope wrote.
Pope Francis also wrote that priority must be given to ‘the knowledge of people’s common sense’, which he described as a ‘theological source in which many images of God live, often not corresponding to the Christian face of God, only and always love’.
The Pope said that this ‘pastoral stamp’ must be placed upon all of Catholic theology.
Source: Catholic News Agency