The future of humanity will depend upon the fully human development and solidarity of all Populorum Progressio , In their various different ways, families, schools and universities are called to bring the leaven of the Gospel to the third millennium. In a world which seems increasingly obsessed with instant gratification, the lure of gain, the pursuit of profit and the overriding importance of possessions, it is striking also to acknowledge a persistent, even growing, fascination with beauty.
Intuitively, the Church was aware of this from its origins and centuries of Christian art magnificently illustrate this. Every true work of art is potentially a way into religious experience. Recognizing the importance of art in the inculturation of the Gospel means recognizing that human genius and sensitivity are akin to the truth and beauty of the divine mystery. The Church shows profound respect to all artists, irrespective of their religious convictions, since works of art bear an imprint of the invisible, as it were Art, like every other human activity, looks beyond itself for its absolute goal: its nobility comes from being directed to the ultimate goal of the human person.
In Christian artists, the Church finds extraordinary potential for the expression of new formulas and for the definition of new symbols or metaphors through the brilliance of liturgical genius in all its creative force, steeped in centuries of Catholic imagery with its ability to express the omnipresence of grace.
Every continent has had its Christian artists, whose Christian inspiration can attract people - of any faith or of none - to beauty and truth. Support and encouragement for Christian artists is an excellent way of reaching a whole host of people who may have no other contact with the message of Christ.
At the same time, the Catholic Church's rich cultural heritage, in the form of its cultural assets, bears witness to a fruitful symbiosis of culture and faith. It constitutes an inexhaustible source of beauty and a permanent resource for a cultural education which is also a genuine catechesis, one which unites the truth of faith to the genuine beauty of art cf.
Sacrosanctum Concilium , As the fruits of a community which has lived its faith intensely, and continues to do so, the cultic and cultural treasures of the Church should not be seen in exclusively cultural terms, or their meaning will be lost. They could be a real inspiration for humanity at the dawn of the third millennium. The world of leisure and sport, travel and tourism , is undeniably an important element in modern culture, along with that of labour , in which the Church has long been present, and so is becoming another new forum of evangelization.
From the perennial need to earn one's daily bread cf. Laborem Exercens 1 , work is one of the means of responding to the ever more insistent desire for self-fulfilment, on a par with cultural activities. Elsewhere, new ways of organizing labour, which are part of a process of technological and economic development, go hand in hand with an increase in unemployment at every level of society. This not only gives rise to material impoverishment, but sows in those cultures the seeds of doubt, dissatisfaction, humiliation and even crime.
Having become almost universal, sport undoubtedly has its place in the Christian vision of culture and can promote both physical health and interpersonal relationships. However, sport can be taken over by commercial interests or become a vehicle for expressing tribal, national or racial rivalries, and give rise to occasional explosions of violence which reveal the tensions and contradictions which are part of contemporary society, and thus become an anti culture. So it is an important area for a modern pastoral approach.
Despite their variety and complexity and the clutter of symbols and commercialism, leisure pursuits and sport create not just an atmosphere but a whole culture, a way of life and a value system. Well-adapted pastoral policy will find there all the genuine educational values and a springboard for celebrating everything in human nature which is rich, in the image of God and, like the apostle Paul, announces salvation in Jesus Christ cf.
SparkNotes: The Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets VIII and IX, page 2
What is most noticeable about the world in which the Church carries out her mission of evangelization today is the diversity of cultural situations which have developed from the perspectives of different religions. This affects every continent and every country, since there are ever more frequent intercultural and interreligious exchanges in the global village. This was brought out in the special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
There Christianity and Islam have come into contact with traditional religions, which are still thriving today, since they permeate African culture and the social life of individuals and communities. When the evangelization of Africa began, the positive cultural values of these religions were not always taken seriously enough to be integrated with the Gospel. Today, particularly since Vatican II, the Church recognizes these religious values and promotes those which are consonant with the Gospel.
It is fertile ground for cultivating conversion to Christ. The positive values enshrined in these traditional cultures, such as a sense of family, love and respect for life, veneration of ancestors, a sense of solidarity and community, respect for the chief and elders, are a solid basis for the inculturation of faith, whereby the Gospel penetrates the whole of culture and brings it to fruition cf.
Is There Urban Pastoral? The Case of Theocritus’ Id. 15
The countries of the immense continent of Asia have ancient cultures, which are profoundly influenced by non-Christian religions and traditions of wisdom, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism and Islam, which need to be considered very carefully. Asia as a whole may well still appear unaffected by the message of Christ, but is that not chiefly because Christianity is still perceived there as a foreign religion introduced by Westerners, which has not been sufficiently adapted, thought through and lived in the cultures of Asia?
This shows how broad a pastoral approach to culture in this continent must be. Many elements of spirituality and mysticism, like holiness, self-denial, chastity, universal love, a love for peace, prayer and contemplation, bliss in God and compassion, which are very much alive in these cultures, can lead on to faith in the God of Jesus Christ.
Religions are an expression of man's search for God, and evidence of the spiritual dimension of the human being cf. Nostra Aetate , 2.
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In a world at the mercy of secularisation, they are a reminder of the divine presence and the importance of spirituality as the living core of cultures. It is an enormous pastoral challenge to start from these rich cultural traditions, such as the age-old wisdom of China, and to steer their ancient quest for divinity towards an openness to the revelation of the living God, who makes us his partners by grace in Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer. As was highlighted by the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, other large parts of the world whose culture is profoundly shaped by the Gospel message are at the same time a prey to the penetrating influence of materialist and secular life-styles, which manifests itself particularly in the rejection of religion by the middle classes and by men of culture.
The Church asserts the dignity of the human person, is struggling to cleanse society of violence, social injustice, the abuses of which street children are victims, drug trafficking, etc In this context and affirming her preferential love for the poor and the excluded, the Church is duty-bound to promote a culture of solidarity at every level of society: government institutions, public institutions and private organizations.
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In striving for greater union between people, between societies and between nations, the Church will associate herself with the efforts of people of good will to build a world that is ever more worthy of the human person. In our times, religious ignorance is feeding the different forms of syncretism between ancient and now extinct cults, new religious movements and the Catholic faith.
The world's social, economic, cultural and moral ailments serve as a justification for new syncretic ideologies that are increasingly present in many countries. The Church there has taken up these challenges in particular in its work to evangelize poor people, to promote social justice and to evangelize native cultures and the evolving megalopolis-cultures. The countries where Islam dominates are in a cultural world of their own, although there are differences between the Arab countries and the other countries of Africa and Asia.
Islam is not just a religion in the classic sense of the word: it is also essentially a society with its own legislation and traditions, and the whole forms a vast community, or umma , with its own culture and plan for civilisation. Islam is currently expanding rapidly, particularly due to migratory movements from countries with rapid demographic growth. Countries with a Christian tradition, where, except in Africa, population growth is slower or even negative, often see the increased presence of Muslims as a social, cultural or even religious challenge.
Muslim immigrants themselves, at least in some countries, encounter major difficulties as regards social and cultural integration.
Tablets VIII and IX
Furthermore, the alienation of a traditional community often leads - in Islam as in the other religions - to the loss of certain religious practices and to a cultural identity crisis. True collaboration with Muslims on the level of culture in real reciprocity may foster fruitful relationships in Islamic countries and with Muslim communities established in traditionally Christian countries. Such collaboration does not dispense Christians from bearing witness to their christological and trinitarian faith in relation to other expressions of monotheism.
Secularized cultures have a profound influence in various parts of the world where the acceleration and complexity of cultural changes have increased. Born in countries with a long Christian tradition, this secularized culture, with its values of solidarity, generous dedication to others, freedom, justice, equality between men and women, an open mind, a spirit of dialogue and a sensitivity to ecological issues, still bears the imprint of these fundamentally Christian values which have imbued culture over the centuries and of which secularization itself brought the fruits to civilization and nourished philosophical reflection.
When secularization transforms itself into secularism Evangelii Nuntiandi , 55 , there is a serious cultural and spiritual crisis, one sign of which is the loss of respect for the person and the spread of a kind of anthropological nihilism which reduces human beings to their instincts and tendencies.
By putting Christ back as the keystone of existence and restoring the place of reason enlightened by faith, a pastoral approach to culture could strengthen Christian identity by a clear and enthusiastic invitation to holiness. In this way, individuals and communities could rediscover a reason for searching in every situation for the Lord who comes, and for the life of the world yet to come Rev The reductive effects of the secularism that spread through western Europe towards the end of the s are at present contributing to the destructuring of culture in Central and Eastern Europe.
Other countries with traditional pluralistic democracies, against a background of massive social and religious adherence, are experiencing the thrust of a mixture of secularism and popular religious expressions brought in by migratory flows. This is why the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America gave rise to a new missionary awareness. People are searching once again for spirituality - more than religion - in a whole variety of ways, in a society which is reminiscent of the Areopagus in Athens, the scene of some of Saint Paul's great debates cf.
Acts There is a need to recover a spiritual dimension which will also give meaning to life, and a deep desire to rebuild the framework of affective and social relationships which, in some countries, has been dismantled by the increasing instability of family life. Many very different groups may be classified under the polysemous heading of sects.
Some are of gnostic or esoteric inspiration, some are Christian in appearance, and others, in some cases, are hostile to Christ and the Church. These groups succeed quite clearly because they respond to frustrated aspirations. Many of our contemporaries can communicate easily in such groups and experience a feeling of belonging; they find affection, brotherhood, even apparent protection and security.
In some cases people are psychologically wounded or suffer rejection or total isolation in the anonymity so prevalent in urban life; they readily accept a spiritual vision which restores lost harmony and even offers a feeling of physical or spiritual healing. This shows the complexity and the transversal nature of the problem of sects, which combines the existential ailment with rejection of the institutional dimension of the religions, and is expressed in heterogeneous forms and expressions of religion.
However, the proliferation of sects is also a reaction against secularised culture and a consequence of social and cultural upheavals which have uprooted traditional religion. One of the challenges the Church must take up is that of getting through to people affected by sects, or in danger of it, in order to proclaim to them the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The new challenges which must be taken up by an inculturated evangelization based on cultures shaped by two millenniums of Christianity and reference points identified at the heart of the new Areopagus-situations to be found in our times, call for a renewed presentation of the Christian message, rooted in the living tradition of the Church and sustained by the witness of genuine Christian living of Christian communities. Conceiving everything anew, based on the newness of the Gospel proposed in a fresh and persuasive way becomes a major requirement.
In a perspective of Gospel preparation, the primary objective of the pastoral approach to culture, is to inject the life-blood of the Gospel into cultures to renew from within and transform in the light of the Revelation the visions of men and society that shape cultures, the concepts of men and women, of the family and of education, of school and of university, of freedom and of truth, of labour and of leisure, of the economy and of society, of the sciences and of the arts. But the fact that something is said is not enough to guarantee that it will be understood.
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When those listening were basically in tune with the message because of their traditional culture imbued with Christianity, and generally well disposed towards it through their overall social and cultural background, what was offered could be received and understood. With the cultural pluralism of the present, there must be coherence between the message itself and the conditions of its reception.
The success of this great undertaking implies the need for continual discernment, with the light of the Holy Spirit invoked through prayer. It also calls for adequate preparation and appropriate formation through simple pastoral means - homilies, catechesis, popular missions, schools of evangelization - together with modern means of communication so as to reach men and women of all cultures.
The Synods of Bishops since Vatican II have recalled this ever more insistently, for lay people as much as for priests and religious. Bishops' Conferences find that cultural commissions or committees - which it is important to create where they are as yet lacking - are an excellent tool for collaboration in this field. They can promote the presence of the Church in the various areas of cultural development, and foster the many types of creativity which are born of faith and express and sustain it. In her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all men and women of all cultures, which also always involves the inculturation of faith, the Church comes into contact with traditional religions, above all in Africa and Asia.
Ad Gentes , 19 and It is often more a question of religious feeling than of a demanding personal commitment to God, in a communion of faith with the Church. Still, none could deny that a growing number of men and women are turning once again to a dimension of human existence which they call spiritual, religious or sacred, as the case may be. It is worth noting, by the way, that this is largely something which affects young or poor people - which is all the more reason to pay careful attention to it - and brings them back to Christianity, which had left them quite disillusioned.
Some of them will have turned to other religions, and others will have been enticed into sects, or turned to the occult. All over the world, a whole new range of possibilities is opening up for a pastoral approach to culture to bring the light of Christ's Gospel to the hearts of men. On many points there needs to be a re-formulation of Christian faith which is more accessible to dominant cultures, because of the competition caused by the profusion on all sides of diffuse forms of religiosity. A search for dialogue and its necessary correlative - a clearer identification of what is specific to Christianity - are an increasingly significant area of reflection and action in the proclamation of faith in our cultures.
This is the frame of reference of the challenge a pastoral approach to culture faces in sects cf.