Pope Francis with Members of the editorial board of the theological journal "La Scuola Cattolica" Pope Francis with Members of the editorial board of the theological journal "La Scuola Cattolica"  (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis: Church must communicate faith with 'theology that is alive'

Pope Francis receives formators from the Archdiocesan Seminary of Milan at the Vatican on Friday, and highlights three aspects of theology that are important for the Church today.

By Christopher Wells

Pope Francis reflected on the mission of schools of theology and the role of theological journals on Friday, in a printed address handed out to members of the editorial board of La Scuola Cattolica during an audience on the occasion of the theological journal's 150th anniversary. 

In his written remarks, Holy Father described the publication, which is associated with the Archdiocesan Seminary of Milan, as “a bit like a shop window, where an artisan displays his work and one can admire his creativity.”

Seen in this light, Pope Francis highlighted three aspects of theology that are especially important in today’s world.

Theology at the service of Church's living faith

The Pope emphasized the importance of interpreting the faith for the modern world, making it accessible to people in every age “in the dynamism of tradition.”

“That is why theological language must always be alive, and cannot help but evolve, while being careful to make itself understood.”

Theology, he said, “has a great responsibility to stimulate and guide the search for meaning,” especially today, and invited formators to ask themselves how to communicate the truths of the faith to the modern world.

Forming experts in humanity and closeness

Pope Francis stressed, secondly, the necessity of good formation for the renewal and future of vocations.

“Each particular vocation is born, grows, and develops in the heart of the Church.”

He noted that those who are called to the priesthood or religious life all have their own life experiences, and that formators must be able “to ‘encounter’ the whole personality of the ‘called,’” which includes their “intelligence, feelings, heart, dreams, and aspirations.”

A good formator, he insisted, “expresses his service in an attitude that we can call the ‘diakonia’ of truth,” precisely because it involves “the concrete existence of people.” Seminarians, the Pope said, must be able to learn more by the example of their formators than by their words, learning how to be open and available to others, especially the most needy.

Evangelization at the heart of service

Finally, the Pope said that evangelization – which is never proselytism – is at the heart of the ecclesial service of formators.

He described evangelization as “an attraction to Christ, fostering an encounter with Him who changes your life, who makes you happy, and makes you, each day, a new creature and a visible sign of His love.”

Every person, he said, has a right to receive the Gospel; which necessarily implies, for Christians, a dialogue with the world and its various cultures and religions.

Pope Francis reminded those present that it is the Holy Spirit “who introduces us into the Mystery and gives emphasis to the Church’s mission.” For this reason, theologians must be open to the world, “incarnating” the fullness of truth to which the Spirit leads.

“Indeed, teaching and studying theology means living on a frontier, the frontier where the Gospel meets the real needs of people.”

This, the Pope said, “is why we need a theology that is alive, that gives ‘flavour’ as well as knowledge, that is the basis of serious ecclesial dialogue, of a synodal dialogue, to be organized and practiced in local communities, for a re-launch of the faith in today’s cultural transformations.”

A service to the faith, the Church, and the world

Pope Francis concluded his address with the hope that his reflections would help the formators in Milan “to cultivate your vocation of service to the faith, to the Church, and to the world.”

17 June 2022, 11:33