Pope: Theology must interpret the Gospel for today’s world
By Tiziana Campisi
A Church that is “synodal, missionary, and ‘goes forth’” needs a theology that “goes forth”, too.
That's the thought behind Pope Francis’ new Motu Proprio Ad theologiam promovendam [link to Italian original], dated 1 November 2023, which updates the statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Theology.
Established canonically by Clement XI on 23 April 1718, with the brief Inscrutabili, the Academy aimed "to place theology at the service of the Church and the world". It has evolved over the years into a "group of scholars called to investigate and deepen theological themes of particular relevance".
Now, for the Holy Father, it is time to revise the norms that regulate its activities to make them "more suited to the mission that our times impose on theology".
Opening up to the world and to humanity, "with its problems, its wounds, its challenges, its potential", theological reflection must make room for "an epistemological and methodological rethinking", and is therefore called to "a courageous cultural revolution".
What is needed is "a fundamentally contextual theology", writes the Pope, "capable of reading and interpreting the Gospel in the conditions in which men and women live daily, in different geographical, social, and cultural environments".
Dialogue with different traditions and disciplines
Theology must "develop in a culture of dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different disciplines, between different Christian denominations and different religions", the Apostolic Letter says.
It must engage "openly with all, believers and non-believers alike".
"This is the approach of transdisciplinarity", Francis specifies. The Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium explains that this means "situating and stimulating all disciplines against the backdrop of the Light and Life offered by the Wisdom streaming from God’s Revelation.
For this reason, theology must "make use of new categories developed by other forms of knowledge, in order to penetrate and communicate the truths of faith and transmit the teaching of Jesus in today's languages, with originality and critical awareness".
A “pastoral stamp”
Then there is the contribution that theology can make "to the current debate of 'rethinking thought', showing itself, as a discipline of wisdom, to be a true critical discipline".
Theology is a discipline that must not be "abstract and ideological, but spiritual", stresses Francis, "worked out on one's knees, pregnant with adoration and prayer; a transcendent discipline and, at the same time, attentive to the voice of the people".
It is a "popular theology" that the Pope calls for, "mercifully addressed to the open wounds of humanity and creation and within the folds of human history, to which it prophesies the hope of an ultimate fulfilment".
In practice, for Francis, theology, as a whole, must take on a "pastoral stamp", and therefore theological reflection must start "from the different contexts and concrete situations in which peoples find themselves", placing itself "at the service of evangelization".
Staglianò: a new mission for theology
This is a new mission, says the president of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, Monsignor Antonio Staglianò.
It’s the mission of "promoting engagement and dialogue in every sphere of knowledge, in order to reach and involve the whole people of God in theological research, so that the life of the people may become theological life."