Cardinal Czerny delivers his address at the Pontifical Urbaniana University Cardinal Czerny delivers his address at the Pontifical Urbaniana University 

Cardinal Czerny: 'School of the peripheries' enriches theology

At a one-day meeting on "Doing Theology from the Existential Peripheries," Cardinal Michael Czerny gives the opening address on how theology is helped when we sometimes leave the "lecture halls and books" and "go to the school of the peripheries", in order to listen and reflect on how to live our faith and carry out our mission.

By Vatican News staff reporter

In his opening address to the participants at the meeting on "Doing Theology from the Existential Peripheries," held at Rome's Pontifical Urban University, Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, spoke about the importance of going to the "school of the peripheries" of human existence.

There, he said, we can encounter the Lord in those living on the margins of society, whether due to poverty, injustice or discrimination. At the same time, our theological understanding and perspectives can be opened and enriched through an encounter that goes beyond the classroom and books. 

The one-day meeting brought together Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization; Sr. Natalie Becquart of the Synod General Secretariat; and Msgr. Armando Matteo of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, along with representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Spain, Chile, the USA, the Philippines, and Australia.  The topics for discussion focused on the poor as evangelizers, on how the Church is reborn in the peripheries, and on the kind of theology that is needed today.

Learning from the sensus fidei

Focusing in his opening address on integral human development and theology, Cardinal Czerny noted how this project of doing theology from the existential peripheries has the merit of having listened to those who remain on the margins of society, sometimes even of the Church itself, and seeing how the Lord goes before us where we sometimes are not present or do not wish to go.

However, he said, the power of God's Word and the reality of His peace is working in these peripheries, where people have a keen "sense of the faith" (sensus fidei), even though they remain "outsiders" according to worldly viewpoints.

He noted that, as Pope Francis has often said, "we discover our strength in those we wish to serve"; and as Cardinal Tagle noted, "the poor evangelize us." When we go to the peripheries to serve our brothers and sisters who are suffering, the Risen One can be found there in them, awaiting our solidarity and closeness as members of the living body of Christ.

From the classroom to the peripheries

Good theology then can spring from going out to the peripheries of our societies, Cardinal Czerny said, calling them the "school of the peripheries."

This action requires listening and openness to encountering others. Theology is both about thinking and doing, he noted, and both also need input from the realities in which we live, and Pope Francis has often taught that reality is best understood from the margins.

“The Church and contemporary world...are intertwined in people's lives. They coexist in us. Doing theology from the existential peripheries is a way to glimpse God in this intertwining and to allow Him to speak to us.”

Listening more

In conclusion, Cardinal Czerny noted that perhaps to support the Pope and the Bishops in their evangelizing efforts and support of integral human development, we need especially "to listen and discern"; and here, theology has a fundamental role to play, not only in the classroom but also in our mission outreach, as "there is no mission without reflection, without listening and discernment."

And our theology can be challenged by the realities we face in our mission, especially the suffering of those living and struggling on the peripheries pleading for our help and solidarity. "On these challenges, the sensus fidei of those who are peripheral has much to instruct our thoughts and our mission."

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12 October 2022, 18:00