Friday, June 01, 2007

Sometimes it is like looking in a mirror...

John Allen's summary of the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Latin America (Sorting out the results of the Latin American bishops' meeting) provides some interesting food for thought not only for Catholics but also for Orthodox Christians. I can't help but see parallels between the pastoral situation of Roman Catholic in Latin America and Orthodox Christians both in traditionally Orthodox countries as well as the US and Europe. I am especially taken with what Allen calls the "frank admission from the bishops that 500 years of Roman Catholicism as a near-monopoly in Latin America in some ways put the church to sleep, leaving it content with the formal externals of religion such as baptism, but often failing to impart any real sense of personal faith." The Orthodox are I think in much the same situation, even if our own circumstances reflect (in part at least) Communist persecution of a large percentage of the Church.

The solution that the Catholic bishops call for is also applicable to the Orthodox. This includes:

  • A consequent call for a "Great Continental Mission," driven by old-fashioned, door-to-door pastoral outreach, rather than sitting around in parishes and waiting for people to show up. (Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes used the much less euphonic phrase "domiciliary missionary visits," but it amounts to the same thing);
  • A more ecumenical tone than has often been the case in Latin America, recognizing that in light of growing secularization and a sometimes hostile political climate, the various Christian churches need to stand together;
  • A deeper ecological awareness;
  • A cautious embrace of the core legacy of liberation theology, including the option for the poor, the concept of structural sin, ecclesial base communities, and the "see-judge-act" method of social discernment, though always in the context of the primacy of individual holiness, as well as clarity about the church's proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and lone Savior of the world.
I especially invite the comments of my Orthodox readers on what they see as the implications for Orthodox of the experience of the Catholic Church in Latin America.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

To read all of John Allen's article:Sorting out the results of the Latin American bishops’ meeting | National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe.

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