ROME, OCT. 15, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Second Vatican Council did not reform the Catholic Church for a few years — its plan, in fact, must continue to be accepted and lived, says Andrea Riccardi.
Riccardi, professor of contemporary history at the Third University of Rome, and founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, collaborated in the book “History of Christianity: Crisis and Renewal — From 1958 to Our Days,” Volume XIII (Borla-Città Nuova). The text goes on sale in Italy next week.
In the prologue, Riccardi writes that the volume reveals “the complexity of the Christian world.” In this interview with Vatican Radio, he explains why.
Q: To what extent has the message of Vatican II been effected?
Riccardi: Vatican Council II was not a council for a few years. It is not a plan for reform. Instead, it addresses more than one generation in marking the life of the Church. It has been effected, but in part it must continue to be received in the present situation in which the world is living, in which the Church lives.
Q: How can the council be received now?
Riccardi: There are some important points. The first is the issue of the liturgy, which must be studied in depth, because I think the liturgy is the essence of the Church, and the council has proposed the liturgy again as the center of the people of God, as the communal heart of the people of God who, above all, listen to the Word of the Lord, are nourished by the sacraments, and address the Father in prayer.
In addition, there is “Dei Verbum.” We must submerge ourselves more in the Bible, affirming that primacy of the Word of God, which is something spiritual and related to the life of all the faithful. From here, from a Church that listens to the Word of God, from a Church that sings its prayer, which prays around the Word of the Lord, to the Lord’s presence, a message of joy and hope must arise — “Gaudium et Spes” — of sympathy for men’s vicissitudes, “for all, especially the poorest,” as Pope John XXIII used to say.
Q: The council gave an ecumenical character to the Catholic Church’s activity. In this connection, what progress has been made in recent times in the ecumenical dialogue?
Riccardi: Enormous. In relation with the Orthodox Churches, but also with the evangelical [denominations], the Catholic Church has made enormous progress in fraternity and friendship, in knowledge and understanding.
The difficulties of the present moment must be measured in light of the road traveled over 40 years, which has been an extraordinarily rapid way. Today, the churches consider themselves as part of a single end, and they have discovered what unites them, although there are problems that divide them.
I think that in the contemporary world there should be ever-greater understanding, which means solidarity among the churches: to act in the same way although with different steps and paths.
Q: In the book’s prologue you wrote: “The ecumenical movement, although intense, does not unify a Christianity that is still firmly rooted in the different traditions.” How will it end?
Riccardi: A unified Christianity will be a Christianity that will save the plurality of the different traditions and different ways of expression. The real problem is to go even further on the way to unity, so that the Lord’s command, “That they be one” — which is his supplication, but also the command he gives us –may be effected.
Q: Special attention is given in the volume to the Church in Latin America and Africa. What will be the Church’s future development in these places, which are often faced with wars, economic crises and environmental disasters?
Riccardi: We have gone beyond the phase of optimism, when it was said that there was a third Church at the door that would replace the Western Church.
Today we see that that Church, which was described as the third Church — the Church in Africa, the Church in Latin America — appears with numerous problems. In addition to the wars in Africa, there is the challenge of sects in Latin America and Asia; there are great problems that must be addressed by the Church in Africa and in Latin America, which are very different among themselves.
In Africa, moreover, there is the problem of the communication of the Gospel, of the mission — all this must be addressed with great determination. I think today it is increasingly necessary that the Church have a welcoming and missionary capacity. I am also referring to Latin America.
Q: In the history of Christianity, what reality do the new ways of Christian life represent?
Riccardi: They are very important, especially because they are united to this Church that makes ever-greater efforts to communicate the Gospel, both in the old Christian lands as well as the new.
Q: From the context manifested in the study, what characterizes Christianity of the 21st century?
Riccardi: Christianity develops from a profound tradition, but it lives in a different world, a world that is no longer bipolar, but multipolar — a complex world in which the threats of war, the divisions among peoples, are strong. But, in a certain sense, the Catholic Church also represents a globalization of the communion of the faith, which has no borders.
Q: And looking at the future?
Riccardi: To live with faith, with audacity in this time, without letting oneself be caught in the atmosphere of pessimism that so often surrounds our human enterprises.