Cultural Bias Has No Place in Church, Says Pope

Sees Inculturation of Gospel as a Key Part of New Evangelization

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2003 ( Cultural or ethnic discrimination has no room in the Church, John Paul II said categorically as talked of the need for inculturation of the faith.

The Pope voiced this commitment of the Church when he received the Catholic bishops of Sudan, in Rome for their five-yearly visit. The Holy Father talked of the lessons bequeathed by two saints linked to Sudan: Josephine Bakhita and Daniel Comboni.

«Tribalism and forms of discrimination based on ethnic origin, language and culture do not belong in a civilized society and have absolutely no place in the community of believers,» the Pope said today.

At age 7, Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947) was sold and purchased five times by Arab traders. In 1882, an Italian consular agent purchased her and took her to Italy. There, she learned about Christianity and was baptized in 1890, entering later in the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity.

«Her life inspires the firm resolve to work effectively to free people from oppression and violence, ensuring that their human dignity is respected in the full exercise of their rights,» the Pope said.

«It is this same resolve that must guide the Church in the Sudan today as the nation makes the transition from hostility and conflict to peace and concord,» he said. «St. Bakhita is a shining advocate of authentic emancipation.»

The Holy Father presented Bishop Daniel Comboni as «a strong advocate of inculturating the faith.»

The Italian (1831-1881) was the first bishop of central Africa. Founder of the Comboni missionaries, his motto was «Save Africa through Africa.»

«St. Daniel was keenly concerned that Africans should have a key role in evangelizing the continent, and he was inspired to draft a missionary blueprint for the region — a plan for the rebirth of Africa — that enlisted the help of native peoples themselves,» the Pontiff noted.

«In a very real way,» the Holy Father said, «his life is an example for us today, clearly demonstrating that the evangelization of culture and the inculturation of the Gospel are an integral part of the new evangelization and thus a specific concern of the episcopal office.»

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