What Christianity's Migration Means for Religious

Superiors-General Consider Impact of Cultural Changes

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ROME, JUNE 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Changes in culture and society obviously affect religiosity, and so much so that traditionally successful models of religious life must give way to new ones, according to a speaker at the Union of Superiors-General semestral assembly.

Some 130 participants gathered in Rome for a three-day assembly that ended May 29. The superiors-general of men’s religious congregations were gathered to consider geographical and cultural changes in consecrated life.

Camaldolese Benedictine Brother Giovanni Dalpiaz offered statistics on the changing face of Christianity and the consequences it has on consecrated life. He noted how Christianity is declining in the northern half of the planet and growing in the south, such that it is estimated that 70% of Christians will live in the southern part of the world by 2025.

The conclusion he drew from this is that soon, the majority of Catholics will be in close contact with situations of poverty.

“The passage from one cycle [of religious life] to another sometimes coincides with the extinction, or decline, of tried and tested institutional models and the birth of others which show themselves to be better adapted to respond to the new spiritual, cultural and social demands,” Brother Dalpiaz said.

The Benedictine went on to consider how the rapid numerical growth in the South, coupled with the decline in Europe and North America, “not only makes the Catholic Church polycentric and multicultural, but will end up changing its internal equilibrium.”

This change is also experienced within religious communities, he suggested: “Movement toward a form of relationships based on respect for cultural differences has as a presupposition a capacity and willingness for dialogue, discussion, for accepting the risk of a certain mixture, of the loss of ones own ‘cultural’ purity.”

Capuchin Father Paolo Martinelli took up a similar theme when he spoke of how greater mobility and globalization are parameters for a shift in the way formation is imparted to religious.

He considered the interrelationship of “formation,” “culture” and “inter-culturality.”

“Inter-culturality in formation, while fully respecting ‘diversity’ needs to consider ‘difference,'” and emphasize initial unity, he said. “An inter-cultural formation sets out to see to it that the Christian life and a particular charism achieve a sound evangelization of a specific culture and at the same time encourages that same culture to be ready to go beyond and outside itself.”

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