Pope Francis says fidelity to doctrine and pastoral ministry cannot be set against each other.
The Holy Father reaffirmed this in a video message broadcast Thursday to participants in the Second International Congress of Theology, on the theme “Vatican II: memory, present and prospects,” held in Buenos Aires, Sept. 1-3. In addition to marking the Vatican II anniversary, the conference also commemorated the centenary of the Faculty of Theology at the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA).
Speaking in Spanish, the Argentine Pontiff stressed that Church doctrine must never be isolated from a practical pastoral context. Not infrequently, he stated, an opposition between theology and pastoral ministry emerges, as if they were two opposite, separate realities that had nothing to do with each other.
“We not infrequently identify doctrine with conservatism and antiquity; and on the contrary, we tend to think of pastoral ministry in terms of adaptation, reduction, accommodation. As if they had nothing to do with each other. A false opposition is generated between theology and pastoral ministry, between Christian reflection and Christian life. … The attempt to overcome this divorce between theology and pastoral ministry, between faith and life, was indeed one of the main contributions of Vatican II.”
A theologian, Francis went on to say, is three things: above all ‘a child’ of his or her people, who knows the tradition of the Church and encounters the personal stories of individuals; a ‘believer,’ who has discovered he or she cannot live without Christ in their lives; and a ‘prophet,’ who reflects the tradition of the past, while creating a bridge to the present and future. Francis also underscored how important it is to recapture the memory of God’s presence in the life of the Church.
To discern and reflect on what it means to be a Christian today, the Jesuit Pontiff said, is the role of the theologian. He stressed how theological research must provide answers to the great challenges of our day, and must avoid two temptations, that of either being too conservative and of rejecting anything new, or of embracing every new thing without the wisdom of the past.