BARCELONA, Spain, MARCH 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Church needs to look in three directions and speak of God in each of them, using language accessible to the people of today, said Archbishop Bruno Forte.
The archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, highlighted the importance of the Church’s presence “in the midst of the global village” when speaking last week at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the theology faculty of Catalonia.
He urged the Church to speak of God in Western postmodern societies, in the poor countries of the south and with people of other religions.
Archbishop Forte said, “Christian theology is asked to continue living its double and sole fidelity, to time and to eternity, to humanity’s present and God’s tomorrow. It’s asked to do this in the North as in the South of the world, facing with the postmodern village, and facing the other side of history and the challenge of the multiple religions. It is asked to do this in the company of the people chosen by God to be the Church of love amid the peoples, the community of hope that is stronger than sorrow and death.”
Regarding the North, the theologian warned that “the weak thought of the postmodern condition does not recognize meaning in anything,” and that “true exile does not begin when leaving a homeland, but rather when the heart no longer has any nostalgia for the homeland.”
“In a climate of decadence, everything conspires together to bring man to not think anymore, to flee effort and the passion for truth, to abandon oneself to what can be immediately enjoyed,” he said. This is the tragic face of the crisis of the European conscience at the end of the “brief century”: “We are ill with absence, too often lacking hope because we lack truth; we have made ourselves incapable of loving.”
Signs of Dawn
But the 58-year-old theologian also noted “signs of the dawn” such as “a type of seeking lost meaning,” a “rediscovery of the other” and also of the “Ultimate.” He lauded a growing sense of “the need for a foundation, for meaning, for final horizons, of an ultimate homeland that is not the seduction, manipulation and violence of ideology,” which provokes a “conflict between the truth and the mask.”
For Archbishop Forte, Christian theology in the North of the world is a “theology of narration and analogy, directed to evoking the ineffable in the respect of its ineffability and at the same time to realize the limitations and the hopes produced by modern reason and by the hazards of difference.”
This theology, he said, “is asked to stir up the present, denouncing its idols, but also its pitfalls of negativity without hope; it is asked to maintain itself, as the whole Church should maintain itself, united to the Crucified.”
The theologian also said, “Faced with nostalgia for the ‘Other,’ the need for a narrative theology seems to take shape, a theology that speaks of God telling of the love that he has manifested in Jesus Christ, and that considers this greatest of loves with the tact of an analogy — a strongly anti-ideological theology.”
Regarding the theology “from the other side of history” that is in dialogue with the “enormous situation of misery in which the majority of humanity lives,” Archbishop Forte alluded to a “search and a desire for God, which does not take one out of history, but brings one to be in it, not to the solitude of an egotistical intimacy, but to the company of the poor and the crucified of this world.”
This “theology in the liberating praxis,” permits, according to the theologian, a “new consciousness of the faith” to arise, and an “awareness of the poor” that witnesses the injustice of systems and “projects concrete and possible steps of liberation,” always “together with other people, beside them and for them.”
Therefore, the archbishop highlighted the “necessary and urgent” dialogue of Christianity with other religious experiences, which tends to be currently carried out “under the umbrella of inclusiveness.” He encouraged “taking the universal possibility of salvation seriously, while firmly maintaining the need for Christ and his mediation.”
Archbishop Forte, who is a member of the International Theological Commission, noted some of the diverse tendencies that arise from this dialogue: “For some, Christianity constitutes the completion of the value of the other religions, which, more than salvific mediations, are signs of hope; others think a certain sacramentality should be recognized in other; finally, others believe a distinction between general history and the special history of salvation is the key by which religions have the value of a mediation of transcendence, which nonetheless finds it plenitude only in Christianity.”
Archbishop Forted affirmed that “the theological reflection about religions presents itself as a field of investigation that is always open, and not just a little problematic,” and he said that “non-Christian religions have authentic elements of divine self-communication, the discernment of which, however, is possible for the disciples of Christ only in the light of the criteria that is the revelation fulfilled in him.”