Friday, August 24, 2007

In the 21st century, Catholic ecumenism is learning to push back

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When the Vatican recently widened permission for celebration of the old Latin Mass and reaffirmed that Catholicism is the one true church, both moves set off alarms in ecumenical and inter-faith circles, prompting some to wonder if the Catholic Church is reevaluating its approach to other Christian bodies and to other religions. (The Latin Mass is swept up into this discussion largely because of prayers in the Good Friday liturgy for the conversion of Jews, heretics and pagans, language from a decidedly pre-ecumenical age.)

In truth, the future of Catholic ecumenism and inter-religious relations is less likely to be determined by declarations from Rome, whatever one makes of them, than by shifting demographics on the ground. In the Catholicism of the 21st century, the tone on many matters will be set more by the global South, where two-thirds of all Catholics today live, a transition which is producing a new ecumenical psychology.

In the immediate post-Vatican II period, the architects of Catholicism’s relationships with other churches and other religions were mostly Europeans, many of whom carried a sense of historic guilt for sins of the past, from the Crusades to the Wars of Religion, and in particular they were haunted by the Holocaust. Their approach was therefore dominated by the need for an examination of conscience, and a spirit of reconciliation.

Tomorrow’s trailblazers will be Africans, Latin Americans and Asians, who are often more likely to regard themselves as victims rather than perpetrators of religious intolerance. In the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia today, Catholics suffer under aggressive forms of Islamicization, while Catholics in India are reeling from militant Hindu nationalism. In Latin America, Catholics often see themselves as targets of aggressive proselytism from Pentecostal and Evangelical movements. [....Snip] Read the Rest from the John Allen in the Nat'l Cath. Reporter

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