The former director of the Holy See’s Press Room and Vatican Radio retraces the stages of Francis’ penitential pilgrimage, whose great coherence and cohesion he praises. He especially dwells on the last speech to the Inuit: “A masterpiece of inculturation”. “We are all skilled in words, he states, but then we have to do it, inculturation. The Pope has shown how that happens”.
Antonella Palermo – Vatican City
The day after Pope Francis returned to the Vatican following his 37th Apostolic Journey to Canada, we asked Father Federico Lombardi SI, collaborator of La Civiltà Cattolica and former director of the Holy See Press Room, to go back to the highlights of the steps and comment. on layout, style, content and aspirations.
What general assessment do you make at the end of this penitential pilgrimage of Francis?
It seems to me that the trip really achieved its goals, that it was put together with great coherence and unity. He was not scattered, he had a very precise line, well prepared. The Pope did everything he had to do, so to speak, by going to the places in this vast country with the will to work with the indigenous peoples and with the whole of Canadian society to contribute to this reconciliation and to build a reality of harmony. which can also look to the future on the basis of new relations, full respect for the dignity and values of each of the components that have been part of the formation of this country. The Pope was also able to involve the entire Canadian church community. It seems to me that the Pope has really made a journey: a journey of penitential recognition of error, which is always the starting point for any true encounter with others and with God. And he was able to walk this path towards hope: he did not remain closed in the recognition of sin, but took a step towards the commitment lived not only voluntarily, but Christianly, with great confidence in the power of the Lord’s resurrection. the preaching of the gospel.
The Pope knew how to interweave his speeches with the memory of the evangelization of Canada: think of the figure of St. François de Laval, whom he himself recently canonized, and of all the Christian tradition that the great missionaries of the first period brought, which took shape in the figure of Saint Anne. He thus touched the heart of traditional religiosity, popular but firmly rooted in the Church. In short, the way of penance, which refers to the abuse or lack of respect for the Aboriginal people and to the very painful affair with the residential schools, was woven with a thread of hope brought precisely by faith in Christ, by a true proclamation of the Gospel.
And it has also translated into the current affairs of Canadian society. There were very explicit references to the issue of the secularization of Canadian society, which also led to a weakening of how to confront the phenomenon in a positive and confident way. This was done by recalling the efforts of great recent Canadian writers: Taylor, one of the greatest scholars of secularization and a great Catholic, and Lonergan, one of the greatest theologians of the last century, who has led a reflection on the relationship between the proclamation. of faith and culture today. All this to say that Canada therefore has both ancient and modern references in the history of evangelism that can inform responses to today’s problems or challenges.
Pope Francis has said that the church is not an idea to be inculcated, but a welcoming house of reconciliation. And he warned that the attitude that fueled the discrimination is “struggling to disappear, even from a religious perspective”…
Definitely. With a lot of humility and a lot of concreteness, we must realize that it is discourses, principles, attitudes that must be constantly revived, because they are constantly questioned, forgotten. We must never deceive ourselves that we have changed the heart of man once and for all and made it above all sin and error. The way of the Pope, like that of the Church and all of us who seek to follow this example of the Lord, must always be revived, the mistakes made must be acknowledged with truth, and the wounds that continue to be repeated must be healed. .
In this regard, the theme of the speech at Lac Sainte-Anne on healing water was very moving. We are also confronted in our history with an evil that constantly reappears, and about which we must warn ourselves in order to continue to overcome its consequences and manifestations. I think that the Pope gave us a message of courage, trust and hope, but also that we should not think that we have definitively solved the problems. When will we ever have peace in the world? There is always the temptation for division, hatred, war and selfishness, and we must constantly face it. So the theme of respect for others, of not seeing yourself as superior, is something that must always follow us. This is a phenomenon that Canadian society has become very familiar with in recent years. The boarding school case is a point that touches on a revision of conscience about respect for another culture and a form of education that should not be negation, but rather openness and ‘appreciation’.
How then, in light of what the Pope has said and done in recent days in Canada, and I would also say in light of the apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium, refocus the concept of inculturation of the faith?
This is a theme which has followed the Church very continuously since Vatican II, and which refers to all the cultures of the world: This applies to Latin America, Asia, Africa. During the trip to Canada, it was naturally experienced in relation to indigenous cultures and their values. The last speech given to the Inuit was, in my opinion, a real masterpiece of commitment to inculturation, because the Pope explicitly referred to the most important recent document on the values of Inuit culture to maintain a relationship with society and the changing world. And he referred to the values of the gospel. He wove it between the preaching of the gospel and the traditional values that today’s world challenges. And he did it especially for the Inuit culture.
I found it quite impressive. We are all able to talk generically about inculturation, we repeat it every day, but then you have to do it, and doing it means taking really seriously what a culture means in everyday life, how it expresses itself. And how the preaching of the Gospel can further improve what is in this culture, possibly purifying it of elements that can and must be overcome, leading them to greater maturity and a sharing of the relationship also with other cultures.
In a society like Canada, for example, which is very rich in people of immigrant origin and who blend together in incredible variety, go to the bottom of things to try to grasp a value, connect it with the gospel and share it by showing its importance in the current context – from the point of view, for example, of environmental education or the preservation of relational values in the family or between generations – it is a great job to do. I would say that the Pope gave us a concrete example. But it must also be deepened daily by the Canadian Church and by all the people who live in Canadian society and to whom he has come close with a participation, a closeness and a cordiality which has impressed everyone and which is truly a great gift from him.