America magazine draws up a list of priorities for the new pope.
DEDICATION TO DIALOGUE
An eminent professor of history at Princeton University, Anthony Grafton, remarked in a short article in The New York Review of Books in 2010 that Pope Benedict XVI was probably “the greatest scholar to rule the church since Innocent III,” a pope whose reign covered the last years of the 12th century and the first years of the 13th century.
Grafton meant those words in a laudatory sense, but they were double-edged. It is true that Innocent III made his reputation as a great canoA punch list (ASmerica)nist and church reformer in Europe, but he also claimed more than ecclesiastical authority over the princes in Europe.
Innocent also called for crusades against the Albigensians in the south of France as well as against the Muslims in both Spain and the Holy Land, even if he sometimes deplored the violence with which those campaigns were carried out. In 1187, 11 years before Innocent ascended the papal throne, most of the Holy Land had been wrested from the Crusaders by Saladin after 88 years of Crusader rule. Innocent saw that Crusader defeat as the result of the Crusaders’ sins.
The Fourth Crusade, launched by Innocent III, was aimed at retrieving the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem, from Muslim rule but somehow led instead to the pillaging of Eastern Christian Constantinople in the year 1204. The Greek Orthodox have neither forgotten nor forgiven this.
Great as he is, Pope Benedict has sometimes, like Innocent III, found himself in situations he never intended to create. His academic lecture in 2006 at the University of Regensburg aimed at underlining the importance of reason in a university setting and especially at raising “the question of God through the use of reason.”
But any future pope needs to understand basic truths about Islam; even better, he should get to know some Muslims. Personal acquaintance can break down many barriers - Patrick Ryan, SJ.
MENDING OUR NETS
The rapid secularisation of Western societies, and their need to be evangelized anew, has been a major papal theme since Pope Paul VI. While a pope from Manila or São Paulo might not feel these issues quite so keenly as one from Milan or New York, they are unlikely to disappear from the church’s agenda anytime soon.
In fact, there will almost certaintly be an early, major magisterial statement on the subject: an exhortation on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” responding to last October’s Synod of Bishops, will be high on our new Holy Father’s to-do list.
Given the scale and complexity of the task, the new evangelization can and must encompass a great many things, everything from Twitter to the theology of the body, from the Divine Mercy to the works of mercy. Our recent popes, of course, have guided the faithful—as teachers and witnesses—on each one of these (deliberately disparate) examples.
Important as such undertakings are, however, there remains one fundamental issue that urgently needs to be addressed. If it is not, then—to put it bluntly—the new evangelization is doomed to abject failure.
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