The last three Popes are somewhat different but their action can be traced back to same evangelical matrix. Who looked more to the sky, and who more to the earth. Who has made the conciliar openings progress, some less, and who is trying to develop them to the maximum. Three different Popes, also because – the Italian monopoly on the papacy ended – they come from different countries, from different spiritualities, from different cultures and experiences. However, this could represent a great enrichment for the universal Church.
John Paul II held together, and developed, two new images of the Church. A Church seen in his Trinitarian nature, that is, as a harmonious whole of unity and multiplicity, of identity and diversity. It is a Church seen in concrete historical reality, with the use of unprecedented categories, proper to the moral theologyin addressing social issues: family, culture, justice, war And peace.
Then, it came Benedict XVI. A difficult, complex pontificate, hit by emergencies that perhaps had not previously been sufficiently evaluated. Pope Ratzinger, in response to the crisis of humanismhe masterfully told of God and his presence in the life of men, as well as re-proposing the “abc” of the Christian message.
Then Francesco. The first Latin American Pope took up the inductive method of “Gaudium et spes” as long as he made it absolute. We start, no longer from the “center”, but from the “peripheries”; no longer from the West, but from the tragic condition of the poor, from the South of the world. And from here, read the “signs of the times”. Therefore, seek a Christian solution to new problems: as the defense of creation, as the need for universal fraternity and solidarity. Moral doctrine is no longer a closed system, it comes to touch upon previously taboo or only touched upon issues: such as the possibility of adopting an attitude of welcome and respect for homosexual people.
For the Jubilee of the 2000sJohn Paul II had asked all the bishops, as an examination of conscience, to make known the state of implementation of the Vatican II in their dioceses. Benedict XVI worked hard to eradicate the scourge of scandals in the clergy: zero tolerancenumerous resigned bishops, tighter controls; but at a certain point he discovered that an entire episcopate, the Irish one, had hidden everything for years, thus intending to defend the “honor” of the Church. Pope Francis has opened the doors to the divorced and remarried who want to approach the Eucharist again; and instead, ignoring what is written in a pontifical document, Amoris Laetitia, some continue to impose on these couples to refrain from “sexual intimacy”, and therefore to live, even under the same roof, “as a brother and sister”.
In various historical epochs, the conscience, expropriated of its primary function, has felt emptied, lost. For some time the confrontation (and the clash) between good and evil took place elsewhere in the world. So, out of consciousness. Where, as a consequence, the awareness of what the moral commitment of the Christian entails gradually diminished. And if it is true that the perception of the so-called was strengthened “Social sin”It is equally true that the sense of sin was weakening, understood first of all, as Saint Thomas recalled, as “something personal”. So, continuing in the metaphor, heaven and earth had become distant. Believers found it increasingly difficult to recognize God in their daily lives. And, even before that, it was the Church that seemed to struggle to transmit a faith embodied in the life of men. The evangelical proclamation, perhaps because it was burdened by too much authority, by too many superstructures, was not always able to restore hope to the human being, to respond to his metaphysical anxieties. Nothing, or almost nothing, to fill the “void” left by collapse of ideologies – like that, imminent and sensational, of Marxism – and from the loss of the old blind faith in science. Nevertheless, there had been a council that had reunited heaven and earth. He had redesigned a new image of the Church, mystery of salvationand, at the same time, he had outlined new relations between the Church and the world. Indeed, the two great constitutions: the doctrinal one, Lumen gentium, and the pastoral one, Gaudium et spes. With a reversal – especially in the second document – of the method that for centuries had been used by the Popes to interpret reality, that is, the classical method of neo-scholasticism. Now, we proceeded in reverse, we started from below, from human situations, and no longer from above, no longer from scriptural, patristic, dogmatic statements, understood as general, absolute, untouchable principles.
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