With Bergoglio the “Spirit of Assisi” Triumphs. But Ratzinger Is Ruining the Party

With Bergoglio the “Spirit of Assisi” Triumphs. But Ratzinger Is Ruining the Party

Francis reruns the encounter with men of all religions inaugurated by John Paul II thirty years ago. But the objections of the cardinal prefect of doctrine back then are still alive. And even more radical

[I think Magister overemphasizes the differences between Bergoglio and Ratzinger concerning ecumenism, because the latter schmoozed as much with the Archlayman of Canterbury and engaged in interfaith meetings such as Assisi as does the former; for example]


by Sandro Magister

ROME, September 18, 2016 – The memorable encounter in Assisi, thirty years ago, between John Paul II and men of all religions was perhaps the only moment of disagreement between the holy Polish pope and his absolutely trusted chief of doctrine at the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who didn’t even go.

Ratzinger himself recalls this in his book-length interview published in recent days: “He knew,” he says, “that I was following a different approach.”

But now that Pope Francis, the successor to both, is preparing to replicate that event in Assisi on September 20, the contrast is reemerging even stronger than before.

A dialogue among the religions on an equal footing – Ratzinger has in fact warned even after his resignation of the papacy – would be “lethal for the Christian faith.” Because every religion “would be reduced to an interchangeable symbol” of a God assumed to be equal for all:

> “Renunciation of the truth is lethal for the faith”

Naturally Jorge Mario Bergoglio does not identify with this kind of egalitarian dialogue, nor has he ever thought that the Catholic Church should give up preaching the Gospel to every creature.

But some of his actions and words have effectively bolstered such tendencies, starting with his definition of proselytism as “solemn foolishness,” without ever saying how this is to be distinguished from genuine mission. There are no few missionaries on the frontiers, having spent a lifetime preaching and baptizing, who now feel betrayed in the name of a dialogue that makes almost any conversion useless.

Also with other Christians, Protestant and Orthodox, Francis moves at a different pace compared to his predecessors.

While for example Benedict XVI encouraged and facilitated the return to the Catholic Church of Anglicans in disagreement with the “liberal” pivot of their Church, Francis does not, he prefers that they keep to their own home, as revealed by two Anglican bishops who are his friends, Gregory Venables and Tony Palmer, whom he discouraged from becoming Catholic:

> Ecumenism Behind Closed Doors

But it has been above all a brief video from January of this year, released on a large scale in ten languages, that has most given the idea of a surrender to syncretism, to the equating of all the religions:

> “We are all children of God”

In it, Francis urges prayer together with men of every faith, for the love of peace. And along with him, in fact, appear a Buddhist, a Jew, a Muslim, with their respective symbols, all on equal terms. The pope says: “Many seek God and find God in different ways. In this broad spectrum of religions there is only one certainty for us: we are all children of God.”

Nice words, but in effect not in keeping with those of the New Testament and in particular of the Gospel of John, according to which all men are creatures of God, but the only ones who become his “children” are those who believe in Jesus Christ.

In Assisi, on September 20, Francis will again find himself beside Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and still others. And it is likely that his speech will be more circumspect than in the video.

But there is an impact of the images that will be difficult to contain and rationalize. It is that which has been extolled by many since 1986 as the “spirit of Assisi,” a formula that Ratzinger always sought in vain to defuse, as cardinal and pope, so that it would be taken in a manner opposite to how so many understand it, meaning not in the “syncretistic” and “relativistic” sense:

> The “spirit of Assisi” that Benedict XVI doesn’t trust

So over Assisi there will again loom, in all its drama, the perfect storm that shook the Catholic Church in the summer of 2000, when the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, headed by Ratzinger, published the highly contested declaration “Dominus Iesus” precisely to contrast the idea that all religions are on a par and to reiterate instead that there is one way of salvation for all men, and it is Jesus:

> Dominus Iesus

In two millennia, never had the Church felt the need to recall this elementary truth of the Christian faith.

“The fact of needing to issue a reminder of this in our time tells us the extent of the gravity of the current situation,” warned a cardinal named Giacomo Biffi on the verge of the conclave of 2005, the one in which Ratzinger was elected pope:

> “What I Told the Future Pope”

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3 comments on “With Bergoglio the “Spirit of Assisi” Triumphs. But Ratzinger Is Ruining the Party

  1. [Coda by Sandro Magister to the above]

    Pope Francis’s day in Assisi, September 20, 2016:

    > Visit of the Holy Father to Assisi. Program


    The guests at the encounter in Assisi on September 20 do not include the Dalai Lama, who however was present at the 1986 event with John Paul II.

    The Holy See has said nothing in justification of this exclusion. But one indirect confirmation that this was dictated by the desire not to irritate the Chinese authorities is what happened in recent days following the invitation issued to the Dalai Lama by a political representative of Taiwan for a round of conferences on the island.

    The spokesman of the Chinese office for external affairs, Ma Xiaoguang, reacted by threatening “the gravest consequences,” which he justified as follows:

    “The Dalai Lama is a wolf dressed as a monk who, with his gang of independence activists and terrorists, is seeking to destabilize China and separate Tibet from it. But we will not stand by watching: anyone who supports him is an enemy of ours.”

    [Comment by AQ moderator Tom]

    Either Magister reads AQ such as The Dalai Lama “was not invited” to the Assisi meeting and the comment to New Assisi meeting September 20th, or he read the same items on Asia News (which originates in Italian) to draw the same conclusion. The latter would be a case of “Great minds thinking along the same lines.”

  2. The Full Meaning of the Assisi Meeting

    Eduardo Echeverria on the history, theology, and importance of the upcoming 30th-anniversary inter-religious meeting in Assisi.

    The Catholic Thing

    We need a clear context to understand the ecumenical and inter-religious meeting of Pope Francis in Assisi this Tuesday, which commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Meeting of Prayer for Peace, held first by John Paul II on October 27, 1986. Such meetings generate confusion in an already confused culture, where most people have embraced a pluralistic theology of religions: i.e., all religions are the same, equally vehicles of salvation, equally true and good, and as such where religious diversity is taken to be part of the will of God.

    But this understanding of religious pluralism is not the Church’s teaching. This is clear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, John Paul II’s 1990 Encyclical Redemptoris missio, as well as the 2000 CDF document, Dominus Iesus. But here, I will let John Paul II speak for himself on the meaning of Assisi. He does so in his 1986 “Christmas Address to the Roman Curia.”

    John Paul identifies three important dimensions of our world: the orders of creation, the fall into sin, and redemption in Jesus Christ. The order of creation is the ground of universal human identity as God’s image bearer, and of the unity of all members of the human family in a divine origin. Man is stamped in his created nature with the dynamic of desiring God because we have been created by Him and for Him. Thus, all men have a radical unity because we have one single origin and goal.

    The order of redemption finds its central point in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, says John Paul, quoting Nostra aetate §2, “in whom men find the fullness of their religious life, and in whom God has reconciled all things to himself.” This order grounds the universal scope of the atoning work of Christ. In his infinite, all-embracing love, God desires the salvation of all men in Christ. (1 Tim 2:4-6)

    According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men.” (§1019) Yet the Council of Trent said, “even though ‘Christ died for all’ [2 Cor 5:15], still not all do receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His passion is imparted.”

    Click here to read the rest of Professor Echeverria’s column . . .

    • A mixed bag, but the good part is his reference to Trent (not all receive the benefit), and the insertion of his comment (but not efficacious) within a quote of Wojtyla:

      The deep structure “of the created unity of the human race, and of the unity of the salvific work of Christ,” says John Paul, as well as the positive elements within non-Christian religions, expresses “that all those who have not yet received the Gospel are ‘oriented’ [Lumen gentium §16] toward the supreme unity of the people of God.” By virtue of the “real and objective value of this ‘orientation,’” there is a basis, not only for dialogue but also evangelization. For evangelization, because these religious people belong to God’s people in potentiality, is only a possibility, not a reality. This possibility is rooted in the “power of Christ, which is sufficient [but not efficacious] for the salvation of the whole human race.”

      Does Eccheverria imagine that Wojtyla believed that not all would benefit? JPII played both sides, but here are money quotes from his encyclical Redemptor hominis (emphasis in original):

      (RH8) For, by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.

      (RH14) This man is the way for the Church-a way that, in a sense, is the basis of all the other ways that the Church must walk-because man-every man without any exception whatever-has been redeemed by Christ, and because with man-with each man without any exception whatever-Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it: “Christ, who died and was raised up for all, provides man”-each man and every man- “with the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme calling” (V-II, G&S).

      On the weak side of this review, there is no questioning if Assisi events fit the mission given by Christ to evangelize. That there are “seeds of truth” everywhere isn’t a sign of salvation being there, but rather that God’s prevenient grace is there. Shouldn’t we, then, urge conversion to Christ? It’s apparent that Assisi events have no such character or else the first event would have been the last. Rather, they are certainly more of an “I’m OK, you’re OK” event. Abp. Lefebvre’s public rebuke of JPII for Assisi is, I think, the main reason moderns detest him so.

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