Aparecida on Christ and Culture

The following quote makes an interesting argument, moving from one point to another in perhaps an unexpected way.

The first point is specifically about Latin American culture. When the Gospel came to the Indians, it did not hurt their culture, it liberated it. By itself that is perhaps a happy, pat-ourselves-on-the-back Catholic triumph.

But Aparecida draws an important conclusion about culture in general. Today there is a great concern, including among some Catholics, to rediscover cultural particularity: a sense of place, a distinct way of life, artistic traditions, etc. The quotation below simply argues that this need not be opposed to the universality of the Church, of truth, and of the Gospel. The best way to really live local culture is to set it free through encounter with the truth who is Christ, and the universality which is the global Church.

Two other conclusions: first, within the truth of Christ – not outside it – we discover the true place of dialogue, of appreciating and affirming legitimate differences. I, an Anglo-American, can appreciate the best in Latin American, African, or Asian culture precisely through our contact in the Truth which is Christ.

And second, Christ is the truth. If you really want truth, if you really want culture, seek ye first his face, his kingdom, his righteousness. Don’t start with culture; find culture in Christ.

brazil-popeThe proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture. Authentic cultures are not closed in upon themselves, nor are they set in stone at a particular point in history, but they are open, or better still, they are seeking an encounter with other cultures, hoping to reach universality through encounter and dialogue with other ways of life and with elements that can lead to a new synthesis, in which the diversity of expressions is always respected as well as the diversity of their particular cultural embodiment.

Ultimately, it is only the truth that can bring unity, and the proof of this is love. That is why Christ, being in truth the incarnate Logos, “love to the end”, is not alien to any culture, nor to any person; on the contrary, the response that he seeks in the heart of cultures is what gives them their ultimate identity, uniting humanity and at the same time respecting the wealth of diversity, opening people everywhere to growth in genuine humanity, in authentic progress.

-The Aparecida Document

eric.m.johnston

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