There are a few things that Benedict XVI recently wrote that I want to include in a post before his new encyclical is released tomorrow. If I don't do it now, I may not get back to them later, and they are too important to overlook.
About the Encyclical on Christian Hope
For the encyclical to be released tomorrow, I will plan to post something after I am able to read through the whole thing, which I understand will be more than 60 pages. After I have read it, I will probably do one or more posts about it during Advent. Meanwhile, there are round-ups of news articles and commentaries at Against the Grain and The American Papist.
The Letter on the 16th Centenary of St. John Chrysostom: The Unity of the Church in the Fourth Century
Pope Benedict XVI's Letter on the 16th Centenary of the Death of St. John Chrysostom is now available in an official English translation on the Vatican's website.
Dated August 10, 2007, the letter was released by the Vatican in Italian on November 8. Fr. Zuhlsdorf had a post about it on November 13, calling it one of the best written letters that he had seen in a while. He also provided a down-loadable unofficial translation. However, the official translation was only recently added to the Vatican website.
The letter begins with a summary of the fourth century saint's life, teaching and works for the poor and sick. It continues with a discussion of how he was venerated from the fifth century on, so that he was soon recognized as a Father and Doctor of the Church. The Pope made special mention of the saint's contribution toward ending a schism that had developed between the See of Antioch and the western churches under the See of Rome. He mentioned that St. Chrysostom "spoke passionately about the
unity of the Church scattered across the world," founded on Christ, the Incarnate Word. St. Chrysostom once said that "The faithful in Rome consider those in India as members of
their own body." He saw that the Eucharist attested to this ecclesial unity in Christ. The Pope mentions the saint's deep reflections on Holy Communion and the Divine Liturgy, and the moral consequences of that Mystery including the need to help the poor and the hungry.
The Pope's Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees was released on Wednesday, November 28. While his letter on St. John Chrysostom speaks of the importance of unity within the Church, among people of different cultures across the world, his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees speaks of the importance of cultural diversity within one location where people have immigrated from elsewhere in the world.
Reflecting specifically on young migrants who may have difficulty becoming inserted into their new culture although they may be among the brightest from their places of origin: "on the one hand, they feel a strong need to not lose their culture of origin, while on the other, the understandable desire emerges in them to be inserted organically into the society that receives them, but without this implying a complete assimilation and the resulting loss of their ancestral traditions." Moreover, he mentioned that girls may be especially subject to exploitation.
The Holy Father mentioned schools and education as a particularly important means of responding to the needs of young migrants. The education system, he said, should consider their specific needs and "create a climate of mutual respect and dialogue among all the students in the classrooms based on the universal principles and values that are common to all cultures." He wrote of the importance of the Church's role in helping young immigrants and others who are being educated in a country that is culturally different from their place of origin.
Lastly, he addressed the young migrants, encouraging them to build a better society by fulfilling their duties to family and the State. "Be respectful of the laws and never let yourselves be carried away by hatred and violence." He encouraged them to cultivate a close relationship with Jesus "in prayer and docile listening to his Word" and to be His witnesses:
"Coming from different cultures, but all united by belonging to the one Church of Christ, you can show that the Gospel is alive and suited to every situation; it is an old and ever new message. It is a word of hope and salvation for the people of all races and cultures, of all ages and eras."
Christian Cultural Diversity Mentioned in the General Audience
On the same day when the Vatican released that Message, Pope Benedict also touched on Church diversity during his General Audience. Speaking about St. Ephrem the Syrian, he said that he had wanted to show the Church's cultural diversity by speaking about the saint born in Nisbis as, the previous week, he spoke about Aphraates, who was from Persia. Regarding that diversity, he said:
"According to general opinion, Christianity is a European religion that has exported the culture of this Continent to other countries. The reality, though, is a lot more complex, as the root of the Christian religion is found in the Old Testament, and therefore in Jerusalem and the Semitic world. Christianity has always nourished itself from its roots in the Old Testament.
"Also, its expansion during the first centuries was both westward -- toward the Greek-Latin world, where it then inspired the European culture -- and eastward to Persia and India, thus contributing to stimulate a specific culture, in Semitic languages, with its own identity."
The Global Diversity of 23 New Cardinals: Homily for the Consistory
In mentioning together, in one post, these several references to the cultural diversity within the Church, it should also be remembered that Pope Benedict specifically acknowledged such diversity in his selection of 23 new cardinals who received their red hats last Saturday. In his homily for the consistory, the Pope said of that diversity, "Times have changed and today the great family of Christ's disciples has spread on every continent to the furthest corners of the earth." The diversity of the College of Cardinals, he said, "due both to their geographical provenance and their cultural background, enhance this providential growth and at the same time highlight the different pastoral requirements to which the Pope must respond."
Areas of diversity within the Church might be seen to encompass the diversity of liturgical forms, such as that allowing for various rites (including the rite used by the Anglican Use churches in the U.S.) and the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum allowing expanded use of the Latin Roman liturgy from before the 1970 reform, as well as the use of an eastern rite in parishes formed by eastern immigrants to western countries.
Moreover, in viewing these various discussions of global cultural diversity together, it seems clear that Pope Benedict XVI has a great interest in adapting to diversity within the Church and seeking unity that allows for the diversity of cultures throughout the world.