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JEAN-PAUL II       -       JOHN PAUL II       -       JUAN PABLO II

Parish has essential role in welcoming the stranger
and integrating the baptized from different cultures

The present historical context, … is strongly marked by substantial migratory flows and a growing ethnic and cultural pluralism. […] The Church, present in every clime, is not identified with any particular race or culture since, as the Epistle to Diognetus recalls, Christians "live in their homeland, but as guests; as citizens they participate in all things, but are detached from all things as strangers. Every foreign country is a homeland to them and every homeland a foreign country... They dwell on earth but are citizens of heaven" (5,1).

By her nature, the Church is in solidarity with the world of migrants who, with their variety of languages, races, cultures and customs, remind her of her own condition as a people on pilgrimage from every part of the earth to their final homeland. This vision helps Christians to reject all nationalistic thinking and to avoid narrow ideological categories. It reminds them that the Gospel should be incarnated in life in order to become its leaven and soul, also through a constant effort to free it from the cultural incrustations that inhibit its inner dynamism. […]

The ethnic and cultural differences found within the Church could be a source of division or disunity, if she did not have the cohesive strength of charity, a virtue all Christians are invited to practise, particularly during this final year of immediate preparation for the Jubilee. […]

The importance of the parish in welcoming the stranger, in integrating baptized persons from different cultures and in dialoguing with believers of other religions stems from the mission of every parish community and its significance within society. This is not an optional, supplementary role for the parish community, but a duty inherent in its task as an institution.

Catholicity is not only expressed in the fraternal communion of the baptized, but also in the hospitality extended to the stranger, whatever his religious belief, in the rejection of all racial exclusion or discrimination, in the recognition of the personal dignity of every man and woman and, consequently, in the commitment to furthering their inalienable rights. […]

"The Jubilee can also offer an opportunity for reflecting on other challenges ..., such as the difficulties of dialogue between different cultures" (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 51).

The Christian is called to evangelize by reaching out to people wherever they may be, to meet them with warmth and love, to shoulder their problems, to know and appreciate their culture, to help them overcome prejudices. This concrete form of outreach to so many of our needy brothers and sisters will prepare them to encounter the light of the Gospel and, by forging bonds of sincere esteem and friendship, will lead them to ask: "we wish to see Jesus" (Jn 12: 21). Dialogue is essential for a peaceful and productive society.

In view of the ever more pressing challenges of indifferentism and secularization, the Jubilee requires that this dialogue be intensified. In their everyday relationships, believers are called to show the face of a Church which is open to everyone, attentive to social realities and to whatever enables the human person to affirm his dignity. In particular, Christians, conscious of the heavenly Father’s love, will heighten their concern for migrants, in order to develop a sincere and respectful dialogue aimed at building the "civilization of love".

Message for the 85th World Migration Day, 2-2-1999.

Promote inculturation

Practical attempts to promote inculturation of the faith require a theology indissolubly linked to the mystery of the Incarnation and to an authentic Christian anthropology (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 55). A truly critical and genuinely evangelical discernment of cultural realities can only be undertaken in the light of the saving Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A sound inculturation cannot overlook the Church’s unequivocal conviction that culture, as a human creation, is inevitably marked by sin and needs to be healed, ennobled and perfected by the Gospel (cf. Lumen Gentium, 17). As people find inspiration and direction through contact with God’s saving word they will naturally be led to work for a profound transformation of the society in which they live. The Gospel message penetrates the very life of cultures, and becomes incarnate in them, precisely by "overcoming those cultural elements that are incompatible with the faith and Christian living and by raising their values to the mystery of salvation which comes from Christ" (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 55). The challenges presented by inculturation are especially evident in the areas of marriage and family life: I commend and encourage your efforts to lead Christian couples to live the truth and beauty of their married union in accordance with the demands of their new life in Christ.

Address to the "ad limina" group of Ghana’s Bishops, 20-2-1999.

Church and media culture

A vital aspect of cooperation between the Church and the media is the ethical reflection which the Church proposes, without which the world of social communications, potentially so creative, can harbour and spread destructive counter-values. It is heartening to learn that, since the publication of the document Ethics in Advertising, a suggestion has come from people in the media that there be a similar document offering ethical guidance in other areas of communications. In a field where cultural and financial pressures can sometimes blur the moral vision which should guide all human realities and relationships […]

I therefore encourage you to pursue your study of the ethical dimension of media culture and of the power of the media over people’s lives and over society in general. I urge you to continue to promote effective training of Catholics involved in the media on every continent, so that their work will be not only professionally sound but also a commitment to the apostolate.

To the Pontifical Council for Social Communications on the occasion of its Plenary Assembly, 4-3-1999.

Cultural component of the science

Today’s meeting … is an excellent occasion to look at the future, analysing all that has been achieved by science in our century, which has seen scientific progress unprecedented in the entire span of history. It is your intention to sketch out a partial but significant assessment of this progress.

First of all, a distinct and diversified cultural component can be noted, which consists mainly in a new vision of science characterized by the end of the "myth of progress", which claimed that science would soon find a solution to every human problem. […]

Nor should we underestimate the growing closeness between scientific experimentation and the religious conception of reality, to which I sought to make a contribution in my recent Encyclical Fides et ratio. Although I denounced the serious risk of an exclusively scientistic interpretation of phenomenal data (Fides et ratio, 88), I wished to express admiration and encouragement for the work of scientists as tireless seekers of truth (ibid., 106). In fact, it is more necessary than ever that faith and science, having cleared the field of the mistakes and misunderstandings which have unfortunately occurred over the ages, should be open to ever deeper mutual understanding at the service of human life and dignity.

Address to the "World Federation of Scientists", 27-3-1999.

Testimonar a Dios Padre es la respuesta cristiana al ateísmo

1. La orientación religiosa del hombre le viene de su misma naturaleza de criatura, que lo impulsa a buscar a Dios, quien lo ha creado a su imagen y semejanza (cf. Gn 1,27). El concilio Vaticano II ha enseñado que "la razón más alta de la dignidad humana consiste en la vocación del hombre a la comunión con Dios. Desde su nacimiento, el hombre es invitado al diálogo con Dios; pues no existe sino porque, creado por Dios por amor, es conservado siempre por amor; y no vive plenamente según la verdad si no reconoce libremente aquel amor y se entrega a su Creador" (Gaudium et spes, 19).

El camino que lleva a los seres humanos al conocimiento de Dios Padre es Jesucristo, el Verbo hecho carne, que viene a nosotros con la fuerza del Espíritu Santo. Como he subrayado en las catequesis anteriores, este conocimiento es auténtico y pleno siempre que no se reduzca a algo meramente intelectual, sino que implique de modo vital a toda la persona humana. Ésta debe dar al Padre una respuesta de fe y amor, consciente de que, antes de conocerlo, ya ha sido conocida y amada por él (cf. Ga 4,9; 1Co 13,12; 1Jn 4,19).

Por desgracia, el hombre, atormentado por la duda y a menudo influido por el pecado, vive con fragilidad y contradicción este vínculo íntimo y vital con Dios, deteriorado por la culpa de sus antepasados ya desde el comienzo de la historia. Además, la época contemporánea ha conocido formas particularmente devastadoras de ateísmo "teórico" y "práctico" (cf. Fides et ratio, 46-47). Sobre todo es perjudicial el secularismo, con su indiferencia ante las cuestiones últimas y ante la fe, pues representa un modelo de hombre totalmente ajeno a la referencia al Trascendente. Así, el ateísmo "práctico" es una realidad amarga y concreta. Aunque se manifiesta sobre todo en las civilizaciones económica y técnicamente más avanzadas, sus efectos se extienden también a las situaciones y culturas que están en proceso de desarrollo.

2. Es preciso dejarse guiar por la palabra de Dios, para leer esta situación del mundo contemporáneo y responder a las graves cuestiones que plantea.

Partiendo de la sagrada Escritura, se notará enseguida que no habla para nada del ateísmo "teórico"; en cambio, se esfuerza por rechazar el ateísmo "práctico". El salmista tacha de insensato al que piensa: "¡No hay Dios!" y obra en consecuencia: "Corrompidos están, de conducta abominable; no hay quien haga el bien" (Sal 14,1). En otro salmo, se reprocha la actitud del "impío insolente, que menosprecia al Señor", diciendo: "¡No hay Dios!" (Sal 10,4).

Más que de ateísmo, la Biblia habla de impiedad e idolatría. Impío e idólatra es quien, en vez de Dios, prefiere una serie de productos humanos, considerados falsamente divinos, vivos y activos. Se dedican largas invectivas proféticas contra la impotencia de los ídolos y, a la vez, contra quienes los fabrican. Con vehemencia dialéctica contraponen a la vacuidad e ineptitud de los ídolos fabricados por el hombre el poder del Dios creador y hacedor de prodigios (cf. Is 44,9-20; Jr 10,1-16).

Esta doctrina alcanza su desarrollo más amplio en el libro de la Sabiduría (cf. Sb 13-15), donde se presenta el camino, que después evocará san Pablo (cf. Rm 1,18-23), del conocimiento de Dios a partir de las cosas creadas. Ser "ateo" significa entonces no conocer la verdadera naturaleza de la realidad creada, sino darle un valor absoluto y, por eso mismo, "idolatrarla", en lugar de considerarla como huella del Creador y camino que lleva a él.

3. El ateísmo puede incluso convertirse en una forma de ideología intolerante, como demuestra la historia. En los dos últimos siglos ha habido corrientes de ateísmo teórico que han negado a Dios en nombre de una supuesta autonomía absoluta o del hombre o de la naturaleza o de la ciencia. Es lo que pone de relieve el Catecismo de la Iglesia católica: "Con frecuencia el ateísmo se funda en una concepción falsa de la autonomía humana, llevada hasta el rechazo de toda dependencia con respecto a Dios" (n. 2126).

Este ateísmo sistemático se ha impuesto durante decenios, creando la ilusión de que, eliminando a Dios, el hombre sería más libre, tanto psicológica como socialmente. Las principales objeciones que se hacen sobre todo a la figura de Dios Padre se basan en la idea de que la religión constituiría para los hombres un valor de tipo compensatorio. Después de eliminar la imagen del padre terreno, el hombre adulto proyectaría en Dios la exigencia de un padre amplificado, del que a su vez ha de liberarse, porque impediría el proceso de maduración de los seres humanos.

Frente a las formas de ateísmo y a sus motivaciones ideológicas, ¿cuál es la actitud de la Iglesia? La Iglesia no desprecia el estudio serio de los componentes psicológicos y sociológicos del fenómeno religioso, pero rechaza con firmeza la interpretación de la religiosidad como proyección de la psique humana o como resultado de condiciones sociológicas. En efecto, la auténtica experiencia religiosa no es expresión de infantilismo, sino actitud madura y noble de acogida de Dios, que responde a la exigencia de significado global de la vida y compromete responsablemente al hombre a construir una sociedad mejor.

4. El Concilio reconoció que los creyentes han podido contribuir a la génesis del ateísmo, porque no siempre han mostrado de forma adecuada el rostro de Dios (cf. Gaudium et spes, 19; Catecismo de la Iglesia católica, 2125).

Desde esta perspectiva, el testimonio del verdadero rostro de Dios Padre es precisamente la respuesta más convincente al ateísmo. Es obvio que esto no excluye, sino que exige también la correcta presentación de los motivos de orden racional que llevan al reconocimiento de Dios. Desgraciadamente, dichas razones a menudo se ven ofuscadas por los condicionamientos debidos al pecado y por múltiples circunstancias culturales. Entonces, el anuncio del Evangelio, respaldado por el testimonio de una caridad inteligente (cf. Gaudium et spes, 21), es el camino más eficaz para que los hombres puedan vislumbrar la bondad de Dios y reconocer progresivamente su rostro misericordioso.

Discurso en la audiencia general, 14-4-1999.

Faith and modern culture

Today the Christian faith is called to confront non-Christian cultures, scientific progress, philosophies characterized by immanentism and agnosticism, by the rejection of metaphysics and by scepticism about the capacity of human reason to attain truth. In the Encyclical Fides et ratio I wished to show how this lack of confidence in human reason makes the acceptance of faith very difficult and deprives reason itself of the contribution of Revelation to a deeper knowledge of the mistery of man, of his origins, his spiritual nature and his destiny. In this context, La Civiltà Cattolica is called to overcome the separation of faith and modern culture, of faith and moral behaviour, with special attention to the problems raised in the Encyclicals Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae, which constitute essential aspects for gauging the fidelity of believers to the teaching of Jesus, preserved in the authentic Tradition of the Church.

Address to the editorial staff of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its foundation, 22-4-1999.

Evangelizing urban culture

From Mexico City, the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America has gone forth to you and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses as an earnest invitation to engage in the "new evangelization". […] The Exhortation notes that "the evangelization of urban culture is a formidable challenge for the Church. Just as she was able to evangelize rural culture for centuries, the Church is called in the same way today to undertake a methodical and far-reaching urban evangelization" (No. 21). What the Synod Fathers called for is nothing short of the evangelization which I have described as "new in ardour, methods and expression" (Address to the Assembly of CELAM, 9 March, 1983, III); and such an evangelization is certainly needed at the dawn of the third Christian millennium, especially in the large urban centres where a growing percentage of the population now lives. As the Synod Fathers observed, the Church in Europe and elsewhere has in the past succeeded in evangelizing rural culture, but that is no longer enough. A great new task now beckons, and it is unthinkable that we should fail in the evangelization of the cities. […]

Les Pères du Synode n’ont pas promu une nouvelle évangélisation urbaine de manière indéterminée: ils ont précisé des éléments de l’activité pastorale qu’une telle évangélisation requiert. Ils ont parlé du besoin d’" une évangélisation urbaine méthodique et capillaire par la catéchèse, la liturgie et la manière même d’organiser ses structures pastorales " (Ecclesia in America, n. 21). Ici nous avons donc trois éléments très précis: la catéchèse, la liturgie, et l’organisation des structures pastorales – éléments qui sont radicalement liés aux trois dimensions du ministère de l’Évêque : enseigner, sanctifier et gouverner. À ce sujet, chers Frères, nous touchons le point central de ce que le Christ nous appelle à être et à faire dans la nouvelle évangélisation.

Ces trois dimensions ont pour objectif une expérience nouvelle et plus profonde de la communauté dans le Christ, qui est la seule réponse efficace et durable à une culture marquée par le déracinement, l’anonymat et les inégalités. Là où cette expérience est fragile, on peut s’attendre à ce que davantage de fidèles se détachent de la religion ou dérivent vers des sectes et vers des groupes pseudo-religieux, qui s’appuient sur leur aliénation et se développent parmi les chrétiens déçus par l’Église pour quelque raison que ce soit. […]

Non seulement les paroisses, mais aussi les écoles catholiques et d’autres institutions doivent s’ouvrir aux urgences pastorales nécessaires pour évangéliser les villes. Mais, pour cela, elles doivent s’assurer que leur identité catholique n’est en aucune façon affectée par les influences liées à la sécularisation. […]

Address to the "ad limina" group of Canada’s Bishops, 4-5-1999.

*   *   *


We cite below relevant abstracts of the Exhortation on Culture/Faith issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on 25 January, 1999. The Document has three parts that deal with Philippine Culture, the Church and Cultures and the Church of the Philippines and Filipino Culture. It concludes by stating that inculturation is a continuing dialogue between people of faith and the Holy Spirit.



Introduction. In accordance with the Holy Father’s hopes for the renewal of the Church in his letter "On the Coming of the Third Millennium" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 1995), we issue this year our third exhortation on a crucial area of Philippine life. In 1997, we spoke on our politics; last year on our economy; this year we propose to focus on yet another aspect of our national life: our culture. […]

In this concern with culture, we ask: How much of the Gospel has become part of our way of life? How do we let it penetrate deeper into our culture, influence our values? How do we make them – our values - more conformed to those of Christ in our interaction with one another?

[…] The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) answers:

"Ours is a pluralist society and a prime factor of our pluralism is the diversity of our cultural heritage. Lowland cultures have been heavily influenced by three centuries of Spanish colonial rule, the Muslim peoples of die south by Islamic traditions, and the mountain tribes, especially on Luzon, Mindanao and Mindoro, have retained much of their pre-Spanish characteristics.

The differences notwithstanding, we can speak of a generic Philippine culture. And we can do so if we focus on the structuring of our many social and ethnic groups and the basic values that go with that structuring. And we see that in all Philippine peoples - it does not matter whether they are upland or lowland, Christian or Muslim, schooled or unschooled - there is a common structuring of social relations based on the family and its well-being which antedate contacts with Muslim and Christian traditions. Basic values (family itself, loyalty to family, concern for its security, stress on authority and respect for elders, among other things) are supportive of this sociological fact. The commonalities are more striking than the differences, and we can conclude there is indeed a common culture and a common social structure that we can truthfully call Filipino" (Acts and Decrees, no. 18 and 19).



There are many things we can look into when we speak of a people’s culture: their art, architecture, tools, technology; their modes of behavior and social interaction; their customary laws and norms of day-to-day relationships; their systems of communication and language; their ways of thinking and symboling; their worldviews, beliefs, values.

It is the inner part of culture - the thinking, believing, symboling, valuing part – that will concern us most here. We will focus on that inner aspect and sum it all up under the rubric of values: what a people define as good, what their goals in life are, what makes them act thus and so and not another way. Values, thus, are at the deepest level of culture - they are its heart and core. They are, for all intents and purposes, what give people their identity as a people, a distinct human society. […]

Traditional Filipino Values

We begin with what we have already noted above as the most striking feature of Filipino culture: the value we put on family - and family both as nuclear and extended. Attachment and loyalty to one’s family are a central organizing principle of Philippine social structure and behavior. We generally define our personal interests in terms of those of the family. Personal identity is very closely tied in with its good name and honor. An individual’s success is regarded as the family’s success, be it in business or in politics. We aspire for excellence, achievement and economic advancement for the sake of our family.

The functionality of the Filipino’s family-centeredness is quite all-encompassing. Family networks facilitate the individual’s access to the broader society. The family is the principal means for gaining entry into the public realm of Philippine society where both economic and political transactions are carried out, facilitated and mediated through family networks. Social alliances, whether in business or in politics, are often based on family ties too inasmuch as trust and loyalty tend to be confined to family members. A family-against-the-world mentality is often the result.

While we work hard for the sake of our families, we also expect much from them - they are after all our basic communities. The family functions as the most important provider of social welfare and security in Philippine society where state and private welfare institutions are unavailable, or if available, are generally perceived as either inaccessible or unreliable. Family members are expected to supply the material and emotional needs of their kin, the mutual sharing of favors and resources within the family reinforcing family solidarity and loyalty. In this strong sense of family solidarity and loyalty, there is at work a basic equality of the sexes which belies what often seems to be a culture that glorifies the male excessively and relegates the female to a subordinate status. […]

We also put a high value on hard work patience and perseverance. Perseverance (tiyaga) is considered a virtue. Poverty is seen as being caused by negative human traits like laziness or vices (bisyo) and fate (kapalaran). There is a pronounced fatalism in the way we view social mobility and hierarchy. Consequently, bisyo and kapalaran - rather than any notion of exploitation - are more readily identified as explanations for poverty.

Ours is a highly personalistic culture. We rely to a large extent, for the fostering of social ties, on face-to-face interaction. Consequently, social bonds and group solidarity depend not so much on common interests as on interpersonal ties based on reciprocity and mutual trust. Utang-na-loob, hiya and pakikisama become operative social norms in the context of this highly personalistic culture in which social behaviour is very much oriented towards keeping interpersonal relations running smoothly. […]

As a people, we are also known for our strong religiosity. Dependence on the benevolence of a Transcendent Being is a deeply held value and belief among us. While this has sometimes produced a certain degree of fatalism, our religiosity provides a moral anchor to individuals when confronted with a personal crisis. Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa (it is God’s prerogative to show compassion, it is man’s to act) underscores our deep sense of the limits of human effort, even as the necessity of hard work is also recognized. Moral righteousness is often equated with being God-fearing. A person described as possessing fear of God (takot sa Diyos) is considered trustworthy. […]

Emergent Values

The values we have termed traditional above are readily recognized by most of us as part of our culture. But they are not all we see. We are also witnessing some emergent values that have started to take root in Philippine society and now and again burst into public consciousness and play pivotal roles in our national life.

One such value is that of democracy. With the institution of formal democracy in the Philippines, we came to embrace the values as well as the institutions of a democratic polity such as elections, the separation of powers, representation in government etc. Despite the largely elitist character of Philippine democratic politics, the value of democracy has managed to take root in our political culture. In the corruption of our democratic institutions during the painful years of military rule in the ’70s and ’80s, the most resented part of the new regime was its mockery of democratic values in its practice of farcical "referendums". This resentment, we all know, came to a head in the People Power uprising against the fraudulent elections of 1986. It was in a very real sense the reassertion of our democratic values against the structures of subjugation erected by the dictatorial government of those years. […]

Since culture is in a very real sense a people’s collective psyche, it can bear deeper and deeper scrutiny, and the knowledge that comes from such a scrutiny is thus a form of self-knowledge. What we have attempted to present here is by no means exhaustive and it is our hope that a more thorough analysis of Philippine cultural values - and a deeper awareness of their implications - will be spurred on by this brief and selective description of our culture. Why the task of analysis is a necessary and constant one should be clearer after we look at why we have to be more concerned about our culture from the standpoint of our faith.



Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, saw the divorce between faith and culture in our age as "the drama of our time" (EN, 20). Pope John Paul II in 1982 would in his turn say that he "considered the Church’s dialogue with culture of our time [as] a vital area, one in which the destiny of the world at the end of this twentieth century is at stake" (Letter creating the Pontifical Council for Culture, 28 June 1982).

The Problematic

The question of the relationship between faith and culture is not a new one. In a very real sense it is as old as Christianity itself. At the Church’s very beginning, the Church was faced with the issue of admitting Gentiles into the Christian community without having them undergo the Jewish rite of circumcision. Since the first communities of believers came from the Jewish world where Christianity arose, they perceived their new faith as closely linked with their own ethnic conventions, cultural practices, local laws and traditions. They believed all this should be imposed upon all converts to Christianity (Acts 15,1-30; 17,22-28; Gal. 2,1-4). Paul, the self-proclaimed Apostle to the Gentiles, took a dramatic stand against this conviction and even "withstood Cephas to his face" (Gal. 2,11) in opposing it.

In various forms, the same issue continued to trouble the Church well into the succeeding ages as the Church moved into Hellenic and Roman cultural areas, and in time, into the Teutonic, Gallic, Ethiopian, Iberian, Celtic, Slavic, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon and other areas. This question has in some ways moved to front and center in our time when the Church is challenged to transform herself from being a predominantly European and Western reality into a truly world Church, no longer something like "an export firm which exported a European religion as a commodity it did not really want to change but sent throughout the world together with the rest of the culture and civilisation it considered superior" (Karl Rahner, Theological Studies, 1979, 717), but a Church truly in and of all peoples, at home in all races, nations and cultures of the world: in other words, a Church truly catholic, the catholica unitas St. Augustine spoke of.

The way the faith-cultures question surfaces today is, admittedly, different from the way previous ages in the Church’s history encountered it. Since the 19th century, there has gradually emerged a critical historical consciousness; empirical social sciences have developed in remarkable ways, heightening our understanding not only of culture itself but also of the pluralism of cultures. A single, commonly-accepted metaphysical system, deriving from classic philosophia perennis, has generally broken down. Today the way we understand culture is crucial to how we grasp the faith-and-cultures relationship. […]


Within the last thirty years or so, one significant way the faith-and-cultures questions has come to focus is the whole issue now generally called inculturation. This was first taken up in mission studies under the rubric of "adaptation" - a notion already present in the Fathers of the Church. The discussion was on how the proclamation of the faith must accommodate itself, for the communication of the Gospel-message, to the demands of cultural understanding and expression of peoples to be evangelized. The notion of "incarnation" was also called upon - in analogy with the mystery of God’s Son becoming human like us, entering within our human condition and situations, in order to bring his own "more abundant life" (John 10,10).

In contemporary Roman Catholic speaking and writing, the word "inculturation" has come to be generally accepted. Given currency since the 1970s, the word first surfaced publicly in the Synod of Bishops of 1979 in interventions of Cardinal Jaime Sin and Father Pedro Arrupe (cf. Robert Schreiter, Theological Studies, 1989, 747), finally to enter into the text of the magisterium in Pope John Paul II’s Catechesi Tradendae (1979). Although sometimes considered an "ungainly neologism", it has become generally received, as it has come to imply the notion of a diversity of cultures in which the Gospel, faith and Church must enter, the notion too of an on-going process which develops over time - rather than a once-for-all action or encounter. It also recalls the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God and its analogous continuation through history: a transformation carried out through a process of dialogue in life. […]

"To preach the Gospel in Asia today we must make the message and life of Christ truly. incarnate in the minds and lives of our peoples. The primary focus of our task of evangelization, then, at this time in our history, is the building up of a truly local Church.

For the local Church is the realization and the enfleshment of the Body of Christ in a given people, a given place and time.

It is not a community in isolation from other communities of the Church one and catholic. Rather it seeks communion with all of them. With them it professes the one faith, shares the one Spirit and the one sacramental fife. In a special way it rejoices in its communion and filial oneness with the See of Peter, which presides over the universal Church in love,

The local Church is a Church incarnate in a people, a Church indigenous and inculturated. And this means concretely a Church in continuous, humble and loving dialogue with the living traditions, the cultures, the religions - in brief, with all those life-realities of the people in whose midst it has sunk its roots deeply and whose history and life it gladly makes its own. It seeks to share in whatever truly belongs to that people: its meanings and its values, its aspirations, its thoughts and its language, its songs and its artistry. Even its frailties and failings it assumes, so that they too may be healed. For so did God’s own Son assume the totality of our fallen human condition (save only for sin), so that He might make it truly His own, and redeem it in His paschal mystery" (FABC First Plenary Assembly, Final Statement, nos. 9-12). […]

Inculturation and the Local Church

[…] It might be important to point out that for the Asian local Churches in the FABC area, the faith-and-cultures issue, the inculturation question, was not begun as a theoretical discussion, but as a complex of tasks to be done, so that the "young Church" as local Church might enter into the process of "conversation" and "solidarity", a process of transformation for what was later to be conceptualized as "building up the Kingdom of God" in the Asia of our time.

The primary meaning of inculturation, then, in the thought of the FABC and Asian Local Churches since the 1970s, was the building up of the local Church. This "construction process" was to be realized through what has come to be known as "the three dialogues".

These three dialogues represent three areas of major concern for all the local Churches in Asia, and the FABC statements have come back to them again and again through the 25 years of the FABC’s life:

  • dialogue with the cultures of our peoples;

  • dialogue with the Asian religious traditions;

  • dialogue with the poor in their search for development, justice, brotherhood and peace.

These three dialogues are not posited as diverse from or opposed to the way the proclamation of the Gospel is carried out. They are seen as "the concrete modes of proclamation in the Asian context. Inculturation is seen here broadly and yet concretely as the Local Church coming-to-be in the very working out of evangelization" (For All the Peoples of Asia, vol. 26., 29-33). […]

The Theology of Inculturation

[…] We can now sketch briefly a theological perspective on inculturation.

The primary paradigm of inculturation is the mystery of the incarnation understood in its totality, comprising, firstly, Incarnation; secondly, Cross-and-Resurrection (Paschal Mystery); and thirdly, Pentecost. […]

Thus inculturation follows the law of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery and its manifestation at the Pentecost. These three stages, which are not usually chronologically distinct, trace the theological pattern and trajectory of the process of inculturation:

a. Incarnation: Jesus’ invitation to enter the way of the Gospel is a vocation in grace to the people and culture to whom the word is preached and the gift of faith and the Christ-life is given.

b. Cross-and-Resurrection: The Word and the Spirit of Jesus summons us to conversion, to purification from sin and self-seeking, to elevation of human living in grace. Every human person and every culture are touched by sin. The Gospel passes judgement on the idolatries and egoisms, the pride and hubris, the inhumanity and hardness of heart present in all human cultures and individuals. Hence from the very beginning inculturation demands critical attentiveness and discernment regarding what is "contra-human" and "contra-Gospel" within the culture. As the Gospel enters more fully into all the dimensions of a people’s way of life, the counter-cultural may assume an increasing role.

c. Pentecost: This third stage is not really distinct from, but rather manifests, the Paschal Mystery come to term in the "new creation" constructed from each culture assumed and purified. Each people and each culture emerges in its own fulfilled identity (its own human identity assumed in faith and grace) to become truly part of the communion and participation of the catholica unitas - the universal unity of the Church).

When these three principles or stages are held together, the transformation that the Gospel brings changes the culture, but in an organic way. It helps the culture become more truly itself, more truly alive, more redolent of the image of God that it was meant to be. The culture thus grows into a fuller realization of the Kingdom of God and the explicit manifestation of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. It becomes the dwelling place of God (cf. Schreiter, op. cit.). […]



From all that has been said above about faith and culture and the huge enterprise of putting them together into an integrated whole, we see there are a number of points to highlight and tasks to begin doing.

1. If, as Paul VI put it in Evangelii Nuntiandi, "the drama of our times" is the divorce of faith from culture, then it is incumbent on us, the Church of today, to think of our evangelizing work in terms of putting faith and culture together - and indeed of putting them together into an ever integrated whole. And this integration will also be the heart of the renewal of the Church that John Paul II is calling us to in preparation for the next millennium. But as we have seen above, integrating our faith and our culture is exactly what inculturation is all about. So we can define our renewal as a Church in terms of inculturation, all the more so when we consider that, at its deepest level, inculturation is the integration of the values of our culture and the values of the Kingdom - a veritable process of metanoia or conversion into the Christ-life - which in turn must impact on all other personal and social relations.

2. In the brief analysis of Philippine cultural values that we started out with, we can honestly say that our values are, in their unvitiated state, high human ideals, and to the extent that the authentically human is also authentically divine, we can in all truth say too that our values as a people are reflections of the divine, are seeds of the Gospel already present in our culture. So the work of conversion, both personal and social, that we speak of here, if we are faithful to the best of our own native values and conscientiously act from them, has already firm grounding in our culture.

3. There is another kind of grounding of faith in culture - and vice versa, of culture in faith - that we can point to: We have been a Christian people, by and large, for the past four hundred years. And that bare historical fact has had a lot to do with the kind of people - and Church - we now are. So, when we look at the Church as it has developed in the Philippines over all those years, we cannot but come to the conclusion that it is much, much more a "local Church" (in the sense the term has developed since Vatican II) than we think. There is a truly Filipino Church. There has been a real wedding of faith and culture as we have been defining inculturation here and their integration is quite substantial. Thus, when we consider our people’s deep religiosity and its manifestations in popular devotions, rituals and celebrations, we see that enough integration of our faith and our culture has taken place. And this only means the work of inculturation is quite advanced.

4. But saying that does not mean nothing more need be done. The work of evangelization, conversion, inculturation, renewal of Christian living - this admits of degrees, of growth, of ever greater depth and intensity, and there is much more that can be done, has to be done. Our task is to make our cultural values become ever more attuned to and configured with those of the Gospel. And this means we will have to work harder to correct such excesses and defects in them as we have adverted to above that make them less of the Kingdom, that in fact transmogrify them, to our shame, into debasing and destructive disvalues. Inculturation, as we have seen, is a transformative process, and if those same excesses and defects have become part of our way of life, have taken on the nature of values, we may have to be counter-cultural at times. Hence, the disturbing but ever pressing question: how bring the values of the Kingdom into such aspects of our life as lack their saving power: our politics, our economics, our family and other social relations?

5. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, that great landmark in our journey as a Church, points out the way we have to go. It proposes that we look at ourselves as a "Church of Communion", even more specifically, as a "Community of Disciples". Such a Church asks that we all strive to be real and faithful followers of Christ - that is what discipleship means. But it also asks that we do so as community, and this demands that we all participate as responsible members of the community of faith that is the Church - and, indeed, taking "community" to embrace all levels of Church life. But when we do, we must participate as we are, as Filipinos, as bearers of our culture. And this means we necessarily have to bring our culture, our way of life as Filipinos, into our living of the faith, our following of Christ; we allow - rather, we make - that same faith to permeate our culture, to bring the values of Christ to bear on it, transforming our values into ever more authentic forms of themselves and correcting whatever is inauthentic about them. In this manner culturally participative living of the faith, the inculturation we have been talking of here will take place practically by itself and a truly local Church is built up.

6. A genuinely local Church is an "engaged" Church - a society-leavening Church. Above we spoke of a constellation of "emergent values" that have been strengthening in recent years in the life of the nation. A closer look at them - at the values of democracy, people power, people participation in political life, human rights, social justice, etc. - will bring out the fact that they are, by and large, the self same values that the social doctrine of the Church has been promoting and urging on us and all other people of goodwill. So we see in papal encyclicals and other documents that have been issued in recent years, especially since Vatican II, and in our own PCP II and its understanding of the preaching of a liberating message as part of the task of a renewed evangelization. (See Acts and Decrees of the PCP II, nn. 238 and following.) This is the reason we, the bishops of the Philippines as a Conference, have decided, in the run-up to the coming of the third Millennium, to issue this series of annual pastoral exhortations on what we see are crucial aspects of our life as a nation and as a Church.

7. But more than simply being engaged, a Church that takes seriously the task of inculturating itself must be above all a discerning Church - and at all levels, from top to bottom. This discerning spirit must be seen in its adaptation of liturgical practices to cultural demands, in its developing of indigenized theologies and spiritualities, in practical applications of Gospel morality to culturally weighted situations. Inculturation is not a once-and-for-all happening. It is a process, like culture itself, like the Christ-life too that is the end-result of inculturation, and hence the discernment that is integral to it must be on-going too - a never-ending process of faith-reflection on life and on the way of life that a culture is. We note here that the approach of this discerning mode is pretty much what Vatican II says about the need of a "signs-of-the-times" mode of theologizing and the reading of the signs of the times cannot be done without much prayer.

8. For this kind of discernment - for the work of inculturation as a whole, for that matter - the best vehicle available to us at his time in the pastoral work of the Church of the Philippines seems to be the basic ecclesial community or BEC or at least a BEC-type: Church or organization, society, movement, etc. Much of what has been said above about inculturation are already significant hallmarks of the more developed forms of BECs. Thus, the conscious attempt by a whole community at integrating faith and life, the facing up to social problems and the acting in concert on them, the participatory ethic which entails the involvement of not just the clergy and hierarchy but of the rank-and-file laity in the Church’s life and evangelizing mission, the painstaking "analysis of situation" and prayerful reflection that accompanies every community decision and action-these are all "standard operating procedures" in the conduct of BECs. In truth it can be said that BECs are the local Church writ small, but for all their smallness are nonetheless living models of how the larger Church should go if it is to go at all in the direction of fully inculturating her faith.

9. Needing special discernment in our communities in these times of great change is the place of women in our society. Earlier we noted how there is a basic equality between men and women in traditional Philippine culture - an equality that is quite unsurpassed by most other cultural traditions elsewhere in the world.

This egalitarian quality of our culture is something that is sometimes forgotten in the feminist call for greater equality. Yet, even as we note the high place of women in our society, we cannot but be greatly disturbed by its eroding under the impact of uncontrolled media and the exploitation of women not only in the sex trade but in the workplace as well. Female overseas contract workers (OCWs) come to mind especially, but so do many of their sisters right here in the Philippines. (Is rape on the rise or is this just an impression we get from media sensationalizing?). Their exploitation is often attributed to the bad economic situation of the country. Whatever its cause, we must discern on the problem and come up together with answers befitting our faith and culture.

Conclusion. One final point about the question of faith and cultures needs to be made here. When we come down to basics, we cannot avoid the conclusion that inculturation is really nothing more, nothing less, than a continuing dialogue between people of faith (the local Church) and the Holy Spirit. This is so not only because the discernment that we have been saying all along is of prime necessity in the process of inculturation requires contact with the Spirit for guidance and help in the same process; but even more basically because the very nature of culture and faith, the two poles in the inculturative process, demands it: Culture is the historic way of life of a people - it is their creation; faith, on the other hand, is the gratuitous gift of the Spirit - it is the creation of the Spirit of God. So, when we talk of inculturation as the putting together of faith and culture, we see immediately that the main actors in the process are - or should be - the people who own the culture and the Spirit who gives the faith. The implications of this little fact are many and deep. We propose only one further reflection: If the people and the Spirit are indeed the principal agents of inculturation, then the dialogue between them must by all means be promoted and greater trust be shown them in our ordinary pastoral approach and Church governance. A truly pneumatic Church - this is the call of the times and we see we can be such by simply becoming a fully inculturated Church.

In doing inculturation, we get in touch with the collective inner spirit of our people: our kalooban - as Tagalogs put it - our inner self, a high value in itself. And we do so not as individuals only but above all as a people, a community. But we do the same too with the Spirit of God, God’s kalooban. Inculturation, then, is this double and deepest interiority, God’s and ours, becoming one. With it, we come, in the innermost part of our cultural being, into Communion with the God head. If it is our continuing dialogue with the Spirit it is too our continuing Pentecost.

We pray that as Mary, our Mother, was with the Apostles at Pentecost she will be with us too in ours And we can go forth, renewed, to renew our nation, our world, our Church.

For the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines

President, CBCP
Tagaytay City, January 25, 1999

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Cette livraison de la Revue propose les parties les plus significatives de l’Exhortation publiée, le 25 janvier 1999, par La Conférence des Évêques Catholiques des Philippines sur l’aspect culturel de la vie du pays. Ce document cherche à répondre à un certain nombre de questions : en quelle mesure l’Évangile est-il devenu partie intégrante de notre façon de vivre ? Comment pouvons-nous le faire pénétrer plus profondément dans notre culture et dans nos valeurs ? Comment rendre nos valeurs plus conformes aux valeurs annoncées par le Christ, en mettant à profit nos contacts avec les autres ?

En este número presentamos las partes más importantes de la Exhortación de la Conferencia Episcopal Filipina sobre aspectos culturales de la vida del país, publicada el 25 de enero 1999. El documento busca respuesta a preguntas como ¿En qué medida se ha convertido el Evangelio en parte de nuestra vida? ¿Cómo hacemos que penetre más profundamente en nuestra cultura, que influencie nuestros valores? ¿Cómo conformamos éstos – nuestros valores – con los de Cristo en las relaciones mutuas?