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EVANGELIZAR LA CULTURA AL ALBA DEL SIGLO XXI

 

Madrid, Facultad de Teología “San Dámaso”
29 de mayo de 2001
 

Paul Card. POUPARD
Presidente del Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura

 

 

1.  Es para mí una verdadera alegría poder estar hoy con vosotros, compartiendo unos momentos de encuentro fraterno en vuestra joven facultad. Joven, pues hace sólo algunos años que el Estudio Teológico de San Dámaso fue elevado al rango de Facultad Teológica. Joven, sobre todo, por su claustro de profesores y por vosotros, queridos estudiantes, que hacéis de ella una de las facultades más numerosas de Europa, y la que cuenta actualmente con más seminaristas entre sus alumnos inscritos. La juventud es más una propiedad del espíritu que un dato biológico. Conservad, pues, siempre, la frescura y el entusiasmo de la juventud en vuestras aulas, el deseo de crecer y de aspirar siempre a más, y de no contentaros con resultados mezquinos y convencionales.

Me alegra también venir a vosotros como representante de un Dicasterio de la Santa Sede, estrechando así los lazos que vuestra Facultad ha mantenido desde el comienzo con la Sede de Pedro. No podía ser de otra manera, llevando el nombre de un papa español, el papa Dámaso, oriundo de la Carpetania, aquella zona situada a caballo entre las hermosas montañas del Guadarrama y el valle del Tajo, donde habitaban los madrileños de hace dos mil años. Dámaso, un madrileño universal, pastor y hombre de cultura, realiza en su vida una síntesis armónica entre la fe y la cultura de su época, que todo teólogo está llamado a reproducir.

 

2.  Este vínculo con la Sede romana que habéis querido estrechar desde vuestro nacimiento, constituye un rasgo característico de la Iglesia en España, y, adecuadamente cultivado, una fuente de permanente fecundidad para vuestro quehacer teológico y para vuestra obra evangelizadora. Acaso una reminiscencia de la devotio ibérica con que los primitivos pobladores de estas tierras se vinculaban a sus jefes, este rasgo atávico del cristianismo español ha sido tradicionalmente garantía de su fecundidad apostólica. Domingo de Guzmán, Ignacio de Loyola, Juan de Ávila, Antonio Claret, iniciadores de grandes movimientos evangelizadores en la Iglesia han hecho siempre gala de un sentimiento de especial cercanía a la Iglesia Romana. En el orden de la reflexión teológica, la unión a la Sede de Pedro y a su Magisterio, es garantía de apertura a una plena catolicidad, y antídoto contra un reduccionismo provinciano y asfixiante. En consonancia con vuestra más genuina tradición, una teología auténticamente española ha de ser una teología genuinamente católica y universal. Así lo recordaba el papa Juan Pablo II a los hombres y mujeres de cultura de España durante su primera visita, hace ahora casi veinte años, en el Paraninfo de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid:

Se nota también en la tradición intelectual de vuestra nación la apertura a lo universal que ha dado reputación y fama a vuestros maestros... Tanto dentro como fuera de sus fronteras, España se ha hecho a sí misma acogiendo la universalidad del Evangelio y las grandes corrientes culturales de Europa y del mundo1.

Es una característica que con mayor razón si cabe, tiene validez para la tarea del teólogo en la Iglesia.

 

3.  En aquel histórico discurso, Juan Pablo II, tomando unas palabras de la carta autógrafa con la que hacía unos meses había creado el Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura, lanzó un desafío a la Iglesia española, que es de especial aplicación para vosotros, profesores y alumnos de teología. Decía Juan Pablo II:

La síntesis entre cultura y fe no es sólo una exigencia de la cultura, sino también de la fe... Una fe que no se hace cultura es una fe no plenamente acogida, no totalmente pensada, no fielmente vivida2.

Cuando leí por primera vez esta frase en el documento fundacional del Consejo de la Cultura, me llamó la atención la radicalidad con que el Santo Padre caracterizaba la exigencia de esta síntesis, que constituye todo un programa para una Facultad de Teología. La teología es intellectus fidei, la fe que busca entender. Si la tarea y la reflexión teológicas no logran una síntesis armónica con la cultura, están faltando a su vocación específica en la Iglesia.

Esta síntesis entre la fe y la cultura constituye hoy el desafío más apremiante que tiene planteada la Iglesia del tercer milenio en los países de antigua cristiandad. El teólogo canadiense Bernard Lonergan afirmó que la misión de la teología era establecer “una mediación entre una matriz cultural y el significado y papel de la religión en dicha matriz”3. En un contexto cultural sometido a importantes cambios, en medio de una revolución tecnológica y social de incalculables consecuencias, a la teología le corresponde la doble tarea de conservar el depósito de la fe, y de buscar caminos de mediación con un ambiente cultural que desconoce o no entiende las categorías del lenguaje teológico. El laboratorio donde se ha de forjar esta nueva síntesis, el corazón del diálogo con la cultura de nuestro tiempo, es precisamente la Facultad de Teología.

 

4.  Tenemos ante nosotros el desafío de la evangelización de la cultura, es decir, de las categorías de pensamiento, de los valores y juicios, modos de comportamiento y de acción de esta sociedad. Esta evangelización de la cultura, que es una verdadera y propia inculturación del Evangelio en la cultura contemporánea, no podrá hacerse sino a la luz de los tres grandes misterios de salvación, como recoge el documento del Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura: Encarnación, Pascua y Pentecostés4.

En virtud del misterio de la encarnación, la fe imitando la synkatábasis o condescendencia divina, se abaja y acomoda al lenguaje y la cultura de los hombres que busca salvar. Como toda realidad humana, la cultura ha de ser puesta bajo el signo del Misterio Pascual de Cristo, sepultada con él en su muerte, despojada de aquellos elementos que desfiguran la imagen del Creador, para resurgir a una nueva dimensión. Finalmente, por el misterio de Pentecostés, la cultura se abre a la acción del Espíritu Santo, de modo que todos los hombres puedan escuchar, cada uno en su lengua, las maravillas de Dios5.

Se trata de una tarea delicada y paciente, cuyo paradigma permanente es la labor que realizaron los Padres de la Iglesia para evangelizar la cultura de su tiempo6. Consiste en identificar, con una mirada cargada de fe y profunda humanidad, las esperanzas y deseos de la cultura contemporánea, en buscar puntos de anclaje para el anuncio del Evangelio, discerniendo con amorosa paciencia, cuanto de bueno hay en las obras de los hombres. Es necesario para ello superar la doble tentación, por una parte, del apocalipticismo que ve en nuestra cultura únicamente signos de muerte y destrucción, y vuelve su mirada nostálgica a un pasado que ya no existe. Y por otra, la tentación del gnosticismo, la rendición incondicional a la cultura actual y sus categorías de pensamiento y de juicio, que reduce el Evangelio a una función puramente simbólica, privándolo de su capacidad para ser sal y luz. El teólogo ha de moverse entre estos dos escollos formidables, adoptando frente a la cultura que lo rodea, en la que él mismo vive y respira, una simpatía crítica, una actitud de búsqueda de las semillas de la verdad en los comportamientos y valores de la sociedad, teniendo el coraje y la valentía para denunciar toda forma de mentira y de manipulación del hombre, todo aquello que atenta contra su dignidad.

 

5.  La misión del teólogo y del pastor, de todo cristiano comprometido en la evangelización consiste, en último término, en colmar el abismo existente entre la fe y la cultura, una ruptura que Pablo VI calificó de dramática. Sería largo de explicar, y no es este el lugar ni el momento, por qué se ha producido tal ruptura. Habría que remontarse a los orígenes de la modernidad y al proyecto de la razón de construirse autónomamente, que la ha llevado a recorrer, como dice Juan Pablo II en Fides et Ratio, caminos equivocados. La modernidad europea, que se había concebido a sí misma como antagonista de la Iglesia, se descubre, al cabo de la parábola de la modernidad, exhausta y sin fuerzas, maltrecha y malherida, abandonada a ese vagabundeo metafísico que llamamos el pensamiento débil.

No toda la culpa, sin embargo, se ha de atribuir al desarrollo de la cultura contemporánea occidental. Hemos de hacer un serio examen de conciencia, prolongando la revisión a que ha invitado Juan Pablo II con motivo del año jubilar, acerca de la actitud con que muchos hombres de Iglesia han mirado la modernidad. Es cierto que la cultura contemporánea se ha alejado de la Iglesia, pero acaso sea cierto también que hemos vuelto la espalda a la cultura contemporánea, apaleada por los maestros de la sospecha, y abandonada maltrecha al borde del camino. El gran poeta inglés T. S. Elliot, con intuición genial se preguntaba: ¿Es la Iglesia quien ha abandonado al mundo, o es la humanidad la que ha abandonado la Iglesia?7

 

6.  En este contexto familiar en que estamos, al hablar de la trágica ruptura entre la fe y la cultura, que en España ha adquirido proporciones dramáticas, quisiera ahondar con vosotros brevemente en un aspecto fundamental.

Olegario González de Cardedal, consultor del Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura en años pasados, ha escrito algunas reflexiones que ilustran el divorcio entre la fe y la cultura en España. “La Iglesia, –escribe–, está sufriendo un desfondamiento intelectual en España. Ha realizado acciones admirables en el campo de la marginación, de la atención a grupos estigmatizados socialmente, a pobres y enfermos, pero ha abandonado el campo de la cultura y de la creación literaria... Las minorías culturales disidentes del país han subido sus niveles culturales, mientras que la Iglesia parece haberlos bajado”8. Sólo así se explica que un país mayoritariamente católico, cuya Iglesia aún da frutos de sorprendente vitalidad, de la cual sois prueba vosotros, seminaristas, religiosos y religiosas, y los casi 30.000 misioneros españoles dispersos por el mundo, no cuente con una adecuada presencia en el campo intelectual, artístico e intelectual.

Esta deserción de la Iglesia de los ámbitos de creación o trasmisión de la cultura tiene en los Seminarios y Facultades de Teología una de sus raíces. González de Cardedal continuaba afirmando que “los nuevos seminarios han cuidado la formación espiritual en un sentido y pastoral en otro, pero casi todos han descuidado, cuando no despreciado, la formación intelectual”9. La mentalidad pastoralista de los años sesenta y setenta, que otorgaba a la praxis la primacía sobre la teoría, sospechosa de servilismo a la ideología burguesa, dejaba poco lugar para el esfuerzo intelectual serio en los seminarios. Ha seguido en los años ochenta y noventa una formación que acaso privilegia la dimensión espiritual del futuro presbítero, pero descuida igualmente la preparación intelectual que lo capacite para el diálogo con el mundo moderno. Vosotros sabéis mejor que yo cuán difícil es lograr un equilibrio armónico entre las diferentes facetas de la formación sacerdotal, la justa proporción entre vida interior y acción exterior, entre estudio profundo y conocimiento real del mundo en que vivimos. Pero es precisamente con vistas a la nueva evangelización por lo que es necesario retomar con decisión la formación intelectual. Sin pastoral de la inteligencia, me decía Juan Pablo II hace algún tiempo, no hay pastoral posible.

 

7.  Este rearme intelectual que precisa la Iglesia, uno de cuyos focos ha de ser necesariamente la Facultad de Teología, no significa aumentar las materias del curriculum vitae, ni tampoco dedicar más horas al estudio a expensas de otros aspectos de la formación. Se trata más bien de imbuir de un espíritu nuevo el ejercicio de la teología: una teología más rigurosa en sus fundamentos y más sensible a sus destinatarios; una inmersión real en la cultura que nos circunda, abierta a todos los aspectos de la cultura humana. La teología no puede quedar prisionera de la hiperespecialización que aflige la enseñanza universitaria. Más que ninguna otra facultad ha de vivir la pasión por todos los ámbitos del saber humano, pues nada humano le es ajeno. El estudio en la Facultad de Teología tiene que orientarse hacia la cultura humana como la definía Ionesco, hacia “el drama de la existencia, hacia la tragedia humana, hacia el problema de los fines últimos”10.

Permitidme por eso que pase revista junto con vosotros a algunos de los campos en los que creo que es más urgente una acción incisiva de la Iglesia con vistas a una evangelización de la cultura.

– Está, en primer lugar, el diálogo con el mundo del arte y de la cultura. El inmenso patrimonio artístico de la Iglesia en España no puede permanecer como una reliquia del pasado. Es necesario seguir invirtiendo en arte, seguir creando. Por ello, en su Carta a los artistas, Juan Pablo II ha afirmado que la Iglesia tiene necesidad del arte11. Paralelamente se preguntaba si el arte tiene necesidad de la Iglesia. Podría parecer que no. Y sin embargo, el arte, cuando es verdadero, no puede renunciar a la nostalgia de Dios inscrita en el corazón del hombre. Lo sagrado es siempre un desafío para el artista, quien experimenta ante el misterio de lo trascendente el deseo de medirse con los grandes interrogantes de la existencia humana. La Iglesia, custodia del Misterio, rescata el arte de la tentación de la banalidad. Sin embargo, no podrá instaurarse un diálogo fecundo entre la Iglesia y los artistas, si faltan sacerdotes y agentes de pastoral capacitados para ejercer su labor en un ambiente que tiene exigencias particularidades de sensibilidad y belleza. Los artistas tienen que sentirse acogidos en la Iglesia, y no mirados con sospecha, como una categoría peligrosa o extraña.

– En segundo lugar, no podemos olvidar el diálogo con la cultura científica y tecnológica, que adquiere un relieve cada vez mayor en nuestro tiempo e impregna todas las dimensiones de la cultura y de la vida cotidiana. Es un campo donde los progresos se suceden a ritmo vertiginoso. Tan sólo en lo que llevamos de año, el mundo científico ha conocido sensacionales descubrimientos que afectarán profundamente la vida del hombre en los próximos años: el desciframiento completo del genoma humano, llevado a cabo por F. Collins y C. Venter; el experimento de L. Hau que logrado detener la luz; el descubrimiento, gracias al telescopio Hubble, de la aceleración de las galaxias, y la hipótesis de la fuerza antigravitacional. Son descubrimientos que están obligando a revisar nuestras teorías acerca del origen y la expansión del universo, acerca de la vida. El teólogo no puede permanecer ajeno al progreso científico y tecnológico. Ha de escrutar con ojo atento las nuevas teorías y propuestas, no sólo para formar un juicio ético acerca de su aplicación, como es obvio en el campo de la biogenética, sino para reflexionar acerca de las implicaciones metafísicas y teológicas que tales teorías comportan. La antropología teológica, la escatología, y otras disciplinas teológicas ¿cómo podrán ignorar los datos que continuamente aporta la biología acerca del origen del hombre y de su constitución? ¿Cómo prescindir de las teorías acerca del origen y expansión del universo a la hora de reflexionar acerca del destino de la creación? Sólo así se podrá instaurar un diálogo fecundo entre la ciencia y la teología, partiendo de dos líneas convergentes: de una parte teólogos con formación científica y de otra científicos con conocimientos de metafísica y teología.

– Un tercer campo de actuación es la pastoral universitaria, lugar por excelencia de evangelización de la cultura. Un trabajo pastoral en la universidad que sea específicamente universitario, y no una simple prolongación de la pastoral juvenil, realizada en la universidad. Esto significa acometer el diálogo fe-razón en el lugar mismo donde se crea y se transmite la cultura. La archidiócesis de Madrid, junto con las diócesis de Alcalá y Getafe, cuenta con cerca de 15 universidades, entre públicas y privadas, donde estudia casi un cuarto de millón de alumnos. Se trata de un potencial elevadísimo que la Iglesia no puede descuidar en su atención pastoral. Sé que, gracias a Dios, la archidiócesis madrileña cuenta con un nutrido grupo de capellanes universitarios, casi 30, que desarrollan una excelente labor. Es un trabajo apasionante, distinto de la actividad ordinaria en una parroquia, pero no menos pastoral. Es la pastoral de la inteligencia, tan necesaria como otras tareas pastorales, y acaso aún más importante, pues su influencia sobre la cultura alcanza a toda la sociedad. Los futuros capellanes universitarios, quienes habrán de entablar el diálogo fe-razón en la Universidad con los profesores y alumnos, han de salir de aquí.

Son sólo tres campos en los que me parece urgente la actuación de personas bien preparadas, que puedan llevar a cabo un diálogo con la cultura de nuestro tiempo.

 

8.  No se trata de una pastoral de lujo, dirigida a ciertas élites, de la que, en el fondo, podría prescindirse. La evangelización de la cultura es una tarea insoslayable, pues es en la cultura donde se juega el destino de la humanidad, como recordó Juan Pablo II en la primera Asamblea Plenaria del Colegio Cardenalicio. Del mismo modo que la preocupación por el medio ambiente y el desarrollo sostenible ha pasado a ser una prioridad en la acción de gobierno de numerosos países, para nosotros es necesario emprender una actuación urgente para sanear el medio ambiente cultural en que vivimos y respiramos. No hay nadie tan ciego que no se dé cuenta de que el aire que respiramos está fuertemente contaminado. Son los disvalores de nuestra sociedad: el individualismo, el relativismo, el hedonismo, en medio de los cuales el cristiano desarrolla su existencia sometido a constante presión. Se trata, pues, de transformar, a la luz de Cristo, la cultura en que vivimos para convertirla en un espacio habitable y respirable. No se trata de destruir, sino de purificar. La historia no da marcha atrás, y es ilusorio engañarse pensando en la restauración de una cultura pretérita. Nuestra tarea consiste en anunciar el Evangelio de Jesucristo, válido para todos los hombres en todas las culturas, en el ambiente cultural en que los hombres y mujeres de nuestro tiempo desarrollan su vida, dando lugar a nuevas expresiones culturales de la fe, vivificadas por la tradición permanente de la Iglesia. “La Iglesia pasa continuamente a los bárbaros” decía el Beato Federico Ozanam, “Cuántos lugares insignes del paganismo se convirtieron en espacios de oración cristiana, sobre cuántos capiteles cortados del templo antiguo se vio florecer otro acanto!”12. La Iglesia pasa también hoy a los bárbaros de la postmodernidad, como tuve ocasión de decir ayer en la conferencia pronunciada en la Sede de la FUE, sin nostalgias de tiempos pasados, ni acomodaciones al espíritu de los tiempos. Ya se sabe: quien se desposa con el espíritu de los tiempos, pronto quedará viudo.

 

9.  Queridos amigos profesores y alumnos de esta Facultad de Teología. Os he lanzado un reto, convencido como estoy de que en vuestra joven facultad bulle el deseo de lanzarse a nuevas empresas de evangelización, sin descuidar ningún ámbito humano. Lo he hecho con la certeza de que estas palabras mías hallarán eco entre vosotros y que responderéis con generosidad a la urgencia de los tiempos. En esta tarea, el Espíritu Santo abre caminos nuevos al Evangelio y guía a los discípulos hacia metas de evangelización siempre nuevas, impidiéndoles dormirse sobre el trabajo realizado. Recordad aquélla palabras del Concilio Vaticano II que me gusta repetir: “el futuro será de aquellos que sepan ofrecer a las generaciones venideras razones para esperar”. Ofreced a los hombres y mujeres de nuestro tiempo la única razón para esperar que desafía la fragilidad humana: aquélla que Jesucristo resucitado ofrece al mundo.

*  *  *

In a talk he gave at the “San Dámaso” Theology Faculty in Madrid, Cardinal Paul Poupard drew attention to the tragic split between faith and culture, and stressed that the mission of a Theology Faculty is to be right at the heart of the dialogue with today’s culture. This means that a fresh spirit needs to permeate teaching: a theology that is more aware of the people to whom it is addressed, and totally immersed in its cultural environment. He pointed to three areas of great importance for the evangelisation of culture: 1. the dialogue with the world of art and culture; 2. the dialogue with scientific and technological culture; 3. university chaplaincy work.

Dans son discours à la Faculté de théologie « San Dámaso » de Madrid, le Cardinal Paul Poupard dénonce la rupture tragique entre la foi et la culture, et souligne la mission de la Faculté de théologie au cœur du dialogue avec la culture d’aujourd’hui. Pour mieux y répondre, elle se doit de renouveler son enseignement, et être plus sensible à ses destinataires en tenant compte de la culture ambiante. Le Cardinal a indiqué trois domaines cruciaux de l’évangélisation des cultures : 1. Le dialogue avec le monde de l’art et de la culture ; 2. Le dialogue avec la culture scientifique ; 3. La pastorale universitaire.

Parlando alla Facoltà di Teologia “San Dámaso” di Madrid, il Cardinale Paul Poupard ha richiamato l’attenzione sulla tragica rottura tra la fede e la cultura, sottolineando che la missione delle Facoltà di Teologia è stare al centro del dialogo con la cultura di oggi. Questo significa permeare l’insegnamento con un nuovo spirito: una teologia più sensibile verso i suoi destinatari, un’immersione reale nella cultura che la circonda. Il Cardinale ha indicato tre aree di grande importanza per l’evangelizzazione della cultura: 1. il dialogo con il mondo dell’arte e della cultura, 2. il dialogo con la cultura scientifica e tecnologica e 3. la pastorale universitaria.


1 Juan Pablo II, Discurso a los representantes del mundo universitario, académico y de la investigación. Madrid, 3 nov. 1982. Insegnamenti V/3, 1097.

2 Juan Pablo II, ibid. 1095.

3 B. Lonergan, Method in Theology, London 1972, XI. Cfr. M. P. Gallagher, Clashing Symbols. An Introduction to Faith and Culture, London 1997.

4 P. Poupard, Iglesia y culturas. Orientación para una pastoral de la Inteligencia, Edicep, Valencia, 1988.

5 Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura, Para una pastoral de la cultura, Ciudad del Vaticano 1999.

6 P. Poupard, Los Padres de la Iglesia: actualidad de una inculturación, en Ramos-Lissón, ed., El diálogo fe-cultura en la antigüedad cristiana, Pamplona 1996, 27-46.

7 “Has the Church failed mankind, or has mankind failed the Church?” T. S. Eliot (888-1965), Choruses from “The Rock” (1934), VII.

8 O. González de Cardedal, La Iglesia en España 1950-2000, Madrid 1999. Cfr. Una misión irrenunciable, Alfa y Omega, nº 174, 15-7-1999, 27.

9 O. González de Cardedal, ibid., p. 27.

10 La culture contre la culture, cit. en P. Poupard, Iglesia y culturas. Orientación para una pastoral de la Inteligencia, Valencia 1988, p. 15.

11 Juan Pablo II, Carta a los artistas, Ciudad del Vaticano 1999.

12 Cit. en P. Poupard, Iglesia y cultura, in Iglesia y culturas. Orientación para una pastoral de la Inteligencia, Edicep, Valencia, 1988, 15.

 

 

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LE CHANT SACRÉ DANS L’ÉGLISE CATHOLIQUE
DE CÔTE D’IVOIRE : OMBRES ET LUMIÈRES

 

Mgr Joseph AKÉ
Évêque auxiliaire d’Abidjan

 

 

Mgr Joseph Aké a rencontré les chorales du diocèse d’Abidjan le 1er décembre 2001, au Centre culturel de la cathédrale. Voici des extraits de son intervention.

 

Évêques, prêtres, maîtres de chœur, choristes, liturgistes, simples fidèles, nombreux sont ceux qui ont désiré une rencontre pour réfléchir à l’animation liturgique, et plus particulièrement aux chants qui sont exécutés au cours du culte. La manière dont ils sont exécutés, la formation et l’encadrement des différents intervenants (maîtres de chœur, choristes), le contenu des chants, leur portée théologique, leur valeur esthétique…, tout ceci conduit à cette importante question : nos chants permettent-ils d’atteindre les objectifs que tout fidè1e en attend quand il se rend à une célébration liturgique ?

 

Des lumières ou éléments positifs

Très tôt, la musique religieuse en Côte d’Ivoire s’est appuyée sur la compétence des grands séminaristes et prêtres d’alors pour se développer. Prêtres et grands séminaristes n’ont pas hésité à se lancer dans le recueil des airs de chez nous, transcrits et harmonisés pour l’animation liturgique. Certains de ces chants ont été traduits en diverses langues. Ils ont su imprimer un air d’africanité à des ordinaires latins : Messe des Lagunes, Messe Golly, du Père Michel Pango, les Messes de Beugré Gahi, Charles Mondah, Richard Anou, Jean-Baptiste Akwadan…

Je regrette que de nombreuses et belles oeuvres dont ils sont les auteurs restent inconnues de la plupart des maîtres de chœur et choristes. Elles sont rarement programmées dans nos célébrations. Est-ce, peut-être, parce que nous n’avons pas à notre disposition les partitions ?

Ce travail dans nos séminaires a été prolongé par les commissions nationale et diocésaines du chant sacré, commissions voulues et instituées par nos Évêques, et dont les objectifs essentiels sont les suivants : la critique des chants au niveau des paroles, de la mélodie, de l’harmonisation, de la transcription et du contenu théologique ; la numérotation et la diffusion du chant approuvé ; ensuite la formation musicale et liturgique des maîtres de chœur et choristes.

Le privilège, naguère détenu par les séminaristes et les prêtres parce qu’ayant bénéficié d’une solide formation musicale, s’est de nos jours étendu à un nombre beaucoup plus important de maîtres de chœur et de choristes à cause de l’Institut des Arts, du nombre croissant de ceux qui s’intéressent à la musique et qui en ont fait leur profession.

Chaque chorale a son répertoire, son ou ses choristes à la voix d’or, à la voix envoûtante. De nombreux compositeurs s’affirment : les bons et les moins bons se chevauchent ; des organistes et autres instrumentistes (guitaristes, batteurs, trompettistes…) se forment au s’initient au maniement et à la maîtrise de ces instruments dont la grande majorité nous vient de l’Occident. Les instruments de chez nous ne sont pas en reste. L’essentiel est de savoir les intégrer à cet ensemble pour en faire un tout harmonieux.

Il n’est pas rare, non plus, d’entendre en dehors du territoire ivoirien, au Sénégal, au Bénin, au Togo… les compositions ivoiriennes. C’est dire que la musique religieuse catholique ivoirienne attire aussi, se vend bien à l’extérieur, pour emprunter le langage des hommes d’affaires.

La production de cassettes, moyen efficace de diffusion des chants, mais aussi d’animation des veillées de prière, est chose courante aujourd’hui. Chaque chorale a ses cassettes qui se vendent plus au moins bien. Les individus ne sont pas en reste. De toute évidence, si on relève tant d’engouement, c’est que cette entreprise génère des fonds non négligeables.

Notons également un élément non moins important, que l’on ne peut passer sous silence : l’exécution, dans toutes les églises, de chants composés dans nos langues : il y a environ vingt ans, c’était chose impensable. Le chant en langue se localisait au niveau du groupe ethnique qui pratiquait et comprenait cette langue (l’exemple des grands séminaristes, avec leur recteur, l’Abbé Paul Dacoury). Aujourd’hui, du Nord au Sud, de l’Est à l’Ouest de la Côte d’Ivoire, on chante en akyé, en ébrié, en adjoukrou, baoulé, abbey, apolo, bété, koulango…

 

Des zones d’ombre

Force est de reconnaître aujourd’hui que la musique religieuse catholique ivoirienne est confrontée à des difficultés qui l’empêchent de jouer le rôle que lui assigne la liturgie. Cette situation de fait est la conséquence de l’inexistence de la commission nationale, ou au moins diocésaine, de chant sacré pour contrôler les nouvelles compositions et veiller à leur diffusion.

Ainsi, chacun se sert là où il peut, en se fiant davantage au rythme qu’au contenu théologique des paroles chantées. Vous connaissez ce chant : « Voici que je me tiens à la porte et je frappe, si quelqu’un entend ma voix, s’il m’ouvre, j’entrerai chez lui, je prendrai mon repas avec lui et lui avec moi ». Cet extrait d’Ap 3,20 rappelle les paroles de Jésus en Lc 22,29-30 et Jn 14,23. Ces paroles sont du Christ, et renvoient au Christ. Or les couplets de ce chant s’adressent non pas au Christ, mais à l’Esprit Saint. Ils sont extraits de l’hymne que nous propose la liturgie des heures, le soir du dimanche de la Pentecôte : « Ouvrez vos cœurs au souffle de Dieu. Sa vie se greffe aux âmes qu’il touche ; qu’un peuple nouveau renaisse des eaux où plane l’Esprit de vos baptêmes. Ouvrons nos cœurs au souffle de Dieu, car il respire en notre bouche, plus que nous-mêmes ». L’auteur a sans doute voulu associer ce refrain et ces couplets à cause du verbe « ouvrir ». Est-ce suffisant pour rapprocher les deux textes qui ne développent pas le même thème ?

Les lacunes en connaissances liturgiques sont nombreuses. Dans la prière universelle, par exemple, les intentions peuvent être adressées soit au Père, soit au Fils. Le refrain doit respecter cette orientation, qui revient dans la prière conclusive. Quelquefois, des refrains s’adressent au saint patron de la paroisse.

L’introduction des chants protestants dans la liturgie catholique est un frein à la recherche, à l’inspiration et à l’exploitation de notre patrimoine. Cela conduit, lentement mais sûrement, à la paresse. Cela tarit notre imagination et notre esprit de créativité. Il y a quelques années, c’étaient les airs ghanéens qui polarisaient les compositeurs et maîtres de chœur.

Aujourd’hui, à la télévision, tout comme durant le culte, toutes les chorales (catholiques, protestantes, Assemblées de Dieu, Église du Messianisme, harristes, Chrétiens célestes…) rivalisent en pas de danses et scènes mimiques, y compris le maître de chœur. On ne sait plus quel rôle il joue dans la chorale. Est-il là pour diriger, c’est-à-dire donner une âme au chant exécuté, ou bien pour s’exhiber ?

Enfin, la production des cassettes accentue désormais le caractère commercial de l’œuvre des chorales : l’engouement qu’elle suscite se justifie bien. On peut ajouter à cette liste les querelles, les conflits et rivalités entretenus au sein de nos chorales, les empêchant d’être le lieu où l’on vit l’évangile.

Ce regard ne prétend pas embrasser tous les problèmes inhérents à nos chorales : nos échanges nous permettront de compléter le tableau.

Pour l’heure, il convient de reposer la question initiale : que faire pour permettre au chant liturgique d’assurer ses fonctions primordiales, à savoir glorifier Dieu et aider à la sanctification de l’homme ?

 

(publié dans : « Rencontre. Revue des prêtes, religieux et religieuses de Côte d’Ivoire », N. 264 janvier-février 2002, p. 10-12)

 

*  *  *

Bishop Joseph Aké, the auxiliary of Abidjan, had a meeting with the diocesan choirs at the cultural centre attached to Abidjan cathedral. Here we publish excerpts from his talk on Liturgical Music in the Catholic Church in Ivory Coast: Darkness and Light. Amongst the positive elements he mentions are Mass settings adapted from Latin for an African context, as well as a growing number of songs in local languages. On the other hand, he indicates some weak points, and expresses the hope that sacred music will answer its call to glorify God and help people in their search for holiness.

Il vescovo ausiliare d’Abidjan, Mons. Joseph Aké, ha incontrato i cori della diocesi d’Abidjan presso il centro culturale della cattedrale. Pubblichiamo estratti del suo discorso su Il canto sacro della Chiesa cattolica in Costa d’Avorio: ombre e luci. Tra gli elementi positivi Mons. Aké ricorda l’ordinario della Messa latina, inculturato nel contesto dell’africanità, nonché i canti, in numero crescente, nelle lingue locali. Indica anche alcune carenze, augurandosi che il canto sacro raggiunga il suo scopo: glorificare Dio e aiutare l’uomo nella sua santificazione.

El obispo Auxiliar de Abidjan, Monseñor Joseph Aké, tuvo un encuentro con los coros de la diócesis de Abidjan en el Centro cultural de la Catedral. Publicamos apartes de su discurso sobre El canto sagrado de la Iglesia Católica en Costa de Avorio: sombras y luz. Entre los elementos positivos recuerda los comunes de la misa latina, inculturados en el contexto de la africanidad, así como los cantos, de creciente número, en las lenguas locales. Por otra parte, indica algunos vacíos, deseando que el canto sagrado cumpla con su vocación: glorificar a Dios y ayudar al hombre en su santificación.

 

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RELIGION AND CULTURE
Dialogue in a Secular Society

 

P. Joseph ELLUL O.P.
Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome

 

 

In 1981 the British moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre published a book entitled After Virtue. In his introduction he began by presenting a harrowing allegorical account of the breakdown of moral language in modern Western civilization:

 

“Imagine that the natural sciences were to suffer the effects of a catastrophe. A series of environmental disasters are blamed by the general public on the scientists. Widespread riots occur, laboratories are burnt down, physicists are lynched, books and instruments are destroyed. Finally a Know-Nothing political movement takes power and successfully abolishes science teaching in schools and universities, imprisoning and executing remaining scientists. Later there is a reaction against this destructive movement and enlightened people seek to revive science, although they have largely forgotten what it was. But all that they possess are fragments: a knowledge of the theoretical context which gave them significance; parts of theories unrelated either to the other bits and pieces of theory which they possess or to experiment; instruments whose use has been forgotten; half-chapters from books, single pages from articles, not always fully legible because torn and charred. Nonetheless all these fragments are re-embodied in a set of practices which go under the revived names of physics, chemistry and biology… Nobody, or almost nobody, realizes that what they are doing is not natural science in any proper sense at all. For everything that they do and say conforms to certain canons of consistency and coherence and those contexts which would be needed to make sense of what they are doing have been lost, perhaps irretrievably”.1

 

According to MacIntyre what had happened in the vast economic and intellectual changes of the past two centuries, in the wake of the Enlightenment, was the collapse of a stable social order in which the individual found meaning in the context of a community and its traditions. The so-called “Enlightenment project” was the search for a morality independent of revelation, based, in other words, on reason and human nature alone. What we have today are thus mere fragments of a once unified and unifying moral discourse. After Virtue ends on an apocalyptic note. Drawing a comparison between our times and the era in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages MacIntyre states that the only hope for the future lies in the construction of new forms of community in the same way that a new civilization rises from the ashes after the barbarians have invaded.

 

“What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time… We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.”2

 

But does Western civilization and culture indeed find itself in this predicament? Has the process of secularization, which began to gain momentum two centuries ago, reduced modern society to such a state of fragmentation? In order to answer this question let me begin with a few preliminary observations.

 

Secularization and the secular society

We are witnessing today an ongoing emancipation, a process in which the various spheres of existence political, social, and cultural are becoming increasingly independent from the experience of institutionalized religion. There is, therefore, neither a dominant authority nor a dominant ideology. Rather there are only but autonomous authorities, each self-sufficient in its own field. The century that we have just left behind saw the rise and fall of secular absolutism embodied in fascism and communism. This has given way to a secularized culture that is multiple, heterogenous and typically antitotalitarian.

It is no longer possible to achieve a hierarchy of knowledge in a unified authoritative system. Every fragment of knowledge, every approach to reality, is dependent on its own norms. From this perspective a religion that would claim to impose its dictates on the whole of politics, social and cultural life, would appear as intolerably repressive.3

What was once described as the tyranny of the majority has now yielded to the relativization or neutralization of virtues. In their place utilitarian values have been substituted, so that, for example, high finance and the economy become the basis of ethics. The myth of the state has now been replaced by a frantic search for, and exploration of myths, not only in their cultural role but also in their inherent meaning. It appears that today’s generation is striving to discover what preceding ones sought to forget. Blind faith in science is now being put into question. Technology, cybernetics, digitalization, and bioethics now live side by side with a belief in the paranormal and the rise and spread of pseudo-eastern and human potential cults with their ready-made formulas of do-it-yourself personal realization. The virtual is replacing the real as we become more isolated and immersed in the world of computerization. The social theorist Jean Baudrillard sums up the situation in these terms:

 

“Today the whole system is swamped by indeterminacy, and every reality is absorbed by the hyperreality of the code and simulation. The principle of simulation governs us now, rather than the outdated reality principle. We feed on those forms whose finalities have disappeared. No more ideology, only simulacra.”4

 

Our modern world is therefore essentially self-critical, forever uncertain of its foundations as well as of its achievements, always in a state of ferment, compounded by incongruous elements that are both a source of tension and the secret of its conquering strength. As humanity we have succeeded in reaching the outer regions of the solar system but we have not even begun to explore the innermost desires of the human soul.

However, in contrast to what has been believed by both secular and religious authors for the past one hundred and fifty years Jean-Marie Lustiger, Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, has surprisingly pointed out:

 

“this crisis of secularism and rationalism, in brief this crisis of modernity is an inner crisis of Christianity; it is a crisis of faith in the collective and cultural meaning. Indeed, atheism, however paradoxically it may seem, is the fruit of belief, not as its dialectical opposite, but as a trial of faith. Scientific development is a trial of the development of faith in creation… The rationalist is a tried believer, the Western atheist is a tried believer… The crisis of our century, to the extent that it draws its sustenance from the triumph of the West, is a collective crisis of Christianity itself… The rationalist crisis of the West is the crisis of reason that was freed by revelation. Therefore the key issue of modern civilization is the problem of God: it is in fact the only problem! Let us not forget that to pose the problem of God amounts to posing the problem of humanity, which is another way of saying the same thing”.5

 

The religious impulse, the quest for meaning that transcends the restricted space of empirical existence in this world, has been a perennial feature of humanity. It would require something tantamount to a mutation of the human species in order to extinguish it. Europe, whose societies are considered to be among the most secularized, is one case in point. We must not lose sight of the fact that Europe produced the apparatus of thought, of action, and of social living which have now been adopted by the whole world. Christianity had a part in their production. It is true that sometimes this apparatus has turned against Christianity or has proved to be bad, but it is nonetheless a product of Christianity. The diseases of the soul from which Europe suffers have something specifically Christian about them, at least in their origins. All nations have their idols.

At the centre of this idol worship lies a failure of faith. Only a rediscovery of the Christian meaning of being human can enable Europe to cope with a modern way of thinking which is the product of Christianity. Likewise, only a rediscovery of the religious roots of a society can enable that society to confront reality and find courage to face the future with hope. In the European context secularism is not a denial of God. It is the way an incarnate God challenges the clouded conscience of a believer. But the problems which were once confined to Europe have now been magnified to the scale of the whole planet and the whole of humanity. A further complication is the fact that other living cultural traditions have either reacted against the influence of European culture or else have assimilated it.6

In the final analysis, modern non-religious man leads a tragic existence, and his existential choice is not without its greatness. But this non-religious man is a direct descendant of the homo religiosus and, whether he cares to admit it or not, he is also the product of religious man: his formation and present state begins with the situations assumed by his believing ancestors. He is, therefore, the end result of a process of a desacralization of human existence. In other words, non-religious man has been formed by opposing his predecessor, by attempting to empty himself of all religion. But in doing so he cannot help preserving some vestiges of behaviour of religious man. He remains an inheritor because he is the product of his past. He remains essentially religious.7

Hence, as we begin the Third Millennium the questions concerning truth, values, existence and meaning with regard to human nature, reveal the limits of secularization which, in spite of itself, gives rise to an urgent search for the spiritual dimension of life.8 It is only when secularization gives way to secularism that a serious cultural and spiritual crisis takes place, which gives rise to a degradation of the human person and the spread of anthropological nihilism.9

 

Origins of Secularization

The Middle Ages – sometimes referred to as the age of belief – were very prolific in the creation of religious organizations, and these creations have demonstrated an astonishing power of survival. The medieval social environment still haunts the modern world in institutions which were formed under its influence. One reason for their survival is the success with which they were built into and conformed to the pattern of the society that produced them. Church and society were one, and neither could be changed without the other undergoing a similar transformation. This is the clue to a large part of European history whether secular or ecclesiastical.

It was not until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that the new principle which characterized the rise of modern civilization made its appearance, first in Italy and afterwards throughout Western Europe. With the demise of Christendom the absolute rule of God was transferred to the monarch. Humanism was a reaction against the whole transcendent spiritualist view of existence, a return from the divine and the absolute to the human and the finite. Man rediscovered nature as a reasonable order which he could know by science and art, and which he could use to serve his own purposes. The supernatural had a natural explanation. The same principles of realism and practical reason were applied to political life. Yet no complete break was as yet made with the past. Barring a few notable exceptions such as Niccolò Macchiavelli (1467-1527)10 and Giordano Bruno (1548-1600)11 people remained faithful to the religious tradition. Statesmen and philosophers both endeavoured to serve two masters. They remained fervent Christians, but at the same time they separated the sphereCulture e Fede - Cultures et Foi - Cultures and Faith - Culturas y Fe - 1/2001 - Symposia of religion from the sphere of reason, and made the latter an independent autonomous realm in which the greater part of their lives was spent.

It was only in the eighteenth century that this compromise, which so long dominated European culture, broke down before the assaults of the new humanists, the Encyclopaedists and the men of the Enlightenment in France, England and Germany. The traditional European mould, with its semi-divine royalty, its state churches and its hereditary aristocratic hierarchy, was swept away and its place was taken by the liberal bourgeois state of the nineteenth century, which aimed, above all, at industrial prosperity, commercial expansion and the colonization (whether economic or military) of Africa and the Far East.

Under the old order the state had recognized its limits with respect to spiritual power and had only extended its claims over a part of human life. By contrast the modern state has admitted no such limitations and has encompassed the entire life of the individual citizen with its economic and military organization.

But this decisive point in history also had its prophets both in the religious and in the social sphere. Already in 1925 the renowned historian Christopher Dawson, who devoted his life to a careful analysis of the relationship between religion and culture and, in particular, of their relationship in Western civilization, referred to the bitter consequences inherent in the erosion of a society’s religious foundations:

 

“It is impossible to exaggerate the dangers that must inevitably arise once social life has become separated from the religious impulse… This spiritual alienation of its own great minds is the price that every civilization has to pay when it loses its religious foundations, and is contented with a purely material success. We are only just beginning to understand how intimately and profoundly the vitality of a society is bound up with its religion. It is the religious impulse which supplies the cohesive force which unifies a society and a culture. The great civilizations of the world do not produce the great religions as a kind of cultural by-product; in a very real sense, the great religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest. A society which has lost its religion becomes sooner or later a society which has lost its culture.”12

 

Earlier one of the most insightful observers of nineteenth century liberal capitalism, Max Weber, had delivered his famous prophetic warning that the cloak of material prosperity might eventually become an iron cage.13 He went so far as to state that modern man “is in general even with the best will, unable to give religious ideas a significance for culture and national character which they deserve”14. People were no longer defined by their past but by their function, not by their history but by their role. We have thus moved from a morality of self-imposed restraint to one in which we increasingly rely on the law to protect us from one another, and maybe even from ourselves. A purely economic order has only created human residues. A culture of success attaches little importance to the unsuccessful. With the erosion of its religious and moral base we have been left with an impersonal environment which was defined with cold, calculating precision by none other than Margaret Thatcher: “There is no such thing as society. There are only individual men and women, and there are families”.15

 

Rediscovering transcendence as an end

Our religious convictions and commitments have indeed been dealt a massive blow, but they have by no means disappeared. It is true that most of the situations faced by religious man of the primitive societies and archaic civilizations have long since been left behind by history. But those situations have not vanished without a trace; they have contributed toward making us what we are today, and so, after all, they form part of our own history. In a culture which has become deeply secularized, embers of faith still glow and are simply waiting to be re-ignited. It is true that such a reawakening of the religious dimension in the West is more often a question of religious sentiment than of a demanding personal commitment to God. But it is also an undeniable fact that an increasing number of men and women are turning once again to a dimension of human existence which they call spiritual, religious, or sacred, as the case may be.16 We have just begun to realize that secularization is not a one-way street. What we make of that fact depends on human beings as freely choosing agents. Religious values are still active within the framework of our moral reference. They might have been eroded but they have not been eclipsed. They are still as yet embedded within our deepest moral commitments: to the belief in human dignity, to society as a covenant, to morality as a communal endeavour, and to the family as the crucial formative stage of personal relationships and human maturity. One hundred years ago Friedrich Nietzsche triumphantly declared that religion was dead. Thirty years ago Paul van Buren, Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton proclaimed the death of God. Today a more considered view would be that our adventure with God, and consequently our search for meaning, has hardly yet begun. And herein lies a momentous possibility, not in the return to Puritanism, but in encountering and understanding secular society and pointing out that its meaning, purpose and direction lie beyond its present horizons. The Russian Orthodox theologian Olivier Clément has aptly described such a process as a prophetic partnership.17

If there is a crisis concerning the purpose of human actions and if that crisis has come about because mankind is trying to fix its own goals by itself and for itself, then we need to discover, if we can, aims which transcend mankind in order to resolve it. Therefore, transcendence becomes a necessity. It implies that we accept as given a goal which we did not ourselves create. We must accept that humanity has a meaning and aspirations which we do not control – and at times we do not even understand and which cannot be discovered by humanism alone. If we are prepared to do that, then we can rediscover the question: “What does it mean to be human?”

Such a question needs to be contemplated in silence and given time to mature. It will lead us to a startling conclusion. If mankind cannot provide an adequate definition of itself, this could indicate that, like God, it does not have a definition. The fact that human kind and God cannot be defined indicates a likeness between them. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 332-395) observed that, since the human being is created in the image and likeness of the unknowable God, it follows that mankind is unknowable because of its unrevealed finality. To the question posed by St Paul, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” Gregory adds another: “Who has understood his own mind?” Regarding these and other questions he quotes Gen 1:26 “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” and then continues:

 

“The image is properly an image so long as it fails in none of those attributes which we perceive in the archetype; but where it fails from its resemblance to the prototype it ceases in that respect to be an image; therefore if since one of the attributes we contemplate in the Divine nature is incomprehensibility of essence, it is clearly necessary that in this point the image should be able to show its imitation of the archetype.

For if, while the archetype transcends comprehension, the nature of the image were comprehended, the contrary character of the attribute we behold in them would prove the defect of the image; but since the nature of our mind, which is the likeness of the Creator, evades our knowledge, it has an accurate resemblance to the superior nature figuring by its own unknowableness the incomprehensible Nature.”18

 

Herein lies the great cultural breakthrough of the last few years. Cardinal Lustiger rightly observes that modern human beings are coming to realize that their humanity transcends whatever understanding they may have of it. They are coming to see that the end towards which mankind is tending cannot be produced by itself, any more than it could create itself at the beginning.19 Man is a thinking animal who knows both necessity and freedom. In his freedom he can and must aspire to better his history and his environment. However, he is also well aware of his finitude and fallibility, which the human race is always prone to deny because of the ineradicable selfishness and pride that lie at the very core of human personality. But while the human being is always finite, the most significant thing about his nature is that he always seeks the infinite. There is a spirit in him that transcends nature, history, reason, self – that belongs to eternity. This leap into eternity is essentially an avowed act of faith.

The problem of God, like the problem of man, places us in front of the fascinosum and the tremendum. God, like man, remains a mystery. But instead of falling into agnosticism the human being of the Third Millennium may be gradually beginning to realize that there is no understanding without belief. In this context it is interesting to note that Pope John Paul II has recently referred to the dialectic between searching for truth and living by faith: “Life can never be grounded upon doubt, uncertainty or deceit; such an existence could be threatened constantly by fear and anxiety. One may define the human being, therefore, as the one who seeks the truth”.20 But “human beings are not made to live alone. They are born into a family and in a family they grow, eventually entering society through their activity. From birth, therefore, they are immersed in traditions which give them not only a language and a cultural formation but also a range of truths in which they believe almost instinctively… This means that the human beingthe one who seeks the truth is also the one who lives by belief.”21

 

Moral language and community

For most people the first experience of God is found in relationships, and relationships take place within the framework of society and its institutions and rules. Thus faith is linked with morality, and morality is an essentially shared, collaborative endeavour. Its smallest unit is the family, its largest is humanity as a whole, and between these two we find a variety of communities from the neighbourhood to the nation-state. What morality is not and cannot be is a private enterprise, a form of self-expression.

In this perspective Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks argues in favour of a renewed search for a moral language wherein community could once again play a central role. We develop languages because we seek communication. We develop moralities because we seek community. The task of restoring community and morality is one and the same, and derives from the same need: to rescue the self from solitariness, so that in finding the ‘We’ we can learn to say ‘I’.22 Such a task must necessarily evolve within the following framework.

 

a) Education. A true education is one that places the human being before the irreducible, that which cannot be harnessed but which sheds light on all things, that which is gratuitous, that which is beautiful. In one of his most famous novels, The Idiot, Dostoevsky had already affirmed that beauty, as beauty of communion, will ultimately save the world. Such is the role of religion in education: it leads us to the presence of a Being totally beyond our control, who freely gives of himself, illuminating both hidden and empirical reality a reality that is to be contemplated, not assimilated. It is here that the religious factor acts as a powerful anthropological and social lever. It presents us not with a God who is useful to a consumer but with a personal God who encounters humanity in history and leads it to fulfillment.

Cultures survive when they attach the highest priority to schools and teachers, and when they see at least part of the role of education as developing individuals who are sensitive to their heritage. The more widely this form of education is available the more our children will be able to develop a sense of belonging. Herein lies the crucial role of the family as the only way to ensure a better world for future generations. The family is the where we learn our past and direct our vision towards the future. It is, indeed, the matrix of individuality. At every stage of his life man desires to be his own person, and this is more strongly felt in youth and in this crucible of society he finds stable sources of affection that help him discover his identity and his purpose. The family is a religious institution that survives and gives hope to a secular culture.

 

b) Morality. It is here that the role of morality comes into play. Religion must remind society that it is not without a moral base and without moral traditions. It can put society on its guard against the fatal technocratic fallacy, leading to barbarity, that considers it necessary to carry out everything that is technically possible. Already at the end of the 18th century Edmund Burke had written that “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites.”23 Today we have reached the limits of individualism and have discovered its inner contradiction.

On a more profound level, however, the problem is once more of the very meaning of existence and man’s final end. Thomas Aquinas, like Augustine before him, considered man in the concrete as called to a supernatural end. Man’s final end and happiness consists in the vision of God, in the vision of the divine essence.24 The will desires happiness, beatitude, as its end, and human acts, focused and intentional, are good or bad insofar as they are or are not means towards the attainment of that end. But this happiness must be understood in relation to man as such, as a rational being. Therefore, the rule and measure of human acts is reason, for it belongs to reason to direct human activity towards its end.25 And the first principle of human conduct leading towards this end is that good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.26 Hence the problem of the morality of the human act implies the problem of man in himself, of his truth and of the moral consequences that follow from it.27

 

c) Pluralism. Against a secularism that seeks to reduce religion to a purely private affair, believers have to encourage an authentic pluralism where religions have their place as recognized partners in the building up of society and in directing its course. However, pluralism presupposes different levels of dialogue.

a. A dialogue of identity. In it man discovers his total human unrepeatable reality, a reality that preserves the image and likeness of God himself.28

b. A dialogue that builds. In it human beings contribute to the religious, ideological, economic and political debate in order to build a more human society where unity is sought and division is shunned.29

c. A dialogue of faith. Through it the believer carries dialogue to a higher level. In it he becomes ever more aware of the limits of a human autonomy that considers the human being as the absolute criterion of his own life and work. On the other hand, this dialogue demonstrates that human life is united to God’s intervention in history.

d. A dialogue of love. This dialogue builds upon the previous one. True love presupposes faith. It is here that man becomes aware that he is both loving and lovable. This becomes his lasting achievement.30

e. A dialogue of hope. Hope is not based upon a utopia. It is based upon a living faith and is guided by love. Among the possibilities of destruction there also exist the possibilities of hope which begin with the present human situation knowing that it is nothing but eternity immanent in time.31

f. A dialogue of liberation. Man reaches this stage when he perceives the fullness of truth by way of love.32

 

Conclusion

It is true that religion today has become a battleground for diverse understandings of the human person, God, this earth, and the relation between the three. But even underneath these conflicts we are witnessing a common endeavour, which indicates a spiritual hunger that cannot be eliminated from society. We see these forces reappearing, or better resurfacing, in those countries where, for several generations, powerful counter-forces attempted to suppress them. These are indications that we are not living and can never live in a totally secularized culture; on the contrary, a new form of religious culture is evolving.

Our future global culture will not be less religious nor will it be more secular. It will be one that is deeply spiritual, although marked by a religious sentiment that has been purified by scientific discoveries and progress that are characteristic of our age. Once again religion is having a renewed influence on societal issues, and this role will continue to expand. At the heart of religion is not just the faith we have in God. Far more significant is the belief God has in us. That faith is surely often tested. It is tested when we turn our back on God. It is tested no less when we commit evil in his name. Yet he does not lose faith that one day we will learn the vital lesson: that God has given us many universes of belief but only one world in which to share our lives?33

However, as Henri Marrou rightly suggests, in spite of our efforts and our talents we must accept the fact that the final results of our action will necessarily reveal a certain degree of failure, whether on the level of our own personal action or, on the collective level, on the scale of civilization. Our endeavour will always fall short of our expectations. Such failure always is a painful reminder of human frailty, all the more deeply felt by someone who looks at the supernatural dimension of reality. But this should not lead us to despair. Our hope lies beyond. Our structures and institutions will always be ambiguous and imperfect, our civilizations condemned to decline and die. But fulfilment does not lie in the accomplishment of the ordering of the secular city.34 On the contrary we should forever keep in mind that true history, one which has meaning, is not accomplished within a space-time framework that can be empirically observed, “because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).35

 

*  *  *

Le Père Joseph Ellul, O.P., professeur à l’Université Pontificale Saint-Thomas d’Aquin à Rome, consacre une étude au rapport entre la religion et la culture, dans la problématique du dialogue avec un monde sécularisé. L’étude commence par une analyse du phénomène de la sécularisation et de la société sécularisée, et en dénonce les éléments négatifs. Elle se poursuit par une ample présentation des origines de la sécularisation, puis invite à la redécouverte de la transcendance. Elle se conclut avec l’inventaire des différents niveaux et des lieux où un dialogue est possible.

P. Joseph Ellul O.P. della Pontificia Università di San Tommaso d’Aquino di Roma, dedica il suo studio al rapporto tra la religione e la cultura, nella prospettiva di un dialogo in un mondo secolarizzato. Inizia con un’analisi del fenomeno della secolarizzazione e della stessa società secolarizzata, denunciandone gli elementi negativi. Continua con una ampia presentazione delle origini della secolarizzazione, quindi invita a riscoprire il trascendente. Conclude elencando diversi livelli e casi di dialogo possibile.

P. Joseph Ellul O.P., de la Universidad Pontificia Santo Tomás de Aquino de Roma, dedica su estudio a la relación entre la religión y la cultura, desde la perspectiva de un diálogo en un mundo secularizado. Inicia con un análisis del fenómeno de la secularización y de la misma sociedad secularizada, denunciando sus elementos negativos. Continúa con una amplia presentación de los orígenes de la secularización; después invita a redescubrir la trascendencia. Concluye haciendo un elenco de diversos niveles y formas de un posible diálogo.

 


1 Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: a study in moral theory, Duckworth (2nd ed.), London 1985, p. 1.

2 Op. cit., p. 263.

3 The above analysis has been inspired by a brilliant article written by Prof. Olivier Clément, Witnessing in a Secularized Society, in George Lemopoulos (ed.), Your Will be Done: Orthodoxy in Mission, WCC, Geneva 1989, p. 117f.

4 Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, SAGE Publications, London 1993, p. 2.

5 Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, Dare to Believe, trans. by Nelly Marans and Maurice Couve de Murville, St Paul Publications, London 1986, p. 115f. See also the document issued by the Pontifical Council for Culture, Towards a pastoral approach to culture, Vatican City, 1999, No. 23.

6 Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, Dare to Live, St. Paul Publications, Middlegreen 1988, pp. 66-68.

7 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, trans. by Willard R. Trask, Harper & Brothers, New York 1959, p. 203ff.

8 In his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte Pope John Paul II refers to such phenomena as challenges to live with deep commitment the radical message of the Gospel: “A special commitment is needed with regard to certain aspects of the Gospel’s radical message which are often less well understood, even to the point of making the Church’s presence unpopular, but which nevertheless must be a part of her mission of charity. I am speaking of the duty to be committed to respect for the life of every human being, from conception until natural death. Likewise, the service of humanity leads us to insist, in season and out of season, that those using the latest advances of science, especially in the field of biotechnology, must never disregard fundamental ethical requirements by invoking a questionable solidarity which eventually leads to discriminating between one life and another and ignoring the dignity which belongs to every human being” (n. 51). See also Redemptoris Missio, 38.

9 See Fides et Ratio, No. 91.

10 Macchiavelli was a political thinker who came up with the then revolutionary idea that theological and moral imperatives have no place in politics.

11 Giordano Bruno departed from the traditional concept of theocentric cosmology in order to espouse materialistic pantheism.

12 Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Life of Civilization, in John J. Mulloy (ed.), The Dynamics of World History by Christopher Dawson, Sheed & Ward Inc., New York 1956, p. 131 f.

13 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. by Talcott Parsons, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1958, p. 181.

14 Op. cit., p. 183.

15 Margaret Thatcher, Interview, Woman’s Own, 31 October 1987.

16 Pontifical Council for Culture, Towards a pastoral approach to culture, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999, No. 26.

17 Olivier Clément, op. cit., p. 122.

18 Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man XI:3-4, NPNF Series, p. 396f. In his commentary to the Qur’ân al-Futûhât al-makkiya Ibn al-‘Arabî (560/1165-638/1240) also refers to the concept of the human being as being cast in the image of God: “It has been mentioned in the Sahîh that God created Adam upon his form. Adam is perfect man, the epitome (muhtasar) who became manifest through the realities of temporally originated existence and eternal being” (II 391.1). “God created Adam upon His own form. Hence He ascribed to him all His Beautiful Names. Through the strength of the Form he was able to carry the offered Trust. The reality of the Form did not allow him to reject the Trust in the way that the heavens and the earth refused to carry it” (II 170.6).

William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, State University of New York Press 1989, p. 276.

19 Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, op. cit., p. 21.

20 Fides et Ratio, No. 28.

21 Op. cit., 31.

22 See Jonathan Sacks, The Politics of Hope, Jonathan Cape, London 1997, p. 221.

23 Edmund Burke, A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, (1791) in Id., Works, World Classics, Oxford University Press 1907, p. 319.

24 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia IIae, q. 3 art. 8.

25 Ibid., Ia IIae, q. 90 art. 1 ad 3.

26 Ibid., Ia IIae, q. 94 art. 2. This also forms part of the usūl al-hamsa, or five principles, enunciated by the Mu’tazila, one of the first schools of theology in Islam.

27 Veritatis Splendor, No. 83.

28 See Redemptor Hominis, No. 13.

29 See Gaudium et Spes, Nos. 24-25, 34-35, 53-76.

30 Edward Schillebeeckx explains this human state in the following words: “Love of humankind and love of God are one and the same theological virtue in the Christian tradition; it is the love which comes from God and through the assent of our hearts is taken further towards our fellow men and women. Thus love of humanity as a disinterested commitment to our fellow human beings is at the same time the hallmark of the truth of love towards God” (Edward Schillebeeckx, On Christian Faith, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York 1987, p. 84f).

31 See Jürgen Moltmann, The Theology of Hope, Harper and Row, New York 1967, pp. 26ff.

32 See Jn 8:32-33.

33 Jonathan Sacks, The Persistence of Faith, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1991, p. 81.

34 This had already been underlined by St. Augustine (354-430) in his masterpiece De civitate Dei.

35 See H. I. Marrou, Time and Timeliness, trans. by Violet Neville, Sheed &Ward, NewYork 1969, p. 177f.


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