The Holy See
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Brussels, October 26, 2014

1. Preliminary remarks

Excellencies, venerable brothers, very honourable gentlemen rectors and persons in charge of the ‘Omnes gentes-conference’, dear ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure having been invited to speak to you at the beginning of the congress “the Church in dialogue - Vatican II today”. Thank you for the welcome and opening remarks. My gratitude goes to the Belgian Bishops' Conference, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the Université Catholique Louvain for the honourable invitation, which I have gladly accepted, because I know about the importance of these two Catholic universities in the area of theological sciences, and because, as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I am convinced that the topic of this meeting is of great importance for the Church – and not only for the Church.

This year we commemorate the outbreak of World War One a hundred years ago, which brought death and destruction about the town of Leuven and the University, as soon as in the first weeks already, that is to say at the end of August 1914. The terrifying fact that countries with centuries of Christian tradition could fall upon other also Christian-influenced peoples in such a barbaric manner, led, as we know, in the period after the First World War, waking and lucid Christians to a new reflection on the Church[1], led to a reflection that, even if they still had to mature through a deep valley of suffering and purification, resulted in this ecclesiology that was put into words by the Second Vatican Council.

2. “Dialogue” as an element in the texts of the second Vatican Council

a. Remarks on the theological qualification of the conciliar texts

At the beginning of this colloquium “The Church in Dialogue” I would especially like to take up the concept of “dialogue” in order to provide some basis for the planned detailed reflections on the various documents of Vatican II.

With regard to the texts of the Second Vatican Council it should first be noted that of course these texts have a wide range of theological language forms; somewhat simplified their polarity is divided between “dialogical” and “doctrinal” or “dogmatic”. This diversity of language was brought about on the one hand by the abundance of different themes that was worked on during the council, on the other hand by the intention of the council, as it was intended by St John XXIII from its very first announcement onwards in January 1959, and as he unfolded it in the famous opening speech Gaudet Mater Ecclesia on 11 October 1962[2]: this depositum fidei, – that was his guideline –, should be preserved and explained intact, but this should especially be done by putting the present into focus, and by researching and interpreting the doctrine “as required by our time”.

Keep in mind that the magisterial task, the missionary assignment and the organization of the pastoral system, all parts of the scope of the council, were intertwined from the beginning. However, the program was more easily formulated than carried out in the details, and so clashes arose in the work of the council, clashes that have left clear marks in some documents.

Although the variety of the forms of language requires a more hermeneutic attention, this diversity corresponds with the targets of the council and them coming straight from the heart: The Council Fathers carried out the overall task as it was formulated by John XXIII and created not just exclusively doctrinal or jurisdictional texts supplemented with suitable pastoral and practical texts for application. No, in all documents the different dimensions are present, of course according to the nature of the texts and each in their different density. A careful reading of the conciliar documents shows that an antagonism between a purely “pastoral” vision of reality and dogmatic formulations, or between purely doctrinal texts, so to speak texts exclusively focussed on the inward, and purely “dialogical” documents cannot appeal to the council. The council wanted to overcome exactly this form of dualism by formulating the inheritance of the faith in such a way that it can be perceived today.

That is why neither a single text nor a single category, dissociated from the other texts and categories, can be used for total identification of the Second Vatican Council, as it sometimes happened with the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes, which was considered by some theologians as the real legacy of the council, and so putting the dogmatic texts into an inappropriate downsizing perspective[3].

b. The intertwinement of “dogmatic” and “dialogical” statements in the missionary subject matter

We can clearly show the intertwinement of the levels, including the linguistic level, by looking at the missionary subject matter, so closely related to the overall subject matter of this colloquium. This missionary subject matter is treated in detail in two documents of the council, namely in the missionary decree Ad Gentes itself, but also – and this in a fundamental way – in the dogmatic constitution on the Church Lumen gentium.

Let us first consider the constitution on the Church. Lumen Gentium offers an all-embracing bundle of reflections on the missionary problem grouped around the major theme of the Catholicity of the Church. The thought of the people of God leads through an inner logic to a theology of Israel, to a missionary theology and to a theology of religions. This theology of the constitution on the Church shone far into the other documents, which then deal with these issues in their own specific way. Surely it cannot be otherwise: without knowing who represents the Church, who belongs to the people of God, what is its nature and mission from God, one cannot at all say in what proportion Ecclesia and Synagogue relate to each other, what religions are and why the Church is entitled to an essential missionary dimension. In the missionary theology must ecclesiology, eschatology and theology of creation flow together.

The main idea of the missionary theology in Lumen gentium is the idea of bringing together the people of God:

“All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages”, this is how article 13 starts programmatically speaking.

Especially in articles 13 to 17, which are devoted to this topic, the extent of intertwinement of biblical, patristic and magisterial interconnections is remarkable. Lumen gentium did not want to introduce a new ecclesiology, but it triumphed over what, with a bit of disrespect, was called “Enzyklikentheologie” (theology of the encyclicals), so the almost exclusive reference to the Magisterium of the preceding decades, by taking to tradition in its original sense again, namely as the development of the whole process of understanding the Scripture, the Scripture itself already being the issue of this process, but in a special way also including the Church Fathers. Thus, it recovered a deeper concept of tradition and gave access to the rich treasure of a theology that possesses a special authenticity through its proximity to the time of Jesus and the apostles, through martyrdom (as a privileged witness to the truth) and by the still preserved ecclesiastical unity of east and west.

Drawing from these sources the dogmatic constitution on the Church can make, with the same amount of confidence and orientation to the world as the pastoral constitution, the following statement, in article 13:

“It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature. All the faithful, scattered though they be throughout the world, are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit, and [as the text says with a quote from St John Chrysostom] so, ‘he who dwells in Rome knows that the people of India are his members’. Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world (cf. Jn 18:36) the Church or people of God in establishing that kingdom takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people. On the contrary it fosters and takes to itself, insofar as they are good, the ability, riches and customs in which the genius of each people expresses itself. Taking them to itself it purifies, strengthens, elevates and ennobles them. The Church in this is mindful that she must bring together the nations for that king to whom they were given as an inheritance (cf. Ps 2:8)…” art. 13).

There is hardly a more beautiful formulation as this cum illo Rege colligere debere, “must bring together for that king” that describes the purpose of the Church to bring together the nations, to practise the missionary assignment.

We have said that the missionary theology that is expressed in Lumen Gentium has also penetrated into other documents. In the actual missionary decree Ad gentes this penetration is often visible. Viewed from the outside due to its genesis, but essentially due to its subject matter, and more than other documents, Ad gentes teems with such a large number of references to Lumen gentium, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dei Verbum and other texts that one can really speak of an interpenetration of the “dialogical” and the dogmatic dimension. Chapter I dealing with the theological foundation provides in almost exuberant manner a wealth of quotations from the Fathers and references to patristic theology and thus actualizes for its subject matter the renewed definition of tradition as adopted by the council. As one of the last documents to be passed by the council Ad gentes already operates an innerconciliar reception by literally quoting more than 90 times statements from ten documents of Vatican II or referring to them; alone 55 of these are quotes or references taken from Lumen gentium.

We also find traces of a conciliar missiology in the constitution of the liturgy when it comes to the possible inclusion of elements of initiation from non-Christian cultures or from previously unfamiliar music traditions in the Christian rite (Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 65 and 119).[4]

Also in the decree on the ministry and life of priests, which is dogmatically speaking one of the most interesting texts of the council, doctrine and practice are closely linked together. This decree, where exploring the sacramental theology of priesthood, describes the central priestly task in terms of bringing people together and preaching (Presbyterorum ordinis, art. 4) and as being well definable as of dialogical and missionary nature.[5]

c. A theology of dialogue according to Dei Verbum

Such observations, as they could even be multiplied by several more of the kind, show that the representation of doctrine in its strict sense can be separated neither from the missionary nor from the dialogical dimension of preaching. Where conciliar texts as for their content reflect on the relationship with other Churches and ecclesial communities, with secular society or with religions and also, linguistically speaking, turn to the outward in clearer wording, this is not a matter of veiled clerical propaganda or of Catholic marketing, which by adapting to modern times or exotic cultures would aim at selling itself better, no, it simply pops up from the dialogical character of the history of salvation itself, as it is represented especially in the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation Dei Verbum. We do not find the real reason why the Church must be “in dialogue” in communication studies, but in the structure of the history of salvation as Dei Verbum imposingly unfolds this structure in its preface and in Chapter I.

Already very early in a detailed study of the concept of revelation as adopted by the council René Latourelle showed how much Vatican II provides, through the history of salvation, a comprehensive view of revelation.[6] As we all know Latourelle compared corresponding passages from Dei Verbum, art. 2 and Dei Filius (DH 3004) and could point out that Dei Verbum had found its way to an essentially dialogical understanding of revelation, thus taking up the impulses of modern theology. The opening passage from Dei Verbum says:

“In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col 1:15, 1 Tm 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (alloquitur) (see Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15) and lives among them (conversatur) (see Bar 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.”

Alloquī and conversare are the words signalling this dialogical element of revelation, which is taken up again in Dei Verbum, art. 8, when the council states the following:

“And thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses (colloquitur) with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col 3:16).

It may not be overlooked that in article 21 and 25 this concept is repeated when the council describes, in impressive clarity, the reading of the Scripture as colloquium inter Deum et hominem (art. 25). God meets his children in the Bible and – I quote – “speaks with them” (art. 21). Thus, on the one hand, the reading of Sacred Scripture as a purely historical document is overcome. Exegesis may ultimately not just be restricted to historically filtering the ipsissima vox of Jesus out of a superstructure of interpretations, but must make perceptible the present word of God, the viva vox evangelii, which speaks to the people of God today. On the other hand, a theology of dialogue entirely unfolding itself out of the revelation of the word of God has thus already been outlined.

3. Examples of a theology of conversation in the Scriptures

a. God speaks to His creatures

How does Dei Verbum come to this concept that conceives the history of God with his people, yes, in some way with mankind, as a “conversation”? We know that lots of theological trends were included in the Second Vatican Council, and prepared it: the liturgical movement, the ecumenical efforts, patristic studies, and – if we look closer to the constitution on divine revelation – the development of modern biblical exegesis as well as personalistic thinking.[7]

Today, at a distance of fifty years, we see again more clearly the importance of the pontificate of Paul VI. In his encyclical Ecclesiam Suam August 1964[8], which escorted the council, Paul VI unfolds, without trying to be ahead of the council, his own type of a theology of dialogue, in which he describes characteristics and criteria of conversation in a way showing great intellectual extensiveness and openness. His central idea here is that any theology of dialogue has its model in the conversation of God with men: “The history of salvation”, says Ecclesiam Suam, “tells about this long and varied dialogue that originates with God and develops into a wonderfully diverse dialogue with man” (n. 70).

Dei Verbum, picking up these influences, in fact made the term “conversation” – we can also easily say: the category of “dialogue” – a favoured paradigm of the theology of revelation, because the study of the Scriptures in the 20th century distinctly and very clearly showed that the entire attested history of salvation comes about in the inner unity of word and deed (cf. Dei Verbum, art. 2).[9]

The gesta et verba have a central place in Christology, namely Logos incarnate, the Word itself, Jesus Christ and his words and deeds. Therefore, conversation is of particular importance in the history of God with men. We cannot develop a theology of the Word here, but it is obvious that word and conversation are entitled to a prominent role in the biblical history of the narratives relating creation. God creates through the Word (cf. Gn 1:3 among other references) and creates in man a being “of our likeness” (Gn 1:27). From then on, God speaks not only to creation, but also with it, with this creature man. From then on, a constant conversation with “man” is being developed, as is shown in Abraham, for the first time in the form of an individual figure.

b. Abraham’s conversation with God

We only need to look at the famous story of the rescue attempt that Abraham undertakes in aid of the wicked city of Sodom (cf. Gn 18:16-33). At first the biblical text provides a soliloquy of God: when on Abraham the promise is laid to become a new nationthat all nations on earth will be blessed through, then Abraham must understand the steps of the divine plan: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Gn 18:17). Abraham becomes a partner and a confidant, as the story portrays it.

The conversation that Abraham then begins with God is not a business affair. Abraham has got nothing he could offer against the judgment on the blasphemous city. But there is a serious dispute, in which Abraham incessantly speaks arguments. As later the epic on Job does, so does the dialogue between Abraham and God show that man may question God’s demeanour. The speech of Abraham is a prefiguration of how Israel experiences faith in later days, showing that a God-fearing man is not a puppet.

This conversation reaches its climax and at the same time its intrinsic fulfilment in the sacrifice of Isaac, or, as we say with Judaism, in the akedá, the binding of Isaac (Gn 22:1-19).[10] At this point it becomes definitely clear that the dialogue with God is not an exchange of arguments between two business partners. Through Abraham it becomes visible that faith is a matter of listening to what God wants. Faith does not as an exalted consciousness rise up from the depths of a soul, but it hits men as a commitment and a claim coming from outside. Faith means listening to the will of God and fulfil it. The conversation with God is not a prelude that were superfluous, because man must obey anyway. God is searching for the consent of man, and the man who searches and allows his life to be changed by this search, experiences the trials and the blessings of faith.

The Torà of Israel is not in any way a set of laws drafted in imperative tones, but, as especially Gerhard von Rad developed this insight, God carrying to man “paraenesis”: exhortation and solicitation.[11] God does not bulldoze human freedom, but attracts it back to Himself: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you [apart from the following]: but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul ...”(Dt 10:12).

Dialogue is the way of expressing the search that goes with revelation on the side of man. The history of salvation, conversely speaking, is not the dimension of an arbitrary choice, but the fruit of search and of free pity. Irenaeus of Lyons says that Abraham searched for God, even before he had heard the voice of God: “And when, urged by the eagerness of his spirit, he went all about the world, searching where God is, and failed to find out; God took pity on him who alone was silently seeking Him; and He appeared unto Abraham, making Himself known by the Word, as by a beam of light. For He spake [spoke] with him from heaven, and said unto him…”[12] Pope Francis cited this word in his encyclical lumen fidei.[13] Abraham’s search and his determination to have his life changed by the outcome of this search, constitute the human mirror image (contribution) to revelation, as it were “from below”.

c. Mary and Jesus

The testimony of the New Testament completes this concept of faith. It culminates in Mary and Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter [leader] of faith” (Heb 12:2). Surveying the Gospels Jesus' whole life is a constant conversation with the God of Israel, the “Father in Heaven”; this conversation experiences its culmination in the Garden of Olives. In Gethsemane and on the cross, in the fourfold different description of the evangelists, speaking to God, however, seems simply and solely to be degenerating to a one-sided addressing and to be losing the quality of the dialogue, which it still seemed to have, as, at the baptism of Jesus, the voice coming from heaven was speaking (cf. Mk 1:9-11 parr.). The answer to the tragic nature of the Passion and death is no longer a purely communicative, but a creative word that, like in the first creation, creates something new, the new body of the risen Christ and of the community of his disciples.

In his last volume on Jesus Pope Benedict XVI portrayed Mary's faith in a very illustrative way. He recalls that the Lucan annunciation scene ends with the sentence: “Then the angel left her” (Lk 1:38). The dialogue between the messenger and Mary was no exchange about possible divine ways of salvation, but – as with Abraham, the “father of faith” (Mt 3:9; Rom 4:12) – it was an appeal demanding determination, exodus and sacrifice. Joseph Ratzinger interprets the closing sentence as follows: “The angel goes, the mission remains”.[14]

Surveying the narratives on God's son in the religions and in the political legends on the birth of the ruler, biblical tradition shows sober-mindedness and illumination: there is no reporting on physical contact between God and man and no cosmic phenomena are reported. On the contrary, a simple story is told, in the centre of which stands, as influenced by the effect of the conversation with the angel, the all-important decisive obedience of Mary. “It is the obedience of Mary”, Benedict XVI says, “that opens the door for God. God's Word, His Spirit creates the child in her. He creates it through the door of her obedience”.[15]

For the believer this is the point, as is the event of the resurrection as well, where faith visibly interacts with the material world. This is where the contrast with the philosophical dialégomai is most clear. Neither by questioning and answering nor by following the path of pure thinking does man get to logos, idea. On the contrary, it is the consent to a choice, the oboeditio fidei (cf. Rom 5:1; 16:26) that brings the Word of God into the world.

4. dialogue and kerygma

Dear ladies and gentlemen! Our previous thoughts have brought to light a threefold result:

First: the movement of the history of salvation, as it is attested to in the Holy Scriptures, is essentially a dialogical movement. God sends wisdom to the earth, and it starts a conversation with “[He has uncovered the whole way of knowledge and shown it to] his servant Jacob, [to]” with “Israel his well-beloved” (cf. Bar 3:38). The Torah is what is called “the record” of this dialogue, the profit of which is life (cf. Bar 4:1). Also the sermons in the New Testament, although they do not occur as dialogues all the time, contain dialogical elements to a large extent, ranging from the debates of Jesus to the teaching-soliciting style of Paul. Always should the understanding of God’s plan, the Word just like that, be revealed to the people by using the technique of conversation, by questioning and answering.[16] The people of God lives by this “dialogue”, it is a fruit of this conversation, and it must bear witness of this being its own dialogical experience in the conversation with non-Christians. Paul VI says the Church must change itself into dialogue. Therefore, conversation is the best means for the Church to find her way, to find the next necessary steps.

But a kind of parliament did not originate either from the experience of faith of Israel, or from the Church; within the Church there is simply no such thing as a parliament, voting on constitutional issues and laws. It is remarkable that in Septuagint the general Greek term ekklesia finds its place of origin as a translation of the Hebrew term kahal, referring to the assembly on Mount Sinai, thus there changing its meaning radically: in the biblical tradition, the term no longer means, like it did mean in the Greek polis, the assembly of all men capable of handling weapons them voting on war or peace, taxes and treason, but the assembly of the people, uniting all Israelites, men, women and children and them all participating in it, because it is not about a vote on the Torah of God, but about their acceptance, about them hearing God's will, something that they are all capable of: “We shall do everything that Yahweh has said; we shall obey” (Ex 24:7). Paul understood that his assignment meant to bring also all nations into contact with this experience. Through Jesus, as he writes at the beginning of his letter to the Roman community, the apostles have “received grace and our apostolic mission of bringing about the obedience of faith among all the nations for the honour of his name” (Rom 1:5).

Thus we encounter a second insight of our study: the concept of the obedience of faith, a concept that is certainly disturbing. It seems to stand in contrast to a free conversation. But in the history of salvation there is no talk of, although often demanded today, a “dialogue at eye level” (dialogue of equals), whatever that might be. Similarly a dialogue between pupil and teacher, when it comes to their business of teaching and learning, is not an “eye-levelled dialogue”. The condescension of the teacher precisely manifests itself in his helping the pupil to recognize something the pupil does not yet know, to get him to the place, speaking in terms of knowledge and experience, where he has not been yet and to which he was anxious to go all by himself.

Therefore, one understands thirdly, why, in the New Testament and particularly in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters, kerygma appears side by side with conversation. In the New Testament kerygma is as it were the form of speech in which the impact of Jesus will continue after Easter. It includes both the content, the kerygma Iesou Christou (Rom 16:25), and also for the formal aspect the preaching as the acting of the apostles, especially of Paul (1 Cor 2:4; 15:14). Kerygma is also the place where the resistance against Jesus and his witnesses breaks through – a phenomenon that belongs to the path of the Church and will always belong there. Already in the Gospels conversation was indeed also debate, dispute and distinction.

“Church in Dialogue” thus means to open up human beings for this conversation, and to show them a real alternative through the testimony of the Christians who had their lives transformed by the encounter with the Word of God. Therefore, the Christian and the Church as a whole need not fear dialogue. Even the protest of those who turn their backs on the Church, the doubt of the agnostics expressed in the word “Maybe”, or the “No” of the atheists can contribute to the purification of the Church, because the business of theology is connected with the business of life. The Word of God is not a matter of habit, Tertullian says, and it should therefore not develop “into a self-contained system configuration”[17] that apparently does not need the knowledge of the world and does not examine into it. In the perception of the needs of the world, also of the needs of unbelief, Pope Francis discerns a force for renewal of the Church.[18] No other thought must Pope Benedict XVI have had in mind, when he said in Freiburg in 2011: history with its cracks and contradictions comes to our help to execute the task of rejuvenating the Church.[19]

There is no help for us in either a unilateral horizontal dialogue or in dull dialogical processes that only compose inner-ecclesiastical catalogues of feasible, desirable and for the majority acceptable matters, but there is help in us discovering the Church again as the conversation of God with his bride. Dialogue, dispute, discussion, but also silence and prayer belong to the “dialogical culture” of the Church, because it is not an eloquent majority that hits on what is the right thing, but because the Church trusts that the truth opens up to the hearing ones. Unanimity of a lot of people has always been regarded as something out of the question for humans, and the experience of the Church teaches this truth with shameful clarity. And yet there is a kind of conversation, which paradoxically consists of hearing, of being overwhelmed by the truth.[20] As in a sincere dialogue between people so the words of this conversation, so Pope Francis says , “are supported by capacities that we cannot predict. […] The Church must accept this incomprehensible freedom of the word”.[21]

5 A note on the role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a dialogical Church

Allow me, at the end of these considerations, an extra note on the role of the Magisterium in the dialogical conception of the Church. For many, the Magisterium, particularly in the form of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is a veritable institution of non-dialogue and refusal of dialogue. It seems that the Magisterium, by its constantly falling back on the uniqueness and universality of the salvific significance of Jesus Christ and the Church, blocks real dialogues, and by its persistently referring to the ecclesiastical inheritance of the faith, repeatedly pushes a cap on the discussed issues and by so doing chokes the dialogues. This is not the occasion and the time to reply to the various reservations. I just want to finally refer to three characteristics of the Magisterium that directly affect dialogue.

By the introduction of digital mobile networks covering extensive areas, we have been living in a space of unlimited synchronous communication for about twenty-five years; if we add the invention of the telephone, this process has been in progress for about 140 years. This elimination of borders by the technical means brought about an unprecedented revaluation of contemporaneous oral and written communication, of the conversation with the present-day humans, and at the same time – like any inflationary trend – a loss in value of the word as well, or rather: of the words that are spoken. In this way an ecclesiastical dimension that was apparently taken for granted in the past perhaps, has become even more important: for the Church is always more than the ones speaking right now. All that cannot make themselves heard today, such as for instance those 100 million Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith, also belong to the Church. In Ecclesiam Suam Paul VI called the persecuted Church the “Church of silence”, which makes herself heard only through suffering.[22] This Church of silence also includes those who can hardly and only with difficulty express themselves, who practise their faith in a very simple way perhaps, and yet have a voice: the voice of their actions and their prayers. But the Church also includes those who are no longer living among us. The silent ones, the speaking and writing ones of past centuries, especially the Saints. These faithful departed of earlier times are not only the Church of the past, they still are the Church today. They belong to the Church, the Catholicity of which includes space and time, and which is universal in synchronous and diachronic perspective. The connection of the Christians beyond the generations corresponds to an unbroken chain of tradition that also leads from one council to the next and carries on the knowledge of the faith of the people of God.

The assignment of the Magisterium is now, among other things, not to let this thread connecting the believers of all times and all places break away, and make the voices of history and the silent or quiet voices of the present to be heard, even if they are not reached so easily as those living in America or Asia today are, with the help of a smartphone or through mail.

The following not being its last piece of evidence, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reminds of the coordinates of the conversation between God and man, which anyway I at least wanted to touch upon with the examples from the Scriptures, and translates these co-ordinates for the practice of the Church and of theology today. The speaking of God with its definitive nature for human beings must also correspond to a liability in the word of the Church. Where only modern understanding prevails in an open-ended conversation between two independent interlocutors who are conversing about what is to be considered as true and just, the impression occurs almost inevitably that no “dialogue” was conducted.

This means as a third: because the Church is actually a widely stretched phenomenon, our work can only be done as teamwork and that means: by talking, by interchanging the different theological trends and by listening to each other. This is all reflected in the operating procedure of the Congregation, which is entrusted with the task “to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world”,[23] and to do this by order and authority of the Pope.[24] The Congregation is working in a collegial and dialogical way at all levels: questions of the day are constantly examined by administrative collaborators (about 40 people from all continents) and decided on in a weekly meeting with the superiors of the Congregation. More difficult issues are presented to approximately 25 counsellors, who meet regularly to discuss and clarify these problems theologically. The fundamental decisions are made by the members of the Congregation (about 30 cardinals and archbishops) in their monthly meeting and presented to the Pope by the prefect in a private audience. Also both commissions associated with the Congregation play an important role: the Pontifical Biblical Commission (about 20 members) and the International Commission of Theologians (about 30 members). So we try to fulfil our assignments in the Congregation in a likewise dialogical structure and we hope that this daily work may be of great benefit for the “Church in Dialogue” and so ultimately for the really important conversation inter Deum et hominem. This is also my wish for the coming days of this Congress.

Thank you very much for your attention.

[1] See in this respect for instance: R. Guardini, Vom Sinn der Kirche (About the Sense of the Church), Mainz 1922; O. Dibelius, Das Jahrhundert der Kirche (The Century of the Church), Berlin 1926.

[2] Johannes XXIII, Ansprache zur Eröffnung des Zweiten Ökumenischen Vatikanischen Konzils (Opening Speech for the second Oecumenical Vatican Council), 11. Oktober 1962, in: AAS 54 (1962), 786-795 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[3] Cf. K. Koch, Was bedeutet heute “Reform” der katholischen Kirche in der Schweiz? Zur Lage der Konzilsrezeption (What does “Reform” of the Catholic Church mean in Switzerland today? On the State of the Reception of the Council), in: SZRKG, 103 (2009), 273-301; esp. 285 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[4] In the same “pastoral spirit” as Lumen Gentium earlier, Sacrosanctum Concilium rejects that the Church were trying to enforce a rigida forma unius tenoris in the liturgy. Instead, the Church should among other things maintain and foster, by the integration of non-Christian cultures in Christian worship, “the genius and talents of the various races and peoples” (art. 37).

[5] “The People of God are joined together primarily by the word of the living God. And rightfully they expect this from their priests” (Presbyterorum ordinis, art. 4). In the missionary command in the version of St Mark – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15) – it is designated as “the first task of the priests” (art. 4.), them assisting the bishops to proclaim the Glad Tidings to all men. The picture of the priest designed here – besides which there are more accentuations in the council – does not see the priest from a pure cultic viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of someone bringing the people of God together and of a preacher, both tasks coming together in the Eucharistic assembly; also see: J. Ratzinger, Konzilsaussagen über die Mission außerhalb des Missionsdekretes (Conciliar Statements about the Mission outside of the Missionary Decree), in: JRGS Bd. 7/2, 919-951 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[6] R. Latourelle, La Révélation et sa transmission selon la constitution “Dei Verbum” (Revelation and its Transmission as in the Constitution of “Dei Verbum), in: Gr 47 (1966), 1-40 (all references only apply to the original text in French); cf. J. Ratzinger, Einleitung und Kommentar zum Prooemium, zu Kapitel I, II und VI der Offenbarungskonstitution “Dei Verbum” (Introduction and Commentary on the Prooemium to Chapters I, II and VI of the Constitution on Divine Revelation “Dei Verbum”), in: JRGS 7/2, 715-791; 736 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[7] Cf. J. Ratzinger, Einleitung (Introduction), 736.

[8] Paul VI, Enzyklika Ecclesiam Suam über die Kirche, ihre Erneuerung und ihre Sendung in der Welt (Enzyklika Ecclesiam Suam on the Church, her Renewal and her Mission in the World, 6. August 1964, in AAS 56 (1964) 609-659 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[9] “This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity.”

[10] The test of faith of Abraham resounds with a strong echo in Biblical Wisdom Literature (Wis 10:5; Sir 44:20), in the Letter to the Romans (Rom 4:9) and especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 11:17 f.). In the rabbinic as well as in the patristic tradition there is an abundance of interpretations, all of which revolve around the wonder of this faith. In a most penetrating way Sören Kierkegaard unfolded the concept of faith after the example of Isaac’s story in his document “Furcht und Zittern” (Fear and Trembling) published in 1843.

[11] Cf. G. von Rad, Das fünfte Buch Mose – Deuteronomium (The Fifth Book of Moses – Deuteronomy) (=ATD 8), Göttingen 41983, 57; 59 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[12] Cf. Irenäus von Lyon, Demonstratio apostolicae praedicationis (The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching), 24, SC 406, 117 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[13] Cf. Franziskus, Enzyklika Lumen fidei, Nr. 35 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[14] J. Ratzinger/Benedikt XVI., Jesus von Nazareth. Prolog: Die Kindheitsgeschichten (Jesus of Nazareth. Prologue: the Childhood Stories), Freiburg – Basel – Wien 2012, 47 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[15] Ibid., 64.

[16] Cf. J. Ratzinger, Weltoffene Kirche (Cosmopolitan Church), 992.

[17] J. Ratzinger, Weltoffene Kirche (Cosmopolitan Church), 987.

[18] Cf. Franziskus, Apostolisches Schreiben Evangelii gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium) (24. November 2013), 1. Kapitel (chapter 1).

[19] Cf. Benedikt XVI., Begegnung mit engagierten Katholiken aus Kirche und Gesellschaft im Konzerthaus (Encounter with committed Catholics within the Church and within Society in the Concert-house), 25. September 2011.

[20] Cf. J. Ratzinger, Zur lage der Ökumene (On the State of Ecumenism), in: J. Ratzinger, Weggemeinschaft des Glaubens. Kirche als Communio. Festgabe zum 75. Geburtstag, hrsg. vom Schülerkreis (Route Companionship of Faith. Church as Communion. Festive present on his 75th birthday, ed. by the circle of students), Augsburg 2002, 220-234; 224 (all references only apply to the original text in German).

[21] Franziskus, Apostolisches Schreiben Evangelii gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium), Nr. 22.

[22] Paul VI., Enzyklika Ecclesiam Suam, Nr. 107.

[23] Johannes Paul II., Apostolische Konstitution Pastor bonus, art. 48.

[24] II. Vatikanisches Konzil, Dekret Christus Dominus, art. 9.