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“Inculturation” has been a buzzword throughout the Catholic world—and especially the developing Catholic world—for decades. Rarely has it gotten such a workout, or taken such a beating, as at Synod-2019.
Two Popes and a Distinguished Historian. Two weeks ago, I was discussing this business of “inculturation” with a former student now completing doctoral studies in Rome, who asked me if I had ever read Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical for the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s landing at San Salvador. Not least because Pope Leo is the pivotal figure in my new book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History, I had to admit with some chagrin that I’d not read that particular Leonine work. So my friend passed along a link which, in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 15:3, I now pass along to readers of these LETTERS throughout the Anglosphere.
Days - Friend - Correspondent - Ideas - Synod-2019
A few days later, another friend and regular e-mail correspondent, with whom I’d exchanged some ideas about Synod-2019, wrote and asked whether I remembered John Paul II’s 1986 address to aboriginal peoples in the remote town of Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory. That one I had read, while preparing the first volume of my John Paul biography, Witness to Hope; but I was grateful for the reminder and the link.
The baroque language of Leo XIII’s encyclical and its unabashed insistence that Christopher Columbus was a civilizing missionary as well as a skilled mariner and explorer will doubtless offend some today; one hopes those same offendees will be impressed by John Paul II’s expressions of respect for Australian aboriginal culture. But while it’s easy for the politically correct in comfortable Western circumstances to note the differences in sensibility between the two popes, it’s far more important to mark the deep congruence between these two papal documents. Both Leo XIII and...
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