I haven't been to a Fr. Jim Bacik lecture in a while, but I'm glad I went last week. I met friend Teddy and we planned to go to dinner afterwards. Fr. Bacik, ever the scholarly theologian, talked about the "new tribalism," the tendency to gather with like-minded people, as a response to globalization. He emphasized the dangers of turning inward and ignoring or demonizing those who are different. He pointed to the growing number of hate crimes in the US, the renewed anti-semetism, angry racism, white nationalism, the prejudice against Muslims, and the rise of an extreme political partisanship pulling people apart and destabilizing the world.
Before talking about Vatican II (1962-1965) and Pope John XXIII, Fr. Bacik recalled the Council of Jerusalem in the year 62 AD, where debates between Paul and Peter and different factions led to more openness in the church, a kind of first step to a more tolerant mission.
|Pope John XXIII. Pope Francis continues his|
tradition of a church open to the world,
and I think he looks like him too.
John XXIII wanted Aggioramento, a rural church, a humble and loving Church that welcomed all people everywhere. This is how the Catholic church reached out to South America and Asia and Africa. Of course there was the inevitable resistance to change. The Curia leaders and the Bishops rose up to defend tradition, like Cardinal Ottaviani, whose motto was Semper Idem (Always the same). I like that Latin phrase, and often have need of it!
What were the key issues?
*The liturgy: use of the vernacular instead of Latin so that parishioners went from being passive spectators to active conscious participants in the service
*Spirituality: from holiness for priests and nuns to a universal call to holiness
*Religious liberty: from Catholic privilege to freedom for all
*From a ghetto mentality to ecumenical dialogue
*From opposition to other religions to interfaith dialogue and cooperation
*From withdrawal from the world to active engagement.
|Lovely statue of John XXIII in front|
of St. Anthony's Church in Istanbul,
where he preached for 10 years
before becoming Pope.
I am not Catholic, but my daughter Elissa is; she calls me a Pope Francis Catholic. She's right. I knew when the new Pope took the name Francis that he would be a wonderful Pope, that he would be another John XXIII."Who are we to judge?" Pope Francis reminds us, a phrase I use a lot.
|St. Antoine of Padua Church, Istanbul. Photo taken at night|
on Christmas eve 2009 in the heart of the city. We walked
along bustling streets, shops and cafes crowded with revelers
and decorated in blue lights with joy in our hearts..
Fr. Bacik's lecture took me back to a Christmas in Istanbul in 2009 with my Peace Corps friends Jud and Jason. We decided to attend St. Anthony (Antoine) of Padua church, where John XXIII preached for ten years before becoming Pope. It was the kind of incredible travel experience that moves you, transforms your view of the world.
St. Anthony's is an international congregation, befitting the memory of Pope John XXIII. The church overflowed with people from all over the world in a spirit of inclusiveness and acceptance. The service was ecumenical, the priests, the choir, the music and traditions from around the world.
I sat next to a lovely young woman who said her name was Fatima, which I recalled as the name of the town in Portugal where three shepherd children claimed to have seen visions of Mary, the mother of Jesus. I assumed Fatima was celebrating the Christian holiday. We chatted as the choir practiced songs from South America, Africa, and around the globe. I explained that we were Peace Corps Volunteers from America working in Ukraine. "I thought you were American!" she said with a big smile.
I asked about her. She was born in Turkey, and lived in Munich, Germany, with her family." She went on to talk about being a college student majoring in international organizational development. She spoke many languages and loved Munich.
"Why are you here tonight?" I asked.
"I'm visiting family. And Istanbul is my birthplace, Muslim is my religion, and the cultures of the world my greatest interest," she replied. "I like this church because it is diverse and tolerant. I remember it as a child, and I feel welcomed here."
It was the best Christmas message we could have gotten from any church in the world, and here we were in Istanbul, three Amerikankas celebrating with Fatima, the devout Muslim. What a conjunction of the human spirit. The "Open Arms Tribalism" Fr. Bacik champions. It enveloped each of us in gratitude.