Pope Francis addresses Asian bishops at Haemi on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the Preparatory Committee for the 2014 Papal Visit to Korea)
A deep understanding of our identity as Christians is needed to combat the modern tendency to reduce the faith to superficiality, Pope Francis told 68 bishops from 35 countries gathered during his trip to South Korea.
“Without a grounding in Christ, the truths by which we live our lives can gradually recede, the practice of the virtues can become formalistic, and dialogue can be reduced to a form of negotiation or an agreement to disagree,” he warned in an address at the shrine in Haemi on Sunday.
In his remarks, the pope zeroed in on the theme of Christian identity, outlining both major threats to it in today's society as well as ways the bishops can embrace it and evangelize more fully.
Speaking to the bishops on Sunday, Pope Francis said that the first and most insidious threat to Christian identity lies in the “deceptive light of relativism” – which, “obscures the splendor of truth and, shaking the earth beneath our feet, pulls us toward the shifting sands of confusion and despair”.
“Here I am not speaking about relativism merely as a system of thought,” he clarified, “but about that everyday practical relativism which almost imperceptibly saps our sense of identity.”
This dynamic spills into another threat against Christian identity, which is the temptation to reduce the faith, and to hide behind the security of simplifying it into “easy answers, ready formulas, rules and regulations”.
“Faith by nature is not self-absorbed; it 'goes out,'” he stressed. “It seeks understanding; it gives rise to testimony; it generates mission.”
Addressing the specific challenges to the Asian Church, the pope emphasized that dialogue is an essential part of the region's mission.
“But in undertaking the path of dialogue with individuals and cultures, what should be our point of departure and the fundamental point of reference which guides us to our destination? Surely it is our own identity, our identity as Christians,” he said.
“We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity,” he said. “Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak.”
Christian identity, he noted, begs the questions of whether or not it is being lived out in Church catechesis and youth ministry, service to the poor, and fostering of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Source: Catholic News Agency