(Vatican Radio) ‘Catholicism and Citizenship’ is the title of a new book, published on Saturday April 1st, which takes an in-depth look at the relationship between the Church and politics in the 21st century.
The book’s author, Massimo Faggioli is a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University in the United States. He believes that since the terror attacks of 2001, the West has experienced a growing crisis of the concept of politics as a solution to global or local problems.
Yet he believes that Pope Francis is calling Catholics to rediscover a vocation to politics and to the crucial task of serving the common good in the public square.
Professor Faggioli talked to Philippa Hitchen about the book and about the implications of the Pope's personal political vision:
Faggioli says the book tries to recapture “the political culture and the political ethos of Catholicism that comes from the Second Vatican Council”, that is the concept of a ‘common good’ and the idea that there is a practical way to work for that.
As the book seeks to throw light on “a specific Catholic way of engaging the public square”, he says, it also counters the view of those who believe the world has become so secularized and hostile to religion that the only option is withdrawal from the political scene. Such a vision, Faggioli believes, is not viable but not Catholic either “because the Catholic Church is anti- sectarian by definition”.
The new publication also looks at the pontificate of Pope Francis, whom he describes as the “only global voice” trying to “nobilitate again the political vocation”.
This “comeback of the political culture of Vatican II, Faggioli says, is a consequence of Jorge Bergoglio’s Latin American background. While the Church in the northern hemisphere has seen over the last half century the weakening of the role of religion in the public square, the Church in Latin America has largely been engaged in “a very different, fight” against dictatorships and military juntas.
Latin American legacy
This experience helps to explain Pope Francis’ conviction that “the church is an agent for the development of nations and of peoples through politics,” Faggioli adds. While the Western world has seen a crisis of belief in the problem-solving power of politics, the Argentinian pontiff sees politics as the only alternative to special interest groups.
Responsibility of theologians
Asked about the impact of the Pope’s appointments of U.S. bishops who share his vision, Faggioli says the new prelates are “making real changes locally” but have had little influence at “the level of the U.S. bishops conference” His book, Faggioli concludes, also wants to call theologians to recognize their responsibility in bridging the divide between the vision of Pope Francis and people in the pews, who may not yet fully grasp this new global Catholic perspective.