Pope's Catholic health check

World Youth Days stir some and leave others untouched. But they are always interesting because they allow the Pope to address enthusiastic young people in a variety of contexts. He has the chance to talk of what he believes important to pass on to the next generation. In the talks the distinctive themes of a papacy can emerge. 

- Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street

So it is instructive to compare the way in which Pope Francis addressed the young adults at World Youth Day in Brazil this week with Pope Benedict's style of address. Unsurprisingly they have much in common. Both men emphasise that Christian faith in the Catholic Church is the privileged way of finding meaning in life. Both compare Christian faith with other competing ways of finding meaning. Both call for a deeply grounded faith and solid formation in it.

But within these shared themes there are differences. They are of style, but substantial. To hear the two men speak is like hearing sermons from a representative of the Evangelical wing of the Anglican communion and one from the Anglo Catholic wing. Both commend the same Gospel, but they differ particularly in the centrality that each gives to the Church and its traditions.

The differences can be best understood through images, inadequate though they are. Benedict might picture the Church as a museum or treasury of all the beliefs, relationships, liturgical details and traditions that compose its life.

He tries to draw young people into the treasury to appreciate its beauty and coherence and to find in it a home. In his language he puts on display the rich symbolic resources and intellectual power of the Catholic inheritance, just as in his celebration of liturgy he brought out significant treasures from the Vatican vaults.

He sees the enemy of the Church to be impoverished intellectual traditions which seduce people and have to be combated with robust intellectual argument. These alternative treasuries promise much but are empty.

The task of the curators of the treasury — bishops and priests in particular — is to be present in it and safeguard its contents. They are also to draw people in by their enthusiasm for the beauty of what it contained, and are to explain faithfully the living connections that unify the collection.

FULL STORY Pope's Catholic health check (Eureka Street)

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