Pope Francis’ comments on the need for the Church to develop non-Western expressions of the faith are a breath of fresh air, writes Fr Robert Kaggwa in The Tablet.
In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he wrote: 'We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history, because the faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture.'
He thus reaffirmed the spirit of the Second Vatican Council that had been obscured in the past decades by a militant restorationism.
Coming from Africa, I have seen how the Church has been Western not only in its liturgy but also in its personnel, finance and theology. Although recent decades have seen dramatic improvements, one can still see how this dependence is not going away soon. While a lot has been achieved in new forms of worship, and today one can speak of Christianity already becoming a truly African religion, a lot remains to be done, particularly in the area of theology.
In his interpretation of the significance of Vatican II, the German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner argued that the Church had shifted from being a Western Church to becoming a world Church: Pope Francis is reminding us of what his fellow Jesuit said.
One could point to how developing non-Western theologies could be a risky business. In a way, theologians in Africa, Asia and Latin America are on a pioneering venture: the task of breaking new ground; and it is not guaranteed that they will not fumble and even make mistakes in the process. Who has not made mistakes? Peter? Paul? Tertullian? Augustine? Aquinas? Rahner?