Easter: The Season of Hope
This past Sunday, the Christian Church celebrated Easter. I extend my best wishes for a blessed Easter from the entire AMC community. We are also in the midst of the Jewish celebration of Passover which began on March 25th and ends on April 2nd. Both religious celebrations are marked by a spirit of hope for the future.
In this season of hope, I would like to share some observations … some of my hopes for the future. And it should come as no surprise to those who read this blog regularly that my hopes center on an increase in civility, dialogue and service to the Common Good.
A month ago, I read an op ed piece by the theologian, Hans Kung, entitled, “A Vatican Spring” (NY Times, February 27, 2013). Dr. Kung is the last surviving theological advisor to the Second Vatican Council. While the Vatican stripped him of his authority to teach Catholic theology following his critique of the doctrine of Papal infallibility in the 1970s, he remains a priest in good standing and an emeritus professor of ecumenical theology at the University of Tubingen in Germany. His writings were a central part of my undergraduate theology classes and remain important works today.
Kung’s article called for a reform in the Church and a movement away from the “monarchical habits” of the past. Whether Pope Francis will lead this reform (or even thinks it is necessary) is yet to be seen. But what gave me hope in Kung’s article was the recollection of an event that took place in 2005.
Kung recounts that in 2005, Pope Benedict invited him to a four-hour conversation at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence in Rome. Josef Ratzinger and Hans Kung had been colleagues and friends at Tubingen, even though their theologies were very different and Kung had been a harsh critic of Ratzinger. After Kung’s ecclesiastical teaching license was revoked, Kung and Ratzinger had no private contact for over 20 years.
Why did Pope Benedict reach out to Kung? Kung relates that they “decided to set aside (their) differences and discuss topics on which (they) might find agreement.” These included “the relationship between Christian faith and science, the dialogue between religions and civilization, and the ethical consensus across faith and ideologies.”
It seems to me that we need more dialogue and less division. This is true in the Church, in politics, on college campuses, in communities and in our families. While differences are real, we should seek areas of common ground and be open to new perspectives and different points of view. We should come to dialogue with an open mind, setting aside differences, and with a willingness to listen.
There is no evidence that the meeting in 2005 changed the thinking of Pope Benedict or Dr. Kung. But it was a sign of hope. And we need more signs of hope every day. Happy Easter!
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)