Symposium Responds to Pope Francis’ Call | Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Symposium Responds to Pope Francis’ Call to Renew the Church

    Keynote addresses included Archbishop Charles Chaput and Father Robert Spitzer, SJ

    From left to right: Father Robert J. Spitzer, SJ, Dr. Josephine Lombardi, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, Dr. Alan Schreck, Dr. Eduardo Echeverria, and Dr. Ralph Martin

    December 14, 2016

    STEUBENVILLE, OH—“One of the reasons the Holy Father may seem so frustrated with the state of the Church today is that, in his experience, too many Christians confuse doctrine and law, rituals and structures, with the real experience of faith,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia.

    Archbishop Chaput’s words encouraged the 250 people gathered at the Symposium on Pope Francis’ Vision for the Renewal of the Church, held November 10-12 at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

    Understanding the leadership of the Church and how it operates and translating that to renewing the Church was one of the themes among the speakers at the symposium.

    “People typically see the Holy Father as a man formed by the example of Ignatius Loyola and Francis of Assisi,” said Archbishop Chaput, “And of course that’s true.  His spirituality is clearly Jesuit, and his desire for a simple Church close to the poor is clearly Franciscan. . . . There’s a paradox about Francis that reporters tend to gloss over. The pope who smiles so often and holds joy in such high regard also has the awkward habit of talking about the devil.”

    He compared Pope Francis to St. Augustine, a bishop in the early Church and doctor of the Church, arguing that much of what St. Augustine spoke about in his writings on how to live the faith apply to American Christians and the modern world. 

    Finally, the archbishop said the key sin of the 21th century is not one of pride like in the past. Instead, it’s the sin of despair.

    “There’s much to love, and a lot worth fighting for, in this country we call our home,” Archbishop Chaput said. “As Christians, we’re here, in part, to make the world a better place.  But this world is not our home, not really.  And Augustine would tell us never to forget that.”

    Father Robert J. Spitzer, SJ, PhD, president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, gave an overview of Jesuit spirituality and how it has shaped Pope Francis in “Jesuitical Hermeneutic of Pope Francis: ‘Go in Their Door So They Will Come Out Yours.’”

    Father Spitzer acknowledged that many Catholics are wary when Pope Francis takes risks by quoting agnostic or atheist scholars in his encyclicals and his “Who am I to judge?” response to a journalist’s question on homosexual attraction. Father Spitzer said that Pope Francis has a “pastoral mind” that seeks to answer four questions:

    What is broken that very few people are paying attention to? Who is broken and nobody is paying attention to them? What is being ignored that Jesus Christ would not ignore? Who is being ignored that Jesus Christ would not ignore?

    “What he is doing is a very simple rhetoric we find in Aristotle,” said Father Spitzer. “You want to appeal to somebody? Quote their guy, quote their issue, bring them in. . . . It’s an open invitation the Jesuits call ‘going in their door’ so they will come out ours.”

    Franciscan University Theology Professor and symposium organizer Dr. Alan Schreck spoke on the parallels between Pope Francis and St. Francis of Assisi’s vision for the renewal of the Church.

    “It’s not surprising that  Pope Francis took the name Francis because like St. Francis of Assisi, he was an ordinary man who felt a call to live a radical and simple poor life,” said Dr. Schreck. “Remember early in his pontificate when he was asked, ‘Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?’ His answer, ‘A sinner.’ He recognizes himself first as a sinner in need of God’s mercy and our prayers. It reminds me of St. Francis’ response when someone asked him why he was so blessed and virtuous. St. Francis responded, ‘Frankly if God had given the graces I have received to anyone else, he would be a much holier and virtuous than I.’”

    Dr. Eduardo Echeverria spoke on “Diversity in Post-Vatican II Theology – Pope Francis’ Perspective.”

    “Mercy and Beyond: Becoming Experts in Humanity” was discussed by Dr. Josephine Lombardi, theology professor at St. Augustine Seminary in Scarborugh, Ontario. She spoke of living mercy through the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis.  

    Dr. Ralph Martin, director of Graduate Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary spoke on Pope Francis’ approach to the new evangelization.

    The Franciscan Institute for Ecclesial Renewal and The Henkels Family Foundation sponsored the symposium. 

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