Pope Francis, the challenge of not reducing religion to culture

Pope Francis, the challenge of not reducing religion to culture

During the Easter period, Pope Francis appeared in two programs of Rai, Italian TV. The first, In his Picture, is a historical program, made in collaboration with the Italian Bishops’ Conference, which also includes Pope Francis Angelus every Sunday. The other, The faces of the gospelswas instead a production of Rai Cultura together with the Dicastery of Communication of the Rai, which included several interventions by the pope to the protagonists of the Gospels. It was a program designed for a Catholic TV station for Christmas, with other themes, and then resold to Rai as a by-product [QUI].

The Pope’s consistent presence in the media is not surprising. More than any other pope gives Francis interviews, shows himself on television, takes political positions (such as the one about NATO in the last interview with Corriere della Sera [QUI]and makes his voice heard.

Yet this spread of the pope’s image risks having the opposite effect, namely that the pope becomes a kind of routine presence in the media, that his image becomes predominant and also overshadows the church itself. In practice, the person of the pope becomes a cultural fact, a voice like many other intellectuals and not in the information landscape.

The question must be addressed, for the reduction of the pope to a phenomenon of custom risks resonating with the whole church and in general with how religions are perceived in society.

The signs in this sense are all there. There RaiItalian state television, has had a structure since 2002 called Rai Vatican [voluta e promossa da Dott. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, Direttore della Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, con il primo Direttore Giuseppe De Carlo. V.v.B.]which deals precisely with religious information, and which over the years has been slowly deprived of its characteristics, to be reduced to a production structure of a single half-hour night container [QUI].

But since 2021, with the network’s new organizational structure, religious information has become one of the competencies in the Culture and Education Department. In practice, religious information becomes only a cultural phenomenon that is not worthy of an in-depth study or a particular direction, which takes care of its languages, and which looks at religions in their real role in society.

It seems like a marginal question, but it is not. For it is precisely by reducing religion to a cultural phenomenon that what has been called in Canada in recent years has happened. silent revolution. A revolution that has brought a wave of secularization into society, and put religions aside to the point where they deny their undeniable spiritual significance.

In Europe, the last revolution of this kind took place in Belgium, where the so-called four-year-olds have established themselves nothing else, it is the bourgeois education courses that must be added and then superimposed on the hours of religion. Initially, social studies courses came into the school curricula on toes with one hour a week. Now the hours have been doubled, while the religious courses have become optional, where there was a coup with a parliamentary vote, in which not even the Belgian bishops were involved.

In this way, the transition to neutral doctrine developed by professors who are considered neutral, ie without any kind of religious information, is completed.

As mentioned, the model had developed in Canada, and in particular in the French-speaking region of Quebec, where in the early 2000s a compulsory course in ethics and religious culture was introduced with teachers who were banned from portraying themselves as believers. . and belongs to a community of wedding ring. The course provided information on the major religions of the world and discusses controversial issues, such as abortion and euthanasia, with a commitment not to take a stand in one way or another.

The philosophy behind this approach was delivered by the creator of the courses, the philosopher George Leroux, who stressed that “it is now time to think of the transfer of religious culture no longer as faith, but as history, as a universal legacy of ‘humanity “.

It is striking that the introduction of these courses was approved by a Conservative government, of which they also made Catholics. It is a sign of how one even in the Catholic world does not understand the extent of the challenge.

A challenge that has already reached extremes. On 3 May, a resolution on the persecution of minorities based on faith and religion was voted in the European Parliament.

Paragraph 22 states that Parliament “expresses deep concern at the abuse and exploitation of faith and religion to impose discriminatory policies, laws or restrictions that contradict or undermine the rights of LGBTIQ + persons and restrict access to basic services such as education and health, including reproductive sexual rights, criminalization of abortion in all cases, criminalization of abortion.

It has already reached the point where the men of faith can not speak, can not have an opinion, can not contribute to the construction of the world. Any discourse that is considered to be of a religious nature is accused, any need that arises as a result of a spiritual need is not taken into account.

But it was an obvious tendency already during the Covid-19 emergency, where the restrictions did not take into account the spiritual needs of people, asking for restrictions on religious services while other material needs were considered.

These are all consequences to face. And it is striking that Italian state television, which has always had a privileged relationship with the Holy See, joins this race for the marginalization of religion and basically states that a pope celebrating Via Crucis on Colosseum or giving interviews culture, rather than sending messages of faith.

The silence on the upper floors of the Vatican is also surprising. Yet when, after 9/11, there was talk of international schools under the auspices of international bodies to teach religious culture and avoid extremism, the Pope did an incredible job behind the scenes precisely to emphasize that no, religion was not just a cultural fact, and therefore could not be treated as such.

That is the problem with the secularization of religion. With his idea of ​​the outgoing church, Pope Francis has a strong presence in the media. Until he addresses the big questions until he confirms the importance of the religious fact, however, he will remain a popular pope, but unaware of the great and real challenges of the time. And everyone will be able to benefit from this situation.

After all, the pope’s words make a lot of money, and it’s enough to read the names of those who produce the interviews to understand that the risk of the pope becoming a business like any other is already there, and it is to present.

This article was originally published by the author in English today Monday Vatican [QUI] and in the Italian translation on Vatican reporting [QUI]two blogs he manages.

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