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|December 3, 2003||
Vol. 1, No. 161
Just one pope away from ...
By Pat Marrin, editor of Celebration
Today's Reading: Matthew15:31: My heart is moved with compassion for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.
Today is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), one of the original seven members of the Society of Jesus. Canonized in 1602 for his exhaustive efforts as an apostle to the East Indies, he is reported to have personally baptized hundreds of thousands of converts (he is the patron of all foreign missions and, I think, also of work-related repetitive motion injury). I happily link today's commemoration with the news that the number of Jesuits in India now exceeds the number of Jesuits in the United States.
At the heart of the Jesuits' success as missionaries has always been their openness to inculturation - the capacity to broker essentials of faith and practice into local customs and devotions. Because of this openness, the church has revealed its Asian face, a vision not lost on Tom Fox, my publisher and the author of Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church (Orbis, 2002). Fox, whose persistent critique of the Roman church is incomplete without his vision of the emerging Asian church, believes that the future of the global church lies in the East. If Rome (and the European model of theological reflection) has painted itself into a corner with exclusive claims about religious truth, Asia, with its rich dialectic of truth as encompassing diverse views, offers the way forward in meaningful interreligious dialogue.
For Fox, the starting point for such dialogue is not another meeting of theologians, but the cooperative engagement of pastors from all faiths in the work of justice. It does not take a degree in dogmatics to look out the window in most urban centers in the world and see what Jesus saw in today's gospel reading. My heart is moved with compassion for the crowd, for they … have nothing to eat. If the Catholic church is present to today's unprecedented global crises about the very survival of millions of people, it will be in no small measure because the Jesuits have been there all along.
Though the Catholic church is relatively small in Asia, it has an enormous stake in using its influence in the developing world. It still startles European and U.S. Catholics to learn that by 2020, 80 percent of the church's 1 billion members will live in the Southern Hemisphere. This shift has occurred in less than 100 years, and it clearly suggests that we are perhaps one pope away from reconfiguring the leadership of the Roman Catholic church to reflect its true global distribution. We already live in an upside down world waiting to flip over, when most of us in the developed West will find ourselves on the bottom for a change of view.
Speaking of the next pope, I recently let John Allen, NCR's peerless Vatican correspondent, in on a secret I have carried in pectore for several years. Of all the papabile, my intuition is riding on someone most people do not know yet. The next pope will be chosen not from among the electors in the conclave, but from outside of all the parameters being drawn around the current candidates. The next pope will be Benedictine Anscar J. Chupungco. I will leave it to all of you to research this amazing man, whose long commitment to the church spans East and West and whose liturgical expertise will pull the church out of the doldrums and prepare us for the Pentecost we so desperately need.
At last report, Dom Anscar was headmaster at San Beda College in Manila, a school with almost 7,000 students, ages 4-25. This should prepare him for working with the Roman Curia when he arrives at the Vatican to begin his pontificate. You heard it here first.
Pat Marrin's e-mail addres is email@example.com. Celebration, NCR's sister publication, is an ecumenical worship resource. For a preview, follow this link: Celebration.
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