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20 March 2020

Dialogue in a time of global crisis

Human and Divine Conversation

Human beings are innately dialogical, they instinctively wait to be addressed by the other. Herein lies their freedom to question and respond. Ultimately their questioning and searching leads them to find God, source of their freedom, who has first chosen to enter into dialogue with them. Their act of faith is their response to the revelatory word of God addressed to them through sacred history and then in its ultimate fullness in the incarnation of the Word made flesh. Through the incarnate Word’s birth, life, death and resurrection God has entered into intimate dialogue with humankind. Enticing them to obey His word, to listen and surrender to it completely; He enters into a covenantal communion of oneness with them and all created realities through this dialogue.

Vatican II and Pope Francis

Since Vatican II the Church has become increasingly more aware of the importance of dialogue and it has been declared the distinctive mission of the Church “to converse with the human society in which she lives” (Vat. II, Christus Dominus, #13). One of its chief advocates was the Canadian theologian Gregory Baum1. Presently, one sees its prominent place in the writings of Pope Francis. In Laudato Si’ he devotes the whole of chapter five to dialogue. In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus vivit addressed to the “Young People and the Entire People of God”, the pope enters into intimate dialogue with young people urging them to do this with one another and to remember:

“You are the ones who hold the future!…Above all, in one way or another, fight for the common good, serve the poor, be protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism. (Christus vivit, no. 174).”

Imperative of Intergenerational Dialogue

While challenging the youth to dialogue with their peers, Pope Francis also speaks of intergenerational relationships and the rootedness collective memory provides by stabilizing society. To the elders he says:

“Those of us who are no longer young need to find ways of keeping close to the voices and concerns of young people…We need to make more room for the voices of young people to be heard… (Christus vivit, no. 38).”

In 2019 the voice of a sixteen-year-old from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, was heard at the United Nations on climate change. Her voice echoed around the world. Subsequently, other young people have challenged local and national governments to act decisively on climate change. Attentive to the signs of the time youth often see things in uniquely different ways especially in the digital and technological spheres. In the Decree on The Apostolate Of Lay People of Vatican II young people are recognized as exerting “a very important influence in modern society” (Vatican II, A.A. no. 12). Now it is imperative that all of us, young, old and in-between heed the cry of scientists and take seriously the global crisis of climate change. This situation requires the wisdom and action of humanity as a whole, communication in word and deed, if we are to survive as a habitable planet tending the earth as co-creators with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

1 Baum Gregory, “Vatican II…The Church in Dialogue”, in Scarboro Missions, Vol. 93, No. 1, Jan. – Feb. 2012, pp. 6 – 7.

Margaret Patricia Brady, OSB

This text is taken from the Winter 2020 issue of the ad vitam webzine “A Communion that Generates Mission”.