Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle — often cited as a possible successor to Pope Francis — has called on Catholics to avoid looking to the pre-Second Vatican Council church with a sense of nostalgia, but to embrace and live out the council’s sense of openness to the modern world.
Speaking at a landmark theological conference focused on carrying the vision of the council forward, Tagle said Vatican II rediscovered the church’s understanding of mystery, mission and communion—and that, from there, “the understanding of church changed radically.”
One of the key changes of the council, he said, was the move from a church that focused on itself to one that focused on the needs of humanity.
“Many people want to witness to Christ in some idealized past that they long for with nostalgia,” said Tagle, who spoke Friday morning (Saturday in the Philippines) at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
“No, we witness to Christ now, here, where we are in our world.”
“The church is being asked to retrieve its deepest identity as a communion, but a communion that is not focused on itself,” he continued. “Not self-focused, not self-referential.”
“The church finds its true identity only in reference to Jesus and never to itself,” he said.
“The church’s reference to its identity is outside of itself. The church is the pointer to Jesus, the sign of the presence of Jesus, the servant of Jesus.”
Tagle, the newly elected president of Caritas Internationalis, spoke at a conference titled “Vatican II, Remembering the Future: Ecumenical, Interfaith and Secular Perspectives on the Council’s Impact and Promise.” The event is co-hosted by Georgetown, Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia., and the Washington National Cathedral.
The event, a gathering of the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, is seeing some 140 academics reflect Thursday to Sunday on the meaning and import of the council and how its vision might be carried forward.
Among other speakers: Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, the German theologian whose focus on mercy is known to have deeply influenced Francis.
The Second Vatican Council was a 1962-65 global meeting of Catholic bishops that led to significant changes in the church, including modernization of the Catholic liturgy and redefining the relationship between the church and the modern world.
Tagle focused his talk on the way the council called on the church to express openness to the world, saying that part of that call means Catholic leaders must get out of themselves and face what is happening today. National Catholic Reporter