Pope Benedict XVI - Essays and Reflections on His Papacy

Father Allan Deck

Father Allan Deck

“Pope Benedict specifically raised the issue of the preferential option for the poor. He reconfirmed it in the clearest possible way and added his own theological emphasis… he said [that it] is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty.” —from the essay “A Continental Mission: Stand for the Poor” by Rev. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ

A Talk with Rev. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ, author of the essay, “A Continental Mission: Stand for the Poor” from Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy

Q. How did Pope Benedict address the issue of the preferential option for the poor when he spoke to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Brazil in 2007?

A. Pope Benedict XVI strongly re-affirmed Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the preferential option for the poor adding his own particular twist to understanding this concept. Pope Benedict grounded the option on Christology. In his opening address he stated that the preferential option for the poor is grounded on the person of Christ himself who being God, identified himself with humanity and embraced human poverty in his earthly life. For Pope Benedict, then, this is a "Christological" option.

Q. What is the “continental mission” that was the central message of this gathering?

A. The “continental mission” is the call all the baptized have received to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ, that is to “evangelize” the cultures of the Americas. This involves (1) bringing people into contact with Jesus Christ and leading them to true conversion, (2) effectively communicating the gospel message to the various cultures or “inculturation” as it is called, and (3) action to transform the socioeconomic and political order in advancing the Kingdom of God, that is, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

Q. How was the Pope’s visit received by the Latin American and Caribbean bishops?

A. The Holy Father’s visit was received well by the Latin American and Caribbean bishops. They were pleased that he re-affirmed the direction of their previous historic gatherings at Medellin, Puebla and Santo Domingo. He endorsed as well the pastoral approach of Vatican II (especially Gaudium et Spes) that they have used rather consistently for the past 40 years—see, judge, act. This is an inductive method for doing pastoral reflection that requires the bishops to take social, economic, political and cultural realities as starting points for their theological and pastoral reflections.

Rev. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ, is executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

 

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“Pope Benedict affirms that those who answer the call to consecrated life are responding to the initiative of God, the God who first loved us.”

Sister Janice Bader, CPPS