Saturday, May 9, 2015

When the Lion of Judah roars out of Africa

A great article by John Allen on the church in Africa, over viewing the patent difficulty those of us coming from a Western paradigm may have when the African Church finally comes to the foreground.

There is no way around the fact that the African Church is crucially important, both to Rome and to Christianity as whole. The growth continues to be exponential. While Christianity will likely continue its decline in Western Europe and stagnation in the United States, there is no indication it will do anything but grown in Africa.

Last October, the African Church began to flex its muscle, playing no small part in the about face that took place in the closing week to ten days of the last Roman synod. We should reasonably expect that the African bishops will make more maneuvers as the continent comes into its own.

Is anyone in the West genuinely prepared for what the Roman Church will look like under the influence of Africa, let alone what impact it will have on global Christianity? Allen proposes the immediate effect will be a "rebooting" of the Roman Church, a rediscovery of the core from which the West has so long veered away from to the left and to the right. Is this legitimate? It depends if one believes liberals and conservatives have lost the plot, really.

The growing influence of the African Church will likely lead to more than a few bouts of disorientation, I suspect many will not fully recognize the Roman Church they thought they knew. Certainly, restoring the classic Latin liturgy will not be a priority. Indeed, if Arinze's reaction to Ratzinger's Summorum Pontificum was any indication, an African pope may be the most likely to jettison it. As I've written elsewhere, Africa is firmly committed to the Pauline Missal; it is their liturgy, having been the liturgical expression of the Tradition during this period of exponential growth. One would be fighting an uphill battle to convince an African that the Pailine liturgy fails to adequately convey the Tradition. When Africa takes the papacy (not if, but when) such attempts at persuasion will be essentially irrelevant; the African Church has yet to see the new liturgy as a source of rupture or discontinuity.

My generation spent the last decade of John Paul II's pontificate waiting on the African Church. It was based upon the notion that the African Church would eventually save the West from itself. It was a tall order, one probably placed due a fair amount of naivety. This said, Africa will eventually be in pole position. It will continue to grow in influence. It may re-establish the Tradition in the Roman Church.

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