September 14, 2015

VATICAN CITY - The Church is called to avoid the temptations to either condemn everything that is new or to embrace all that is new and different, Pope Francis told a group of theologians.

Safeguarding doctrine means being faithful to what has been received, the pope said.

Yet, at the same time, it must take into account the person to whom it is being offered, and understanding and loving him or her, he said.

"Doctrine is not a closed system devoid of dynamics able to raise questions, doubts, inquiries."

The pope urged the theologians to embrace the Church's past, present and future by "taking both the ecclesiastical tradition and current reality very seriously, placing them in dialogue with one another."

Christianity is a living doctrine that is called Jesus Christ, whose life is "offered from generation to generation to all men and women and in all places."

The pope's words were part of a video message he delivered in Spanish to theologians and others taking part in an international congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sept. 1-3.

His talk comes in the midst of a debate among Church leaders on whether the Church should relax its rules on Communion for the divorced and remarried.

The issue is expected to be raised again at the world Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 4-25. Eleven cardinals, four of whom will attend the synod, recently released a book urging fellow Church leaders to maintain the Church's rules regarding marriage.

Pope Francis said theology should be for "the people we have before us. Without encountering families and the people of God, theology runs the great risk of becoming ideology."

Pope Francis, referring to the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, said Church tradition is like a flowing river. It has a fixed origin, yet flows throughout the world bringing to life the best of that region and culture.

The pope said that any attempt to limit or cut off the relationship and communication between "received tradition and concrete reality puts the faith of the people of God in danger."

Theology and reflection should not be at odds with pastoral ministry and the lives of real people, he said.