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placeholder June 24, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Members and guests of the Catholic Theological Society of America attend Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Miami June 8 during the CTSA's annual convention June 6-9.
Tom Tracy/cns

Theologians say Pope Francis gives
'new traction' to Catholic teachings

MIAMI — The new papacy of Francis has thus far been inspiring, challenging and accessible and is giving "new traction" to Catholic social teachings, according to a cross section of distinguished scholars on hand for a convention of theologians.

Members and guest presenters of the Catholic Theological Society of America met June 6-9 in Miami for their 68th annual convention, where they explored the conference theme of "conversion" during workshops and keynote speeches.

Several members of the organization and presenters gave their personal opinions about the early papacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his impact on the church just a month or so before his first trip abroad as Pope Francis for the 2013 World Youth Day in Brazil.

The idea of a Latin American who entered into the office of the papacy by saying essentially, "I am a bishop, you are a people and we are on a journey together," set a welcoming and necessary tone given all the challenges facing the church, said Peter Casarella.

A professor of Catholic studies at DePaul University in Chicago, Casarella is also director of the university's Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology.

"It is now becoming clearer that Pope Francis was educated by many sources (in South America) who introduced him to a 'theology of the people.'"

John E. Thiel, professor of religious studies at Fairfield University in Connecticut and CTSA's president 2011-12, noted the church is at an interesting moment in history given that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were arguably the most accomplished theologians in the papal tradition in recent centuries.

"The previous pope was probably the greatest pope-theologian, but this pope is not a professional theologian."

Linda Hogan, a vice provost and professor of ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, said she finds Pope Francis' tone, practices of poverty and mode of engagement exciting, along with the way in which he presents himself and his concerns for the church.

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