Creating a Culture of Encounter

November 30, 2021

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Just over a year since the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship, the papal call for renewed hope continues to find resonance during a particularly trying time in global history. In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world is increasingly divided along political, social, and religious lines. Describing the state of global fragmentation and fragility, Pope Francis diagnosed the lack of global solidarity as a critical crisis. The pope has also proposed a way forward with a culture of encounter. Encounter, for Francis, means engagement of difference with a stance of humility, generosity, and patience toward those who think and live differently, drawing on the fundamental human unity that lies behind political, social, and religious divisions.

Inspired by Fratelli Tutti and the social teaching of Pope Francis, the Berkley Center has launched a new project on the Culture of Encounter and the Global Agenda, working toward a world in which “we can also speak with those who think differently, as well as those who hold other beliefs, who do not have the same faith,” to quote the pope. A culture of encounter, however difficult to sustain, may represent the only viable way to negotiate and bridge differences for the global common good, pointing to the need for shared action on issues ranging from climate change to economic development. As part of the project, the Berkley Forum invites scholars and practitioners to reflect on the challenges and possibilities of creating a culture of encounter.

This week the Berkley Forum asks: What are the sources and substance of the idea of a culture of encounter, as developed by Jorge Mario Bergoglio—as a Jesuit priest, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, and now as pope? How does the Church’s social teaching under Pope Francis connect to the Vatican II vision of the Catholic Church in dialogue with the modern world? What might theological, anthropological, and historical analysis and reflection offer to the theory and practice of a culture of encounter today? What are the implications of a culture of encounter for engagement across divides within the Catholic Church, with other religious traditions, and with the wider world?

related | Pope Francis Welcomes Georgetown Conference in Rome on the Culture of Encounter

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