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Jesuit Terms V

Valignano, Alessandro (1538-1606)

Italian Jesuit; architect of inculturation for Japan and China

For 33 years Alessandro Valignano served as ?visitor? to the Jesuit missions in India, Japan, and China, consolidating the work begun by Francis Xavier.

Convinced that Jesuit missioners must dissociate themselves from the marauding ways of western adventurers, he drew up the following mission principles:

A deep sympathy and respect for the intellectual and spiritual values of the [peoples]; the most perfect command possible of the language; the use of science as a step in the introduction of the faith; the development of the apostolate of writing and conversation; special concern for the cultivated classes on whom the government . . . depended; and the primacy of supernatural virtue (Bangert, A History of the Society of Jesus [1986]).

In 1582 a gifted 30-year-old Italian scholar, scientist, and linguist named Matteo Ricci arrived in China. He became the epitome of Valignano?s principles.

Concerning Japan, Valignano convinced Pope Gregory XIII to grant the Jesuits exclusive rights to evangelize the country?on the grounds that Jesuit (largely Portuguese) and Franciscan (Spanish) mission principles and activities were so vastly different that the Japanese would take Christianity for nothing more than bickering sects. This wise caution was confirmed when 23 years later the Franciscans did come and were soon suspected of being a fifth column for a Spanish attack on Japan. The result was the great persecution of 1597.

Schutte, Valignano?s Mission Principles for Japan (1980-85).
Ross, ?Alessandro Valignano: The Jesuits and Culture in the East? in The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773, ed. John O?Malley (1999).

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Vatican Council II

Convoked by Pope John XXIII to bring the Catholic Church ?up to date,? and continued by his successor Paul VI after John?s death, this 21st Ecumenical (i.e.. worldwide) Council (1962-1965) signaled the Catholic Church's growth from a church of cultural confinement (largely European) to a genuine world church. The Council set its seal on the work of 20th century theologians that earlier had often been officially considered dangerous or erroneous. Thus, the biblical movement, the liturgical renewal and the lay movement were incorporated into official Catholic doctrine and practice.

Here are several significant new perspectives coming from the Council: celebration of liturgy (worship) in various vernacular languages rather than Latin, to facilitate understanding and lay participation; viewing the Church as "the whole people of God" rather than just as clergy and viewing other Christian bodies (Protestant, Orthodox) as belonging to it; recognizing non-Christian religions as containing truth; honoring freedom of conscience as a basic human right; and finally including in its mission a reaching out to people in all their human hopes, needs, sufferings as an essential part of preaching the gospel.

Of equal importance with these new perspectives is the style or genre in which they were delivered. The documents of earlier councils always had a negative tone; they listed errors to be corrected and condemned anyone who held them. The documents of Vatican II, in contrast, were written in a positive tone, in keeping with the ?pastoral? approach that Pope John had called for in his initial remarks to the gathered bishops. These documents addressed not just Catholics, but all people; and they urged ideals that many could embrace.

There were at times heated interventions from the floor and a good deal of maneuvering behind the scene. Yet in the end a huge majority of the bishops voted to approve each of the documents in turn. The conviction and determination of those in the tiny minority, however, did not go away. Even before the Council closed, Paul VI indicated that there would be no reform of the Roman Curia (the Vatican offices). And afterwards, because that tiny minority controlled the Curia and the appointment of bishops worldwide, they have been able to bring about a return to earlier, pre-Vatican II ways, in particular a centralization of church governance at the top and censorship of supposed "liberal" or "radical" theologians and organizations.

See Reform of the Church

O?Malley, ?Misdirections: Ten sure-fire ways to mix up the teaching of Vatican II,? America (February 4, 2013).

See O?Grady, ??The Spirit Is Still on the Job?: a Conversation with Bishop Luigi Bettazzi,? America (January 25, 2013).

See our resource page on Vatican Council II.

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Vatican Council II, Interpretation of

Theologians?including Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI-- uncomfortable with the direction that Vatican II seemed to be leading the church came up with the term ?hermeneutic of continuity? to show that the Council fostered a development which corroborated and confirmed what had come before. This was in opposition to a ?hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture.?

Yet to many contemporary Catholic theologians, a council that proclaimed Protestant Christianity as in some sense part of the church and other religions as containing truth and goodness contradicted the centuries-long Catholic teaching that there is no salvation outside the [Catholic] church. Another key teaching of the Council legitimated ?religious liberty? as a basic human right, whereas the teaching and practice of the church for centuries was that error had no rights and could be punished even with death. It is hard to read these changes as favoring a ?hermeneutic of continuity.? Perhaps that is why the pope and like-minded theologians
changed their term to the more ambiguous ?hermeneutic of reform.?

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JESUIT A TO Z: An expanded version of the publication "Do You Speak Ignatian?"