Summer 1965

Page 26

lean Danielou, SJ.

The Church of the Poor I• Chri.titmilr a religion. of the elite or of the masses?

People are talking a great deal today about the Church of the poor, but each one of them gives quite a different meaning to the expression. In point of fact there are mainly two views of the Church which are in confrontation. For some the Church is before all else a sign set up among the nations; she must bear witness in the world to that which reaches beyond the world. The essential thing is that she hear witness. Above all, these men will insist, the Church must he pure; and they will seek to disentangle her from the civilization in which they fear she is compromising herself. They are nostalgic for the age of the martyrs and speak enthusiastically of the end of the Christian epoch. They prefer to safeguard the Church's purity even at the price of abandoning those many baptized persons for whom Christianity is scarcely more than an external practice. In the face of this idea of the Church another view is arising, not as a defense of historical Christianity hut in the name of the exigencies of the gospel, in the name of a realistic view of the future. For those who hold this view, an essential characteris¡ tic of the gospel is that it be the religion of the poor, not in the


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