Paul Ricœur in the Magisterium of Pope Francis

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Andreas Lind, SJ

 Andreas Lind, SJ / Church Thought / 10 November 2021


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Several studies have been published in recent years on the “genealogy” of the thought of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. In this regard, a book by Massimo Borghesi has exerted a strong influence.[1] The implicit background against which Bergoglio’s thought is set seems to be inspired above all by the anthropology of Romano Guardini and the interpretation that the philosopher Gaston Fessard gave of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Since becoming pope, Francis has revealed that, in addition to Fr. Miguel Ángel Fiorito, he has a particular admiration for two French Jesuits: Henri de Lubac and Michel de Certeau.[2]

It seems, therefore, that the “hermeneutical phenomenology” of Paul Ricœur, if we can call it that, is not one of the theological and philosophical currents in Bergoglio’s intellectual journey. However, the presence  of the thought of this Protestant philosopher in  his official pronouncements is indisputable.

Hence we propose to explore here three explicit quotations from Paul Ricœur that appear in the documents of the magisterium of Pope Francis. Then we will try to show two inseparably connected aspects of the magisterium of the contemporary Church. On the one hand, we observe that references to Ricœur’s work appear when the pope seems to want to enhance the role of institutional involvement in relation to the concrete, stable and lasting practice of charity. On the other hand, Ricœur’s philosophy is used in the context of the affirmation of a flexible identity, both of the human person and of the Church itself. In the form of “narrative identity,” the Church assumes one  that is both inherited from the past and yet needing to be created in the time to come.  

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