by Sandro Magister

ROME, April 11, 2013 –

For Pope Francis, religious freedom means above all “having the courage to bear witness to faith in the risen Christ.” A faith that is complete, and public. A faith that presumes to transform society.


“The presumption” is precisely the title that the sociologist of religion Luca Diotallevi has given to his latest essay, published in recent days.

It is an essay harshly critical toward the theories of “secularism” – theories widespread even within the Church and improperly applied to Vatican Council II as well – that rule out a direct connection between the Gospel and the social order, in homage to a presumed “neutrality” of the state.

To the paradigm of “secularism” Diotallevi opposes the paradigm of religious freedom, typical of the Anglo-Saxon world but with theological foundations that have their bedrock in the “De Civitate Dei” of Augustine and before that in the New Testament.

According to this vision, the “saeculum” between the first and second coming of Christ is an interweaving of time and eternity, it is a conflict between sin and grace. In this conflict participate the thrones, the principalities, the dominations of which the New Testament speaks, referring to the powers of this world. They are the rebel powers over which the cross and resurrection of Jesus have won definitive victory, victory that however has not yet had its fulfillment. In the “saeculum” these powers still oscillate between the extremes of anarchy and absolute dominion, while the Church, which safeguards the gift of victory, works to hold them back from one and the other extreme.

After Augustine, this New Testament vision of history has been developed in our time by Oscar Cullmann and Joseph Ratzinger, extensively cited by Diotallevi.

But the most original feature of the essay is where it identifies in the celebration of the Eucharist the source and summit of this “presumption” of the impact of the Christian faith on the social order, here as well in full continuity with Benedict XVI.

Diotallevi writes:

“Every Eucharistic liturgy, every Mass, is a rite in which the participant makes the claim of sharing in the one work of victory and making an effective proclamation of it. The Eucharist does not provide any definite or definitive model of social order. The heavenly Jerusalem will come on the last day and from on high, and the Eucharist works and proclaims the victory that shatters space and time so as to generate time and space for that gift. It works and proclaims the definitive defeat of the plans of dominion of the powers and principalities, opening and indicating a never-stabilized intermediate condition between absolute dominion and anarchic dissolution of social life.”

And again:

“The celebration of the Eucharist proclaims and realizes the prohibition of any statalization of the Church and any ecclesiasticization of politics. The pilgrim Church does not found the earthly ‘civitas,’ but dwells there and by dwelling in it preserves it.”


In the light of this vision, it becomes even more understandable why Pope Francis decided to celebrate the Mass last Holy Thursday not only in a place, like the juvenile detention facility of Casal del Marmo, in which the conflict between sin and grace is more visible than elsewhere, but also in the presence of persons of other faiths and of no faith.

Because the Eucharist is the Church that makes itself visible, it is the victorious work of God that breaks through into history and is presented to the gaze of every man, it is Jesus raised on the cross between the two thieves, with the centurion who recognizes him as Son and the earth that trembles.

The educated pagans of the first centuries were not mistaken when to identify Christianity they described it in the very act of celebrating the liturgy.


The book:

Luca Diotallevi, “La pretesa. Quale rapporto tra vangelo e ordine sociale?”, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli, 2013, pp. 140, euro 12.00.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
This entry was posted in CONVERSION TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, EVANGELIZATION, THE EUCHARIST. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. anselmusjmj says:

    Abyssum, thank you for sharing this piece of Magister’s with us. I will not deny that Pope Francis’ choices on Holy Thursday shook me up a bit. Had it been a regular visit, no big deal. In the context of a ritual which we have celebrated a certain way for two millenia, and then jump off the path of that tradition, well, it shook me. Again, this piece by Magister was a breath of fresh air. Forgive me Lord for lacking in trust!!!

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