VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church's top theologians on Friday to listen to what ordinary Catholics have to say and pay attention to the "signs of the times," rather than just making pronouncements in an academic vacuum.
Francis, whose near-disdain for theologians is well-known, told the International Theological Commission that they must "humbly listen" to what God tells the church by understanding Scripture but also by taking into account how ordinary Catholics live out their faith.
"Together with all Christians, theologians must open their eyes and ears to the signs of the times," Francis said.
Made up of leading theologians from around the world, the commission is a permanent advisory body to the Vatican's theological and orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Both are headed by Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a conservative German theologian appointed by the theologian pope, Benedict XVI.
The congregation is known for disciplining Catholic theologians whose writings or teachings stray from church doctrine. It has been criticized for issuing these notifications without consulting the academics or giving them a chance to defend their work.
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Francis has frequently complained that theologians are holding back the church in its mission to evangelize and work with other Christian communities. Just this past weekend, returning from Turkey, Francis spoke about the need for the Catholic and Orthodox churches to walk together on the path of unity.
"What are we waiting for? For the theologians to reach agreement? That day will never come, I assure you," Francis said. "I'm skeptical."
Francis has instead spoken frequently about what he calls "theology on its knees" — a more merciful type of theology that isn't focused so much on rules and regulations but meeting the faithful where they are to help them reach holiness.