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Reflections on Intercultural Encounter

By: Alessio Pecorario

August 23, 2022

Challenges of Interculturality: Responses to Fr. Arturo Sosa

As a combination of the two processes of inculturation and multiculturalism, Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J.’s keynote at the Culture of Encounter and the Global Agenda conference presents the concept of intercultural encounter, defined as a “reciprocal exchange between cultures that leads to the transformation and enrichment of all those involved,”1 while Archbishop Paul Gallagher’s address reminds us how the Holy Father has encouraged us to see dialogue as the principal method for bringing the Gospel message of peace into our daily lives and into international relationships: the very word 'encounter' points to the interplay of diplomacy, global governance and the search for peace.”

Inspired by these two major reflections, I wish to provide a critical reading of my previous essay, which was an attempt to show how new technologies could help our society build trust, despite being used in many ways to erode it. From the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, our project on “The Common Good in the Digital Age” could play a crucial role in this effort. Our experience models a “horizontal collaboration” between science and religion, or reason and faith, by aiming to strengthen global solidarity and international trust in novel ways. This type of encounter can create a “vertical” impact as well, a bottom-up approach from the local level to international governance and vice versa. The promotion of the culture of encounter is at the heart of this process, and Rev. Sosa’s and Archbishop Gallagher’s comments may help illuminate the way in which we could continue our work in an effective manner.

Starting with Rev. Sosa’s insights—How, in the digital realm, could an encounter with our own culture produce first a critical awareness (inculturation) and, from that, the second stage of experiencing a joyous encounter with other human beings and their cultures (multiculturalism), until the final synthesis of the intercultural encounter? A problem is that, in the technology world, it may be even impossible to identify distinct and different cultures. Pope Francis himself denounces “the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm” (Laudato Si,106). Thanks to new technologies, our ability to act has become enormously superior to the ability to predict the effects of our actions. In modern society, some philosophers note, nature is subordinate to the intentions of human planning which, according to the program of modern science explained by Bacon, knows in order to dominate (“scientia est potentia”). Compulsive consumerism, throwaway culture, exploitation, and selfishness are some examples of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals and how these “diseases” of our predominant economic system can poison any culture. At the level of international relations, as Gallagher’s contribution suggests, a true encounter, an authentic relationship between people and between nations, can only come about at the level of charity and through the recognition of the fundamental dignity of each person. Our way forward in the world of new and emerging technologies must incorporate a focus on people and their lives rather than solely the works of their hands. In asking hard questions about how these technologies are changing our cultures for better or for worse, we can better discover how to steward these tools for the kingdom of God on earth. The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is committed to facilitating this work for the good of the Church and the world.

I can confirm that our time together at the conference in Rome was a remarkable opportunity to exchange ideas and perspectives from around the world and to get to know one another—to really embody a culture of encounter in action. I feel personally enriched and motivated by this process and by the important reflections provided by Archbishop Gallagher and Rev. Sosa Education, culture, and science should help create a creative and ideal foundation for the digital empowerment of citizens, communities, and countries worldwide.

1 Lazar Stanislaus and Martin Ueffing (eds.), Interculturalidad (Spain: Estella, 2017), Ed. Verbo Divino, p. 23.