Inculturation is a term used in Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, especially in the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, referring to the adaptation of the way Church teachings are presented to non-Christian cultures, and to the influence of those cultures on the evolution of these teachings.


The coexistence of Christianity and other cultures dates back to the apostolic age. Before his Ascension, Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 instructed his disciples to spread his teachings to the ends of the earth (Mk28,28; Mk16,15) but did not tell them how. Saint Paul's speech to the Greeks at the Aeropagus of Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 (Acts 17:22-33) could be considered as the first inculturation attempt. The speech was not well received, according to verse 32: "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked". Around the year 50, the apostles convened the first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem
Council of Jerusalem
The Council of Jerusalem is a name applied by historians and theologians to an Early Christian council that was held in Jerusalem and dated to around the year 50. It is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later Ecumenical Councils...

, to decide whether to include Gentiles and inculturate Gentile culture. The Council confirmed that Gentiles could be accepted as Christians.

Cultural conflicts between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians continued until Christianity incorporated the Greco-Roman culture. Similar inculturation occurred when the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 ceased and the Germanic and Medieval cultures became dominant, a process taking centuries. Early practitioners of inculturation in the history of missions include St. Patrick in Ireland and Sts. Cyril and Methodius for the Slavic peoples
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 of Eastern Europe. After the schism of 1054, the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 was largely restricted to the Western parts of Europe. Attempts failed to broaden the sphere of influence to the cultures of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 with the crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 and the Latin Empire in Constantinople
Latin Empire
The Latin Empire or Latin Empire of Constantinople is the name given by historians to the feudal Crusader state founded by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantine Empire. It was established after the capture of Constantinople in 1204 and lasted until 1261...

 (1204-1261). The Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 generated a division in the Western Church. However, at the same time, Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portuguese
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 discoveries of the Americas, Asia and Africa broadened contact with other cultures and civilizations.

Inculturation after the discoveries

After the discoveries of new territories and the Council of Trent
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods...

 (1545-1563) the movement became more systematic, when the Roman Church had to ponder how and to evaluate elements of ancient non-Christian cultures. Notable figures were, among others, José de Anchieta
José de Anchieta
José de Anchieta was a Canarian Jesuit missionary to Brazil in the second half of the 16th century. A highly influential figure in Brazil's history in the 1st century after its discovery on April 22, 1500 by a Portuguese fleet commanded by Pedro Álvares Cabral, Anchieta was one of the founders of...

 for the indigenous people of Brazil, Roberto de Nobili
Roberto de Nobili
Roberto de Nobili was an Italian Jesuit missionary to Southern India. He used a novel method of adaptation to preach Christianity, adopting many local customs of India which were, in his view, not contrary to Christianity.Born in Montepulciano, Tuscany in September 1577, Roberto de Nobili arrived...

 in Southern India, Alexandre de Rhodes in Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...



The Jesuits Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci, SJ was an Italian Jesuit priest, and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China Mission, as it existed in the 17th-18th centuries. His current title is Servant of God....

, Adam Schall von Bell and others had successfully introduced Christianity to China. Ricci and Schall were appointed by the Chinese Emperor in Peking to be court mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

s, court astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

s and even Mandarin
Mandarin (bureaucrat)
A mandarin was a bureaucrat in imperial China, and also in the monarchist days of Vietnam where the system of Imperial examinations and scholar-bureaucrats was adopted under Chinese influence.-History and use of the term:...

s. The first Catholic Church was built in Peking in 1650. The emperor granted freedom of religion to Catholics. Ricci had adapted the Catholic faith to Chinese thinking, permitting among others the cultic veneration of ancestors, which he described as a mere cultural practice. The Holy See disagreed, deeming the veneration an act of worship and hence idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

, and forbade any adaptation in the so-called Chinese Rites controversy
Chinese Rites controversy
The Chinese Rites controversy was a dispute within the Catholic Church from the 1630s to the early 18th century about whether Chinese folk religion rites and offerings to the emperor constituted idolatry...

 in 1692 and 1742. The Chinese emperor felt duped and refused to permit any alteration of the existing Christian practices. The Church experienced missionary setbacks in 1721 when the Kangxi Emperor
Kangxi Emperor
The Kangxi Emperor ; Manchu: elhe taifin hūwangdi ; Mongolian: Энх-Амгалан хаан, 4 May 1654 –20 December 1722) was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the first to be born on Chinese soil south of the Pass and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper, from 1661 to 1722.Kangxi's...

 outlawed Christian missions. According to Franzen, "The Vatican policy was the death of the missions in China."


Pope Leo XIII fostered inter-cultural diversity, leading to the reintegration of the Armenian Catholic Church
Armenian Catholic Church
|- |The Armenian Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church sui juris in union with the other Eastern Rite, Oriental Rite and Latin Rite Catholics who accept the Bishop of Rome as spiritual leader of the Church. It is regulated by Eastern canon law...

 into the Catholic Church in 1879. He opposed efforts to Latinize the Eastern Rite Churches, stating that they constitute a most valuable ancient tradition and symbol of the divine unity of the Catholic Church. His 1894 encyclical Praeclara Gratulationis praised the cultural and liturgical diversity of expressions of faith within the Church . In Orientalum Dignitatis he repeated the need to preserve and cultivate diversity and declared different cultures to be a treasure. He opposed the latinization policies of his own Vatican and decreed a number of measures which preserved the integrity and distinctiveness of other cultural expressions.

Benedict XV and Pius XI

While Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
Blessed Pope Pius IX , born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal...

 and Pope Pius X
Pope Pius X
Pope Saint Pius X , born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was the 257th Pope of the Catholic Church, serving from 1903 to 1914. He was the first pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. Pius X rejected modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox...

 tended to be slightly more Latin oriented, Benedict XV was especially concerned with the development of missionary activities, which had suffered so much during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Inculturation meant to him first of all the development of domestic clergy. On November 20, 1919, he appealed to the Catholics of the world, to support missions and especially the development of local clergy, favouring a de-Europeanization of the Catholic missions. Pope Pius XI
Pope Pius XI
Pope Pius XI , born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was Pope from 6 February 1922, and sovereign of Vatican City from its creation as an independent state on 11 February 1929 until his death on 10 February 1939...

 followed suit by promoting local clergy so the local cultures were better recognized. He held a mission congress in Rome in 1922 and personally consecrated each year bishops from Asia, Africa and Latin America. At his death 240 dioceses and administrations were in the hands of domestic bishops.

Pius XII

In 1939 Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII
The Venerable Pope Pius XII , born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli , reigned as Pope, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City State, from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958....

, within weeks of his coronation, radically reverted the 250 year old Vatican policy
Pope Pius XII and the Church in China
Pope Pius XII and the Church in China involves relations of the Holy See with China from 1939-1958. It begins with the recognition of Chinese rites by the Vatican in 1939, the elevation of the first Chinese cardinal in 1946, the establishment of a Chinese hierarchy, the persecution and virtual...

 and permitted the veneration of dead family members in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

The December 8, 1939 isuance from the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith issued at the request of Pius XII stated that Chinese customs were no longer considered superstitious but rather an honourable way of esteeming one's relatives, and therefore permitted by Catholics. The Church began to flourish again with twenty new arch-dioceses, seventy-nine dioceses and thirty-eight apostolic prefects, but only until 1949, when the Communist revolution took over the country.

The introduction of the Gospel means inculturation and not the destruction of local cultures. Pius emphasized this because not all seemed to understand this point. He wrote in Summi Pontificatus
Summi Pontificatus
Summi Pontificatus is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII published on October 20, 1939. The encyclical is subtitled "On the Unity of Human Society." It was the first major encyclical of Pius XII so was seen as setting "a tone" for his papacy. It critiques major errors at the time, such as ideologies...

 that a deeper appreciation of various civilizations and their good qualities is necessary to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. And in his 1944 speech to the directors of the Pontifical Missionary Society, he said:
  • The herald of the Gospel and messenger of Christ is an apostle. His office does not demand that he transplant European civilization and culture, and no other, to foreign soil, there to take root and propagate itself. His task in dealing with these peoples, who sometimes boast of a very old and highly developed culture of their own, is to teach and form them so that they are ready to accept willingly and in a practical manner the principles of Christian life and morality; principles, I might add, that fit into any culture, provided it be good and sound, and which give that culture greater force in safeguarding human dignity and in gaining human happiness.

Inculturation was addressed in his encyclicals Evangelii Praecones
Evangelii Praecones
Evangelii Praecones June 2, 1951) was an encyclical letter of Pope Pius XII about Catholic missions. In it, he described necessary improvements and changes, and the persecution of the Church in some parts of he world. The encyclical was issued in commemoration of the 25th...

and Fidei Donum, issued on June 2, 1951 and April 21, 1957, respectively. Pius increased the local decision-making of Catholic missions, many of which became independent dioceses. Pius XII demanded recognition of local cultures as fully equal to European culture. Continuing the line of his predecessors, Pius XII supported the establishment of local administration in Church affairs: in 1950, the hierarchy of Western Africa became independent; in 1951, Southern Africa; and in 1953, British Eastern Africa. Finland, Burma and French Africa became independent dioceses in 1955.

John Paul II

John Paul II addressed the issue in several encyclicals and public appearances. The term was used again by the encyclical Redemptoris Missio
Redemptoris Missio
Redemptoris Missio , subtitled On the permanent validity of the Church's missionary mandate, is a Papal encyclical by Pope John Paul II published on December 7, 1990 devoted to the subject of "the urgency of missionary activity" and in which he wished "to invite the Church to renew her missionary...

of John Paul II in 1990.
  • "The incarnation of the Gospel in native cultures and also the introduction of these cultures into the life of the Church."

  • "The intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures."

  • "It is now acknowledged that inculturation is a theological term which has been defined in Redemptoris Missio 52 as the on-going dialogue between faith and culture."

General sources

  • August Franzen Church history, Kirchengeschichte, Herder Freiburg, 1988
  • Schineller, Peter. A Handbook on Inculturation. New York, 1990.
  • Shorter, Aylward. Toward a Theology of Inculturation. Maryknoll, NY, 1988.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.