Religion, liturgy and ethics, at the intersection between theory and practice. The revolution of Pope Francis

Mozes Noda


The role of religion in the public space is a matter of debate. The public sphere understood as a space oriented to achieving interests of common concern, reaching social and political consensus by means of deliberation has relegated religion to the private sphere. The last decades have attested a revival of the public role of religion, a de-privatization of religion. This paper explores the contemporary influence of religious beliefs and liturgical practice on issues of public concern focusing on the statements and liturgical gestures of Pope Francis, notably regarding the disenfranchised and the refugees, as well as his engagement for the environment. The statements and liturgical gestures of Pope Francis have challenged the dissociation between religious practice and social ethics, and have returned religion to the forefront of public debates. A symbolic example is his unconventional practice of a traditional rite, that of the washing of the feet during liturgical celebrations on Holy Thursday. This classical liturgical rite, brought to public attention through the media, has become the vehicle of Francis social ethical views, and due to his involvement in the refugee-debate, a powerful political statement. Such statements are not limited to Catholics or individuals of other denominations, but contribute to the agenda of public discussions.


religion, liturgy, ethics, public sphere, Pope Francis, Aparecida, refugees, feet washing

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