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Journal of Catholic Social Thought

Volume 16, Issue 2, Summer 2019

Matthew Petrusek
Pages 225-252

The Mysticism of Encounter
How Pope Francis Provides Fresh Grounds for Solidarity by Transcending Postcolonial and Civilizational-Clash Paradigms of the Other

This article retrieves the theme of “otherization” as it appears in the watershed postcolonial text Orientalism, by Edward Said, and applies it to another historically influential text on otherization, The Clash of Civilizations, by Samuel Huntington. A close comparative reading of Said’s and Huntington’s arguments reveals deep logical and moral flaws in both the postcolonial and civilizational-clash paradigms that each, respectively, represents. Pope Francis’s “mysticism of encounter” provides an alternative that overcomes these flaws. Francis’s framing of how to understand and approach difference, the article concludes, is superior precisely because of its theological content: In grounding the discourse about the other in God, Francis demonstrates how it is possible to cogently define the other as other without creating oppressive power hierarchies—an insight that provides greater promise for establishing solidarity among diverse peoples.

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