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These studies reveal earnest attempts by Catholics to “indigenize” the Church. Laypeople, priests, nuns, and foreign missionaries dreamt of transforming the Church’s rigid power structures into social movements responsive to local variations of culture, language, and labor conditions. These projects, however, often stood at odds with local popular Catholicism. At the same time, Catholic activists crossed frontiers and oceans, building transnational links across the Global South. A Senegalese convert from Islam influenced French Catholic thought. Quechua-speaking peasants from Lake Titicaca flew to Cameroon to meet with Catholic peasants from Asia and Africa. Pastoral agents organized frequently beyond the purview of the hierarchy, arguing for the compatibility of Catholicism and anti-imperialist third world solidarities.
These innovations met with general disapproval from Rome. If the Second Vatican Council did indeed begin to incorporate marginalized Catholic voices and visions from around the world, the conservative swing under the Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) sought to roll back the most progressive projects that had flourished in the wake of Vatican II. Such conflicts illuminate the multitude of voices reverberating locally, nationally, and transnationally that advanced competing visions of what Catholicism meant and what it could be. Indigenous Catholics asserted their loyalty to the Catholic Church while at the same time building alternative visions of being Catholic and crafting south-to-south collaborations that challenged the doctrinal and pastoral hegemony of the Vatican. The projects and processes examined in this panel take us beyond regional and continental boundaries that so often limit histories of the Church, forcing us to rethink the centers of intellectual, theological, and pastoral production within the Catholic world.