ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
OF THE ALPHONSIAN ACADEMY-SUPERIOR INSTITUTE OF THEOLOGY
Saturday, 9 February 2019
Father Moderator General,
Dear brothers and sisters,
I meet you on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Alphonsian Academy. I thank the Moderator General for his words and I extend a cordial greeting to all of you. This recurrence of your university institution is a moment of gratitude to the Lord for the service of research and theological formation that it has been able to accomplish. The specific theological field of the Alphonsian Academy is that of moral knowledge, which is responsible for the difficult but indispensable task of bringing and accepting Christ in the concreteness of daily life, as the One who, freeing ourselves from sin, sadness, inner emptiness, from isolation, it gives birth and re-birth in us joy (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 1).
In these seventy years, the Alphonsian Academy has committed itself, as your Statutes recall, to deepen the moral theology sub lumine Mysterii Christi trying to respond to the evolution of society and cultures, in constant respect for the Magisterium (see No. 1) ). And he did so by drawing inspiration from his heavenly Patron, Saint Alphonsus Maria de 'Liguori.
The celebration of the anniversary of an institution like yours can not be limited to the memory of what has been done, but it must above all push forward to look forward, to find enthusiasm in the mission, to design courageous steps to better respond to the expectations of the people of God And it is providential that your seventieth comes in the period when all the academic structures of the Church are called to a more resolute commitment to redesign and renewal. This is what I have called to do with the Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium on the Universities and Ecclesiastical Faculties. Enhancing the «rich patrimony of in-depth studies and addresses», originated by Vatican II and implemented with the «persevering commitment of cultural and social mediation of the Gospel put into action by the People of God in the different continental spheres and in dialogue with different cultures», it is necessary to open oneself to «that wise and courageous renewal that is required by the missionary transformation of an" outgoing "Church» (see No. 3).
It is not just a revision of the statutes and study plans, but a renewal of the entire academic life, also favored by the possibilities that IT development offers today to research and teaching. For this purpose it is essential to assume as a "priority and permanent" criterion [...] that of contemplation and spiritual, intellectual and existential introduction into the heart of the kerygma, and that is to say of the ever new and fascinating joyful news of the Gospel of Jesus ". It will then be possible to implement a "wide-ranging dialogue: not as a mere tactical attitude, but as an intrinsic requirement to make a community experience of the joy of Truth and to deepen its meaning and practical implications". And the care for "the inter- and trans-disciplinarity exercised with wisdom and creativity in the light of Revelation" will be accompanied by the recognition of the "urgent need to" make a network "», not only among the ecclesial institutions of the whole world, but also "with the academic institutions of the different countries and with those that are inspired by the different cultural and religious traditions", taking care of the "epochal problems that affect humanity today, coming to propose appropriate and realistic paths of resolution" ( see No. 4).
These are instances to which I am sure that the Alphonsian Academy is already sensitive and will be able to respond promptly and confidently, as in the second half of the last century it managed to implement the renewal of the moral theology desired by the Second Vatican Council.
Fidelity to the Alphonsian roots of your Institute is now asking you for an even more convinced and generous commitment to a moral theology animated by the missionary tension of the Church "outgoing". Like St. Alphonsus, we must always avoid letting ourselves be imprisoned in school positions or in judgments formulated "far from the concrete situation and the real possibilities" of people and families. Likewise, it is necessary to guard against an "excessive idealization" of the Christian life which is not capable of awakening "trust in grace" (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Apostolic Apostolate, Amoris Laetitia, 36). Instead, listening to respectful of reality and trying to discern the signs of the presence of the Spirit, which generates liberation and new possibilities, we can help everyone to walk with joy in the path of goodness.
The reality to listen to is above all the sufferings and the hopes of those who the thousand forms of the power of sin continue to condemn insecurity, poverty and marginalization. St. Alphonsus soon realized that it was not a world from which to defend himself and even less to condemn, but to heal and free, in imitation of Christ's action: to incarnate and share needs, to reawaken the deepest expectations of the heart, to make sure that everyone, however fragile and sinful, is in the heart of the Heavenly Father and is loved by Christ to the cross. Who is touched by this love, feels the urgency to respond loving.
All the words of moral theology must allow themselves to be shaped by this merciful logic, which allows them to be effectively met as words of life in fullness. They are in fact an echo of those of the Master who tells his disciples not to have come "to condemn the world, but to save the world" (Jn 12, 47), and that his Father's will is that "they have life and they have in abundance "(Jn 10,10) and participate in the fullness of his joy (cf. Jn 17,13). "Although it is true that the integrity of the moral teaching of the Church must be treated, special attention must always be given to highlighting and encouraging the highest and most central values of the Gospel, especially the primacy of charity as a response to the free initiative of the Church. 'love of God' (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Apostolic Posts, Amoris Laetitia, 311).
With the apostle Paul, moral theology is called to make everyone experience that "the law of the Spirit, which gives life in Christ Jesus", frees "from the law of sin and death", so we can not "fall back into fear. »Having received« the Spirit who makes adoptive sons, through whom we cry: "Abba! Father! "» (Cf. Rom 8:15). And the same Spirit makes sure that this freedom can never be indifference towards those in need, but "the heart of the neighbor" who lets himself be questioned and is ready to take care of him lovingly.
In recent years moral theology has pledged to welcome the strong warning of Vatican Council II to "overcome individualistic ethics" and to promote awareness that "the more the world is united, the more openly the obligations of men outweigh the groups particular and extend little by little to the whole world "(Cost. past. Gaudium et spes, 30). The steps taken must prompt us to face the new and serious challenges arising from the rapidity with which our society evolves with greater speed. I limit myself to remember those due to the growing domination of the logic of "competitiveness and the law of the strongest" which "considers the human being in itself as a consumer good, which can be used and then thrown" giving "beginning of culture" of the "waste" »(cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 53).
The same must be said for the cry of the earth, raped and wounded in a thousand ways by selfish exploitation. The ecological dimension is an essential component of the responsibility of every person and every nation. It makes me reflect the fact that when I administer Reconciliation - even before, when I did it - someone rarely accuses himself of having violated nature, the earth, and creation. We are not yet aware of this sin. It is your job to do it. Moral theology must make its own the urgent need to participate firmly in a common effort to care for the common home through feasible ways of integral development.
A dialogue and a shared commitment moral research is called to fulfill also with regard to the new possibilities that the development of the biomedical sciences makes available to humanity. However, the frank testimony of the unconditional value of every life must never fail, reaffirming that the weakest and most defenseless life is the one we are called to take on in solidarity and trust.
I am sure that the Alphonsian Academy will continue to work for a moral theology that does not hesitate to "get its hands dirty" with the concreteness of the problems, especially with the fragility and suffering of those who see their future threatened, frankly witnessing to the Christ "Way, truth and life" (Jn 14: 6).
Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank you for this visit, I encourage you to continue your ecclesial service, in constant adherence to the Magisterium of the Church, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all. Please remember to pray for me! Thank you.