SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION
Hall of the Consistory
Friday, November 29, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I am pleased to meet you and I thank your President, Cardinal Ladaria, for the words he addressed to me on your behalf. You have reached the conclusion of the ninth five-year period of work, but above all an important anniversary, the fiftieth anniversary of the Commission: fifty years of service to the Church. I congratulate you on this Jubilee, which allows you to remember your story with gratitude.
As Benedict XVI recalled in his message, the Commission was inaugurated by St. Paul VI as a fruit of the Second Vatican Council, to create a new bridge between theology and the magisterium. From the beginning, prominent theologians have been members, contributing effectively to this purpose. The voluminous body of published documents bears witness to this: twenty-nine texts, points of reference for formation and for theological reflection. In the last five years you have developed two relevant texts. The first offers a theological clarification on synodality in the life and mission of the Church. You have shown how the practice of synodality, traditional but always to be renewed, is the implementation, in the history of the People of God on the way, of the Church as a mystery of communion, in the image of the Trinitarian communion. As you know, this theme is very close to my heart: synodality is a style, it is a walk together, and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium. And on this I thank you for your document, because today we think that doing synodality means taking each other by hand and going on a walk, partying with the boys ..., or making an inquiry of opinions: "What do you think about the priesthood of women? ". Mostly it does so, doesn't it? Synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul that is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit there is no synodality. And you did a good job to help with this. Thanks.
The second document proposes a discernment on the different interpretations of religious freedom today. If on the one hand there are those who still prevent or oppose it openly, depriving the human being of an incomparable right, on the other, as you have pointed out, the idea of an "ethically neutral" State circulates, which, in a ambiguous liquidity, also risks leading to an unjust marginalization of religions from civil life to the detriment of the common good. This is still the legacy of the Enlightenment in the new edition. The sincere respect of religious freedom, cultivated in a fruitful dialogue between the State and religions, and between the religions themselves, is instead a great contribution to the good of all and to peace. In addition to these two areas, you reflected on sacramentality, as a constitutive structure of the encounter between God and man, highlighting the need to overcome various forms of dissociation between faith and sacramental life.
The work and the way it was done correspond to the intention that presided over the birth of the Commission fifty years ago. At the suggestion of the first assembly of the Synod of Bishops, St. Paul VI wanted to prolong the fruitful collaboration between the magisterium and theologians who had marked the conciliar sessions. He also wanted the diversity of cultures and ecclesial experiences to enrich the mission entrusted by the Holy See to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In fact, as theologians from various contexts and latitudes, you are mediators between faith and cultures, and take part in this way in the essential mission of the Church: evangelization. With regard to the Gospel, you have a generating mission: you are called to bring the Gospel to light. In fact, you listen to what the Spirit says today to the Churches in different cultures to bring to light ever new aspects of the inexhaustible mystery of Christ, in which "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden" (Col 2.3 ). And then help the first steps of the Gospel: prepare the ways for it, translating the faith for the man of today, so that everyone can feel it closer and feel embraced by the Church, taken by the hand where it is found, and accompanied to taste the sweetness of the kerygma and its timeless novelty. This is called theology: it is not a disquisition of cathedrals of life, but an embodiment of faith in life.
After fifty years of intense work there is still a long way to go, but in doing so the Commission will fulfill its vocation to also be a model and stimulus for those - lay people and clergy, men and women - who wish to dedicate themselves to theology. Because only a beautiful theology, which has the breath of the Gospel and is not content with being merely functional, attracts. And to make a good theology one must never forget two dimensions that are constitutive of it. The first is the spiritual life: only in humble and constant prayer, in the openness to the Spirit one can understand and translate the Word and do the will of the Father. Theology is born and grows on its knees! The second dimension is ecclesial life: feeling in the Church and with the Church, according to the formula of Saint Albert the Great: "In dulcedine societatis, quaerere veritatem" (in the sweetness of fraternity, seek the truth). We don't do theology as individuals, but in the community, at the service of all, to spread the good taste of the Gospel to the brothers and sisters of our time, always with sweetness and respect.
And I would like to reiterate in the end something that I told you: the theologian must go on, must study about what goes further; he must also face things that are not clear and risk in the discussion. This, however, among theologians. But the people of God must be given the solid "meal" of faith, not feeding the people of God with disputed questions. The dimension of relativism, so to speak, which will always be in the discussion, remains among the theologians - it is your vocation -, but never bring this to the people, because then the people lose orientation and lose faith. To the people, always the solid meal that feeds the faith.
Fifty years: I renew my gratitude for what you do and how you do it, and I wish you, with the help of Our Lady, seat of wisdom, to continue your mission with joy. I give you my blessing and ask you to continue praying for me. Thanks.
Source: Full Text + Image : Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation