Pope Asks Foundation to Support Islamic Studies

Interview With Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Chairman

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By Costantino Coros

ROME, FEB. 3, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The new chairman of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation is affirming that Benedict XVI has asked that they support Islamic and Arabic studies.

Domingo Sugranyes Bickel told ZENIT that this is one of the projects his foundation will be committed to, as they continue to promote a better understanding of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Sugranyes, was born in Fribourg, Switzerland, though his family is of Spanish nationality. He served a term as president of the International Christian Union of Business Executives, of which he has been a member since 1969.

He began working for the MAPFRE Spanish insurance company in 1981, and soon climbed to the position of executive vice-president. Although Sugranyes retired from his executive post in 2007, he continues to serve on the corporation’s board, as well as that of many other organizations.

In this interview with ZENIT, the new chairman, elected last November, speaks about the foundation’s work to bring Catholic social doctrine to the business world.
ZENIT: What can be done so that the Social Doctrine of the Church increasingly becomes a point of reference for the economic-financial world?
Sugranyes: Fortunately, the Social Doctrine of the Church isn’t a recipe book, but a source of reflection and inspiration.

The Magisterium’s texts require from economic operators, first of all, a personal effort in changing the way of seeing the objectives and methods of their actions. It is an invitation that the encyclicals address to believers and “to all men of good will.”

There are no short-cuts that enable one to “apply” the social doctrine without that long personal journey.
In this line, the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation will continue to contribute to the effort of diffusion and discussion that is indispensable to increasing the influence of the social doctrine in economic environments.
At present the Holy Father’s word in economic and social matters enjoys a growing authority because he tirelessly highlights the centrality of the human person and the grandeur of participatory work for the common good — a line of thought very far from the mechanical or determinist vision of the economy, which meets today with a profound aspiration of society and confirms the empirical conclusions of numerous scientific economists.
Hence, the answer to your question is simple: The ‘hidden treasure’ of the social doctrine of the Church must be made known and debated in groups of economic leaders to draw from its study theoretical and practical conclusions. That’s what the foundation tries to do.
ZENIT: How does the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation — with its 500 members present in a dozen countries — work to sensitize businessmen?
Sugranyes: In the first place, we try to have the number of members continue to grow and extend to other countries.
To convince business people, it is necessary to share their concerns. In this line, the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” gives us some very interesting guidelines on the enlarged role of business initiative, which has never been mechanically determined by the sole desire for short-term profit (the logic of the businessman and of the passive investor are quite different), but that today must be enriched with new expectations and new dimensions of the common good, in which the “laws” of the market and politics can come together.
To understand these guidelines in depth and translate them into concrete terms of economic dynamics we count, on one hand, on our spiritual advisers, and on the other hand, on an international group of first class scholars gathered in a scientific committee headed by a prestigious Italian economist, Professor Quadrio Curzio, vice-president of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. The resulting works are made known in the foundation’s international conferences and in numerous events organized by the members at the national or local level.
ZENIT: The formation of consciences according to a Christian perspective is an important task the foundation has been carrying out since its birth. What programs and objectives do you hope to pursue in this area during your term?
Sugranyes: The foundation members assume the obligation to form themselves in the social doctrine of the Church.

In Italy they have the possibility of doing so in the courses organized jointly by the foundation and the Pontifical Lateran University. In other countries there are other institutions that impart this type of formation, and the foundation plans to establish agreements with them in the next few years to constitute a network of educational centers at the disposition of the members.
Also serving this end are the regular meetings of members with spiritual assistants appointed by the episcopal conferences in the different countries.

In addition to theoretical formation, the foundation pursues another more concrete statutory objective: It collects funds to support endeavors or institutions selected by the Holy Father or designated by him for our attention. Generated in this way also for the members is a material obligation of commitment.
ZENIT: In what other areas will you direct your attention?
Sugranyes: In the line mentioned earlier, by express indication of the Holy Father through the president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), Cardinal Attilio Nicora, to whom the foundation makes reference, we are going to try to support materially another Vatican institution, the Pontifical Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies (PISAI).
It is an institute of very high academic value that prepares laymen and religious destined to know and understand in depth the Arab world and Islam. The PISAI has been in existence for more than 100 years; it is known and respected also in Muslim environments, and we have been asked to help its directors to modernize its installations and to endow study scholarships.

Thus we also come close to a field of enormous interest in today’s world: the interreligious dialogue on issues of economic and social ethics.
ZENIT: The first report on the social doctrine of the Church in the world, published by the Cardinal Van Thuan International Observatory, recalls the many initiatives for the diffusion of the compendium of this teaching. The Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation was born precisely for this. Can you explain the initiatives and commitment of the Foundation in this area?
Sugranyes: All our efforts are directed to making the doctrine known and to making eminent experts of economics and social ethics reflect with our members, to draw consequences and a renewed commitment.

However, we are not alone! Fortunately, there are many initiatives in the world working in the same direction, and there is much to do for all, seeking the enrichment that comes from such varied experiences.

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