Pope Benedict's Address to the International Theological Commission

«Without Openness to the Transcendent […], Mankind becomes Unable to Act in Accordance with Justice and Work for Peace»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the International Theological Commission at the conclusion of their annual Plenary Session.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Distinguished Professors and Dear Collaborators,

With great joy I welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Session. I cordially greet your new President, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, whom I thank for the words addressed to me on behalf of everyone, as well as the new Secretary General, Father Serge-Thomas Bonino.

Your Plenary Session was held in the context of the Year of Faith, and I am pleased that the International Theological Commission wanted to show its support for this ecclesial event through a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Santa Mary Major, to entrust to the Virgin Mary, Praesidium fidei, your Commission’s work and to pray for all those who, in medio Ecclesiae, are dedicated to bringing to fruition knowledge of the faith for the spiritual benefit and enjoyment of all believers. I express my appreciation for the message that you have prepared for this Year of Faith. It illustrates very well the specific way in which theologians, faithfully serving the truth of faith, can participate in the missionary efforts of the Church.This message takes up the themes that you have more fully developed in the document «Theology today. Perspectives, principles and criteria», published earlier this year.

Taking note of the vitality and diversity of theology after Vatican II, this document aims to present, so to speak, the genetic code of Catholic theology, that is, the principles that define its identity and, therefore, guarantee its unity in the diversity of its achievements. To do this, the text clarifies the criteria for a truly Catholic theology and therefore one able to contribute to the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel to all men. In a cultural context where some are tempted or deprive theology of its academic status, because of its intrinsic link with the faith, or the confessional and faith dimension of theology, with the risk of confusing it with the religious sciences, your document rightly reminds us that theology is inextricably confessional and rational and that its presence within the academic institution provides a wide-ranging and full vision of human reason.

Among the criteria of Catholic theology, the document mentions the attention that theologians must pay to sensus fidelium. It is very useful that your Commission has also focused on this issue which is of particular importance for the reflection on the faith and life of the Church. The Second Vatican Council, while confirming the specific and irreplaceable role of Magisterium, stressed, however, that the whole People of God participates in Christ’s prophetic office, thus fulfilling the inspired desire expressed by Moses, » If only all the people of the LORD were prophets! If only the LORD would bestow his spirit on them! «(Num 11:29). The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium thus teaches us on the subject: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when «from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful» they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. «(n. 12). This gift, the sensus fidei, constitutes in the believer a kind of supernatural instinct that has a connatural life with the same object of faith. It is a criterion for discerning whether or not a truth belongs to the deposit of the living apostolic tradition. It also has a propositional value because the Holy Spirit does not cease to speak to the Churches and lead them to the whole truth. Today, however, it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei can not grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.

Today, this same supernatural sense of the faith of believers leads to strong reactions against the notion that religions, especially the monotheistic religions, would inherently be bearers of violence, mainly because of the claim that they advance the existence of a universal truth. Some believe that only the «polytheism of values» can guarantee tolerance and civil peace and conform to the spirit of a pluralistic democratic society. In this direction, your study on «the Triune God, unity of mankind. Christianity and monotheism» is of vibrant relevance. On the one hand, it is essential to remember that the faith in one God, Creator of heaven and earth, meets the rational needs of metaphysical reflection, which is not weakened but strengthened and deepened by the revelation of the mystery of the Triune God. On the other hand, the form that the final revelation of the mystery of God takes in the life and death of Jesus Christ, who goes towards the Cross as «a lamb led to the slaughter» (Is 53:7), needs to be underlined. The Lord attests to a radical rejection of all forms of hatred and violence in favor of the absolute primacy of agape. If, therefore, in history there have been or are forms of violence carried out in the name of God, these are not to be attributed to monotheism, but historical causes, mainly the result of human errors. Rather it is the forgetfulness of God that immerses human societies in a form of relativism, which inevitably generates violence. When you deny the opportunity for people to refer to an objective truth, dialogue is rendered impossible and violence, whether declared or hidden, becomes the rule of law of human relationships. Without openness to the transcendent, which allows us to find answers to questions on the meaning of life and how to live a moral life, mankind becomes unable to act in accordance with justice and work for peace.

If the failure of the relationship between mankind and God brings with it a deep imbalance in the relationship between men themselves, reconciliation with God, brought about by the Cross of Christ «our peace» (Eph 2:14) is the fundamental source unity and fraternity. Your reflection on the third theme that of the Social Doctrine of the Church throughout the Doctrine of the Faith is also placed in this perspective. It confirms that the social doctrine is not an extrinsic addition, but, without neglecting the contribution of a sound social philosophy, draws its underlying principles from the very sources of the faith. This doctrine seeks to make effective, in the great diversity of social situations, the new commandment that the Lord Jesus left us: «As I have loved you, so you also should love one another» (Jn 13:34).

We pray to the Immaculate Virgin, model of those who listen and meditate on the Word of God, to obtain for you the grace to always joyfully serve the knowledge of faith for the benefit of the whole Church. Renewing my profound gratitude for your service to the Church, I assure you of my constant closeness in prayer and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing on all of you.

[Translation by Vatican Radio]
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