Pope's Address to Members of the International Theological Commission

This afternoon, Pope Francis received in audience — in the Hall of Popes of the Apostolic Vatican Palace –, the members of the International Theological Commission, on the occasion of their Plenary Session and he gave them the address we translate below.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I receive you and greet you cordially at the end of your Plenary Session. I thank the President, Monsignor Muller, for the words he addressed to me, also on behalf of all of you. This meeting offers me the occasion to thank you for the work you have carried out in the last five-year period, and to reaffirm the importance of the ecclesial service of theologians for the life and mission of the People of God.

As you confirmed in the recent document “Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles, Criteria,” theology is science and wisdom. It is science, and as such uses all the resources of reason illumined by faith to penetrate in the intelligence of the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ. And it is above all wisdom: at the school of the Virgin Mary, who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), the theologian seeks to bring to light the unity of God’s plan of love and he commits himself to show how the truths of the faith form an organic unity, articulated harmoniously. Moreover, the theologian has the task of “listening attentively, to discern and interpret the various languages of our time, and to be able to judge them in the light of the Word of God, so that revealed truth will be understood ever more profoundly, comprehended better and be able to be presented in a more adapted way” (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 44). Therefore, theologians are the “pioneers” – this is important: pioneers. Forward!  They are pioneers of the dialogue of the Church with the cultures. But this being pioneers is also important because sometimes it can be thought that they remain behind, in the barracks … No, on the front! This dialogue of the Church with cultures is a dialogue at once critical and benevolent, which must foster the reception of the Word of God by men “of every nation, race, people and language” (Revelation 7:9).

The three topics that occupy you at present are inserted in this perspective. Your reflection on relations between monotheism and violence bears witness that God’s revelation truly constitutes Good News for all humanity. God is not a threat for humankind. Faith in the one and thrice holy God is not and can never be a source of violence or intolerance. On the contrary, its highly rational character confers a universal dimension upon it, capable of uniting persons of good will. On the other hand, the definitive Revelation of God in Jesus Christ by now renders every recourse to violence ‘in the name of God’, impossible. It is precisely by His refusal of violence, by His having conquered evil with good with the blood of His Cross, that Jesus has reconciled humans with God and with themselves.

It is this very concept of peace that has been the focus of your reflection on the Church’s social doctrine, which has the goal of translating God’s love for the human person, made manifest in Christ Jesus, into a concrete reality of societal life. See why the Social Doctrine is always rooted in the Word of God, received, celebrated and lived in the Church. he Church is held to living first of all within herself that social message that it bears to the world. Fraternal relations between believers, authority as service, sharing with the poor: all of these traits, which have characterized ecclesial life from its origin, can and must constitute a living and attractive model for the diverse human communities, from the family to civil society.

This witness pertain to the People of God, a People of prophets, in its entirety. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Church possess a ‘sense of faith’. This is a kind of ‘spiritual instinct’ that makes us ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’ [think with the mind of the Church] and to discern that which is in conformity with the apostolic faith and is in the spirit of the Gospel. Of course, the ‘sensus fidelium’ [sense of the faithful] cannot be confused with the sociological reality of a majority opinion. It is, therefore, important—and one of your tasks—to develop criteria that allow the authentic expressions of the ‘sensus fidelium’ to be discerned.For its part, the Magisterium has the duty to be attentive to what the Spirit says to the Churches through authentic manifestations of the sensus fidelium. There come to mind the two numbers, 8 and 12, of Lumen Gentium, which is so strong in fact about this.  This attention is of greatest importance for theologians. Pope Benedict XVI often pointed out that the theologian must remain attentive to the faith lived by the humble and the small, to whom it pleased the Father to reveal that which He had hidden from the learned and the wise. (cf. Matthew 11:25-26. Homily in the Mass with the International Theological Commission, December 1, 2009).

Your mission, therefore, is both fascinating and risky. It is fascinating because research in and teaching of theology can become a true path to holiness, as attested by many Fathers and Doctors of the Church. But it is also risky because it bears temptations with it: hardness of heart, – this is bad, when the heart is parched and believes it can reflect on God with that dryness, how many mistakes occur! — pride, even ambition. Saint Francis of Assisi once addressed a brief note to his brother Anthony of Padua, where he said among other things: “I am glad that you are teaching the brothers sacred Theology provided that, in the study, you do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion.” Getting close to little ones also helps to become more intelligent and wiser. And I think  — and this is not to engage in Jesuit publicity – I think of Saint Ignatius who asked the professed to make the vow of teaching the catechesis to little ones in order to understand better the wisdom of God.

May the Immaculate Virgin obtain for all men and women theologians to grow in this spirit of prayer and devotion and thus, with a profound sense of humility, be true servants of the Church. I accompany you on this path with the Apostolic Blessing and I ask you, please, to pray for me, I need it!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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