Pope’s Address to International Theological Commission

“The theologian is, first of all, a believer who hears to the Word of the living God and receives it in his heart and mind”

Pope Francis received the members of the International Theological Commission, on the occasion of their Plenary Session, and addressed them, which we translate below.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to meet with you at the beginning of a new quinquennium – the ninth – of the International Theological Commission. I thank the President, Cardinal Muller, for the words he addressed to me on behalf of you all.

Your Commission was born, shortly after Vatican Council II, following a proposal of the Synod of Bishops, so that the Holy See could make use more directly of the reflections of theologians from various parts of the world. Therefore, the Commission’s mission is to “study doctrinal problems of great importance, especially those that present new aspects, and in this way offer its help to the Magisterium of the Church” (Statutes, article 1). The 27 documents published up to now are a testimony of this commitment and a point of reference for the theological debate.

Your mission is to serve the Church, which presupposes not only intellectual competence, but also spiritual dispositions. Among the latter, I would like to attract your attention on the importance of hearing. “Son of man — the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel – all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears” (Ezekiel 3:10).

The theologian is, first of all, a believer who hears to the Word of the living God and receives it in his heart and mind. However, the theologian must also place himself humbly to hear “what the Spirit says to the Churches” (Revelation 2:7), through the different manifestations of the faith lived by the People of God. We were reminded of this in the recent document of the Commission on “The Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church.” It is beautiful. I so liked that document, congratulations! In fact, together with all the Christian people, the theologian opens the eyes and the ears to the “signs of the times.” He is called to “hear attentively, to discern and interpret the various languages of our time, and be able to judge them in the light of the word of God — it is the word of God that judges – so that revealed truth is grasped ever more profoundly, is better understood and is able to be presented in the most appropriate way” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council , Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 44).

In this light, I would like to see, within the ever more diversified composition of the Commission, a greater presence of women – still not so many – They are the strawberries of the cake, but there must be more! – a presence that becomes an invitation to reflect on the role that women can and must have in the field of theology. In fact, “the Church recognizes the indispensable contribution of woman in society, with a sensibility, an intuition and certain peculiar capacities that are generally more proper of women than of men … I am pleased to see how many women … offer new contributions to theological reflection” Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 103). Thus, in virtue of their feminine genius, women theologians can highlight for the benefit of all, certain unexplored aspects of the unfathomable mystery of Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Therefore, I invite you to draw the best profit from this specific contribution of women to the intelligence of the faith.

Another characteristic of your Commission is its international character, which reflects the catholicity of the Church. The diversity of points of view must enrich the catholicity without harming the unity. The unity of Catholic theologians is born from their common reference to one faith in Christ and is nourished by the diversity of gifts of the Holy Spirit. Beginning from this foundation and in a healthy pluralism, various theological approaches, developed in different cultural contexts and with diverse methods used, cannot be ignored at will, but, in the theological dialogue, they should be enriched and corrected mutually. The work of your Commission can be a testimony of such growth, and also a testimony of the Holy Spirit, because it is He who sows this variety of charisms in the Church, different points of view, and it will be He who effects unity. He is always the protagonist.

The Immaculate Virgin, as privileged witness of the great events of the history of salvation, “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19): Woman of hearing, woman of contemplation, woman of closeness to the problems of the Church and of people. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with all the resources of her feminine genius, She did not cease to enter ever more “into all the truth” (John 16:13). Thus Mary is the icon of the Church that, in the impatient awaiting of her Lord, progresses, day after day, in the intelligence of the faith, thanks also to the patient work of men and women theologians. May Our Lady, authentic teacher of theology, obtain for us with her maternal prayer that our charity “abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9-10). I accompany you on this path with my Blessing and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Pray theologically, thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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