13 March 2023 will mark the 10th anniversary of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s accession to the papacy. Successor to John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who had participated in the Second Vatican Council of bishops or experts, Francis is the heir of it.
Within CELAM, he was involved in the conciliar reception, which the Latin American Episcopate engaged together with the faithful, in a long process of conversion and evangelisation. Looking back, the dynamics of this process can be better understood.
Paying attention to the concrete realities affecting the poorest extends the gesture of God in the Incarnation of His only Son: missionary disciples are called to ‘go forth” and to spread the Good news of the Father’s mercy, following Christ who died and rose again. As the first pope to choose the name of the rich young man who became the “poverello” of Assisi, Francis has never ceased to direct our gaze towards the existential peripheries where the saving action of God’s grace is manifested.
Born from the insights of St. John Paul II, who conceived the original project of a specialised faculty of Theology, implanted in the various cultures, our Pontifical Institute has received a new impetus from Pope Francis following a new Synod on the family. Through the Apostolic Letter Summa familiae cura of 2017, we were entrusted with the mission of practising theology in dialogue with the other sciences, to enable the local Churches to better accompany families, especially those suffering from wounds, and to accompany them by ensuring that the resources of their cultures, renewed by the light of the Gospel, are enhanced.
In daily contacts with students arriving to Rome from over 40 countries, and with the academic authorities of our 10 associated sections and centres, I can see the fruitfulness of this orientation.
In the audience granted to the Institute on 24 October 2022, Pope Francis touched the hearts and minds of our students by inviting them to study not only the conjugal dynamics of marriage, but also the love that develops between siblings, between generations, in the extended family and in relationships of social proximity. In doing so, he has encouraged them to write theses and dissertations that start from the concrete and stimulate actions (hands). This Latin American approach reaches Africa and Asia, where the extended family supports people in the vicissitudes of life. It also offers new perspectives to Western churches. Taking seriously the competences of families to build more fraternal societies is a response to the urgent needs our time, as Francis expresses them in his two social encyclicals, Laudato si’ and Fratelli tutti.
A decade cannot be celebrated in one day; it will take at least a year to become aware of what we have received from Pope Francis, to give thanks and to continue the journey. This is why, at the beginning of this academic year, we asked Professor Richard Gaillardetz, from Boston College, to provide the “lectio inauguralis,” highlighting the ecclesiological challenges of Francis’ pontificate. He showed how synodality belongs to the process of a fresh reception of the Second Vatican Council. This article will soon be available in our review “Anthropotes,” available in e-book format: https://riviste.gruppostudium.it/anthropotes/archivio.
Its English version will be published in the March 2023 issue of Theological Studies.
In order to pursue the enhancement, at the international level, of the seeds produced by the pontificate of Francis, we will organise on 25 and 26 May 2023, in collaboration with the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, the COCTI (Conference of Catholic Theological Institutions) and CELAM, an online colloquium on ‘Joy and Fraternity as New Loci Theologici’.
10 years already! As the universal Church continues its journey ‘Towards a Synodal Church’ through continental meetings, we pray the Lord that He may keep Pope Francis in joy and clarity as the barque of St. Peter.