By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis told the Italian Theological Association (ATI) on Friday the world needs a theology capable of helping Christians to proclaim “the salvific Face of the Merciful God”.
The audience took place during the Octave of Christmas, which, the Pope said, should provide the basis for “every Christian, theological thought”.
“In these days,” he said, “we are immersed in the joyous contemplation of the mystery of our God, who so involved and compromised Himself in our poor humanity as to send His Son and to take on, in Him, our fragile flesh.”
The Incarnation, he said, is the starting point for theological reflection.
He said theology “will never exhaust the living Fount of divine Love, which allowed Himself to be touched, looked upon, and savored in the manger at Bethlehem.”
The Association is celebrating 50 years since its founding, and Pope Francis thanked the theologians for their research at the heart of the Church in Italy.
The Holy Father invited them to “creative fidelity” in their reflections, since the ATI was founded “in the spirit of service and communion indicated by the Second Vatican Council”.
“I ask you to continue to be faithful and anchored in your theological efforts to the Council and to the capacity shown there by the Church to allow herself to be inspired by the perennial newness of the Gospel”.
Pope Francis said the Association’s efforts to “do theology together… already expresses an essential element of Truth, at whose service theology is placed.”
“It is unthinkable, in fact, to serve the Truth of God – who is Love and eternal communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and whose salvific plan is precisely that of communion of humanity with Him and amongst themselves – in an individualistic or particularistic manner, or, worse yet, within a logic of competitiveness.”
The Pope said theological research is certainly personal but done by “persons immersed in a theological community.”
While being a believer does not require theological training, Pope Francis said there is a “sense of the realities of faith, which pertains to the entire people of God”.
These are the “eyes of faith”, he said.
“It is in this living faith of the holy, faithful people of God which every theologian must be immersed and by which they must be supported, transported, and embraced.”
He said the challenges facing theology today include the ecological crisis, genetic modification of human DNA, social inequality, mass migration, and theoretical and practical relativism.
A theology is needed to confront these modern realities, Pope Francis said, which “is done by Christians who do not seek to speak only amongst themselves but who are aware of being at the service of different churches and of the Church”.
The Italian Theological Association, the Pope concluded, is responding to these challenges.