In 1949 the Alphonsian Academy was founded by the Redemptorists, in the spirit of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, patron saint of moral theologians. Since then, the Academy has provided scientific training to clerics, religious and lay people and since 1960 it has been part of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Lateran University.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the institute, Pope Francis on Saturday invited its members to "look forward", to "regain missionary enthusiasm", and to "outline courageous steps to meet the expectations of the people of God".
University institutes and ecclesiastical faculties, noted the Pope, must be examples of a church that “goes forth” in order to "carry out a wide-ranging dialogue". He said, it was necessary to network with ecclesial and academic institutions from all over the world in order to "propose appropriate and realistic paths of resolution" to "problems of epochal proportions that affect humanity today”.
A world to be healed not condemned
During his address, Pope Francis stressed the need to “guard against excessive idealization," by being close to the everyday situations of individuals and families. This world is not to be condemned, said the Pope; instead it needs "to be healed and liberated" with mercy, following in the actions of Christ.
The Pontiff underlined that the “teaching of moral theology must encourage the highest values of the Gospel, such as charity. It must also look to liberation from the law of sin and death; a freedom that can never be indifferent to those most in need.”
Moral Theology, ecology and defending the weakest
Pope Francis went on to say that a united world should work to overcome particular interests, facing together the "new and serious challenges" to society, such as; the increasing dominance of the logic of competitiveness, the law of the strongest, and the lack of consideration for the human being, who is sometimes reduced to disposable consumer goods.
The Pope also emphasized the ecological emergency in our world, describing it as, "the cry of the earth, violated and wounded" by selfish exploitation.
“It draws my attention”, he said, to the fact that when I carry out the ministry of reconciliation or when I did, even before, rarely does anyone accuse themselves of having violated nature, the earth, creation. We are not yet aware of this sin.” It is your job, he added, to make people aware.
Moral theology, he affirmed, must take on board the urgency of each nation in a convincing way in a mutual effort to care for our common home through viable ways of integral development.
The same common commitment, he said, applied to advanced biomedical research. Moral research, the Pope stressed, must bear witness to the unconditional value of life, reaffirming that "the life of the weakest and most defenceless is that which we are called to take upon ourselves in a spirit of solidarity and trust.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis said he was sure the Alphonsianum would continue to commit itself to a moral theology that does not hesitate to get “its hands dirty” with concrete problems, especially with the fragility and suffering of those who see their future threatened, bearing real witness to Christ "the way, the truth and the life".