International Congress on “St. Josemaría and Theological Thought” (November 14-16, 2013)

What do the saints represent for theology? This was the question addressed by the International Congress “St. Josemaría and Theological Thought” that took place at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross from November 14 to 16.

The congress brought together over three days specialists, professors and students interested in “the renewal of theology through the lives of saints,” as Fr. Javier Lopez of the organizing committee explained. And he continued: “We will be looking particularly at the teachings of St. Josemaría, not because he is an isolated case, but because they are especially suited to make clear the value of the saints for theology.”

The origin of this congress goes back to words addressed in 1993 by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the participants in a theological symposium on St. Josemaría held in Rome. The Cardinal stressed that “theology, a science in the fullest sense of the word . . . is subordinate to the knowledge that God has of himself, and to the knowledge of God that is enjoyed by the saints.”

The future Benedict XVI was referring not only to the knowledge that the saints enjoy in glory, but also to the knowledge they begin to have here on earth, and that they bequeath to us with their writings, their words and their example. The saints enter into the knowledge of God “not only with their intellect but with their whole heart,” because “the unifying force of love for God leads them not only to let themselves be penetrated by his goodness, but also to enter deeply into his truth.”

The congress began with some words from the Rector of the university, followed by the address by Bishop Javier Echevarría included in this issue of the bulletin. The Prelate reflected on St. Josemaría’s contribution to the preparation, development and reception of the Second Vatican Council, especially in one of its core messages: the universal call to holiness, which for the greater part of the faithful means a call to strive for sanctity in their daily life. Following this presentation, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of Opus Dei, spoke about the impetus theology can receive from the teachings of St. Josemaria. His paper is published at the end of this issue of Romana.

Next came five sessions dedicated to the stimulus different areas of theology can receive from St. Josemaría’s teachings. Along with professors from the Holy Cross Pontifical University, presentations were given by specialists and scholars from other university institutions, including Professor Réal Tremblay from the Pontifical Alphonsian Academy, and Professor François-Marie Léthel from the Pontifical Theresian School of Theology.

Particular attention was paid to the sphere of moral theology, with the interventions of professors Réal Tremblay and Angel Rodriguez Luño, the latter from the University of the Holy Cross. “St. Josemaría’s contribution to moral theology,” said Professor Rodriguez Luño, “lay especially in the attractive vision of Christian life that he set forth so forcefully,” and that leads to a positive and realistic moral theology that fosters freedom and pluralism.

Another question addressed was: What is the image of the Church fostered by the preaching and pastoral activity of St. Josemaría? José Ramon Villar, Professor of Ecclesiology at the University of Navarra, said it was a Church where all the faithful have the same dignity in virtue of baptism, since the condition of being “Christian faithful” is common to the laity, religious and consecrated ministers. One finds, therefore, a unity of vocation and a distinction of functions and charisms within a common mission.

A session dedicated to the inspiration that philosophical reflection can find in the thought of St. Josemaría saw the intervention, among others, of Professor Ana Marta Gonzalez, from the University of Navarra. The relationship between the founder of Opus Dei and canon law was also discussed.

The last day included the participation of Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. He spoke on “The Saints and Theology in the Thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI,” who stressed that the saints give witness to the reality that “the truth about God is not a theory but a Person.” Commenting on words of the Pope emeritus, Cardinal Koch said that the saints are the most credible witnesses to the Christian faith, the true reformers of the Church, and the primary interpreters of Holy Scripture.

Pope Francis, in his message to the participants at the congress, expressed his hope that the founder of Opus Dei’s example would be the occasion for a “renewed conviction that believers, by virtue of baptism which incorporates them into Christ, are called to be holy and to help further with their daily work the salvation of all mankind.”

Romana, No. 57, July-December 2013, p. 274-275.

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