“It was a year rich in events and in important news for our institution.” In this interview with SIR Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri drew an overview of his first year as dean of the Pontifical Theological Institute John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and the Family, starting with the address of the Holy Father upon the inauguration of the past academic year , on the eve of the opening of the new academic year, to be inaugurated on November 16.
What are the highlights of your future commitment asked by the Pope? First of all, he reconfirmed the dynamism of the “prophetic intuition” of Saint Pope John Paul II, who strongly wanted an academic body specifically dedicated to research and formation. The validity of his intuition, confirmed by the “signs of the times”, encourages us to cherish the “Catholic shape” of its academic program, which is not to be confined within the narrow boundaries of an ideology of education, and places the highest intelligence of the faith at the service of the universal Church; providing formation to critical debate as well as dialogue and reflection, with the highest expressions of the religious traditions of cultural contemporariness. The new epochal situation ascribes a special role to theology, tasked with clarifying and motivating the human and Christian truth of the conjugal and family plan. On its part, the new ecclesial sensitivity must equally address – with the generous intelligence of redeeming faith – the vulnerable and complex aspects characterising past experiences and difficulties – in some cases deeply tragic – related to its implementation.
Thus the faith and the life of the Church should inhabit the history of the human family, in the good and in the bad times, without abandoning it to its fate.
What is the “state of health” of the family and marriage, in your opinion? Contemporary conjugal and family life faces numerous difficulties and disorientations that worm their way through and pose difficult challenges, in some cases painful ones, with regard to discerning the ways through which the grace of the love of God sustains the practice of conjugal and family virtues. This obscurity is further hampered by
widespread uncertainties on the truth and sustainability of the bond – and of the many bonds – whereby marriage and family, involving men, women, and the act of generation, gradually blossom and deliver their best fruits.
In many cases, the inactivity and the reticence of political institutions, coupled by the pressure to conform exerted by contemporary social and cultural drives, contribute to exacerbating the vulnerability of the family. The Church cannot evade her responsibility to share this situation. And far from taking a distance, she is called to attend to it – and in fact to generously inhabit it – will all her love, with all her mercy, and with all her energy instilled by God’s Holy Spirit.
How can the Synod on the Family and Amoris Laetitia orient this process? The twofold Synodal meeting of bishops has firmly called upon the faith community, and upon all men and women of good will, to be mindful of the global difficulties with regard to orienting people’s feelings and sentiments towards the fulfilment, in family and conjugal life, of the fruitful, intimate love of man and woman. The special attention that Christian communities must devote to Gospel proclamation and to the pastoral care of spousal and family virtues was given momentum with the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, whose authority and incisiveness highlight the contents and the style marking the Church’s ministry and witness. The Church must equally cater to a theology that meets the intelligence and practice of this pastoral charity of the faith.
Is there a need to “update” theological discourse? There is no question about the need for the Institute to acknowledge the urgency of theological formation and studies utterly prepared to address the scope of this anthropological issue that involves man-woman relations as a whole, taking into account the implications on the understanding of the social bond and the structures of civil coexistence.
Today the interpretation, articulation and definition of the experience of personal relations, in all their shapes and forms, along with the ways of living corporality, appear to be based on an unprecedented understanding of freedom and bonds, strongly influenced by the pervasiveness of the economic, technical, and legal domains that shapes contemporary institutions and social mores. Individual moral discernment, interreligious dialogue, cultural discourse, are hindered by the hammering proposal of new options leading to the autonomous quest for the affective, and spiritual fulfilment of personal life.
A theology that draws inspiration from the commitment to sustain the pastoral care of ecclesial faith with an intellect of love, will be better equipped in providing modes of expression that correspond to the concrete, propositional cultural mediation of Christian wisdom that illuminates our life.
What changes with the “Summa familiae cura”? First of all it is a question of honouring the extraordinary trust we have been generously granted. Pope Francis endorses the re-foundation of the Institute in this direction, thereby personally guaranteeing for its munus of service and competence for the Church as a whole. The Pope does not limit himself to preserving what’s already there, he wishes to pave the way to its future. He thus revivifies the visionary intuition and the precious heritage of its foundation as a treasure that must be cherished and a talent that must bear fruits. He personally entrusts us with the task of shaping the new composition of this Centre for studies, research and formation, in ways that best respond to the needs of the pastoral plan that the post-Synodal Church, in her commitment, is authoritatively developing.
The goal of the Church is to be equipped to inhabit the historic reality of family relations through the Gospel, to enlighten its truth and cater to its difficulties in terms corresponding to the existential condition of men and women entrusted to her by God.
Being consistent with such a great trust and seriously addressing this task of renewal, will be a source of bountiful joy and dedication.