Grasping the "integral human dimension": the challenge facing the Pontifical Academy for Life

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Milan, 6 May 2019.- The new Statute pushes the Academy to increasingly become a place of encounter and competent and respectful dialogue with experts from other religious traditions and with those who hold opposing visions of the world in order to broaden our own vision," noted Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He was addressing participants in ‘The human community. New horizons for Bioethics’ Conference held at the University Center for Bioethics and Life Sciences of Sacred Heart University, Milan.

The conference discussed the Letter Humana Communitas, addressed by Pope Francis to Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Academy for Life (11 February 1994/11 February 2019). In addition to Msgr. Paglia, Msgr. Claudio Giuliodori, Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Catholic University and Prof. Adriano Pessina, of the Steering Committee of the Pontifical Academy and Professor of Moral Philosophy also addressed the Conference.

Msgr. Paglia noted that the need to look for ethical references to understand the scope of the constant developments in natural sciences and biotechnologies has become "pressing. Given the intense interaction between different cultures, it is necessary to develop universally acceptable operational criteria that are incisive in determining national and international policies. Human rights are in many respects the terrain on which this comparison takes place".

A second area of ​​commitment concerns the technologies today defined as" emerging and converging "(No. 12 of Humana Communitas). This term refers to nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information technologies and cognitive sciences. The Pontifical Academy has begun to work on these issues since the last assembly in February, which was dedicated to robotics and intends to continue in 2020 addressing the issue of so-called artificial intelligence ".

Msgr. Giuliodori underlined the "elements of continuity” in the work of the Pontifical Academy, expressed by Humana Communitas as well as the novelties. Among the first there are "the recognition of the centrality and dignity of every human life, the care to ensure to every human being in every season of life and in every condition, the promotion of a culture at the service of life". The "new elements" are dictated "by the need to widen our gaze to the new challenges posed by neuroscience, artificial intelligence, robotics and technological innovations that often seem to profoundly alter the relationship between human beings and reality, generating great expectations, but also posing new questions about the "common home", the new forms of marginalization and permanent injustices ".

Therefore - he noted - "new scenarios are opening up for the work of the Pontifical Academy which will have important repercussions both on the cultural dialogue and in the pastoral context, in the awareness that the promotion of fraternity is the new frontier of Christianity".

Professor Pessina highlighted the Letter’s proposal to relaunch a new vision for a humanism of fraternity and solidarity, of individuals and peoples (p. 12) and the question of fraternity effectively defined as the failed promise of modernity (p. 20). Humanism and fraternity, he explained, have to do with the meaning of "modernity", to which we owe the development of contemporary science and technology, but are also the basis of developments that would develop forms of emancipation from the human (transhumanism). "The Pope urges bioethics to take on a global perspective to address categories of a new humanism to the complex questions that human action itself raises in the history of individuals and peoples". This invitation "cannot be allowed to fall into indifference" and requires "a new practical and theoretical commitment if we are to fulfill the promise of fraternity announced by the modern era".

In this regard, Msgr. Paglia reiterated the importance of integrating the data of the sciences, "precisely in the line of complexity according to which psiche and techneinteract", for a "deeper understanding of the integral human dimension". It would indeed be "decidedly contrary to our tradition" to continue to use outdated categories which no longer allow us to interpret today's phenomena or to communicate within today's cultures. "This is why it is crucial to participate in the discussion with all the subjects so that the development and use of these extraordinary resources is oriented to the promotion of the dignity of the person and to the most universal good". This is the priority task of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Milan, 6 May 2019

Milan, Italy, May 6 2019