Satisfying the thirst for hope in the world

On line meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life

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Vatican City, February 17, 2021. - The Pontifical Academy for Life wants to be deeply embodied in contemporary society: that is required by the times we live in and by the continuity with the mandate received. This was reiterated by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, opening the work of the study seminar reserved for Academicians, which took place online on Tuesday 16 February, in the afternoon.   Over 100 Academics have participated, from Europe, Africa, Asia, America.

«The scientific world and, in a very particular way, our Academy - began Archbishop Paglia - are asked today to look decisively towards the future and work intensely to build a better tomorrow for every human being and for the small planet they inhabit». In this context, Archbishop Paglia made known that the next Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life will take place from 27 to 29 September 2021 on the theme Public health in a global perspective. The Covid-19 case with the aim of discussing with international experts to “develop together an articulated reflection on the future we imagine after the pandemic, to be proposed - with responsibility and creativity indeed - to be brought to the attention of the international scientific world and the whole community of believers. We are working so that we can really do as much as possible in presence, because we all need to go back to meeting in person».

The Chancellor Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro  (in the picture, third from left) has exposed some aspects of the work done in the last twelve months by the Central Office in Vatican City. 

The afternoon continued with the seminar part of reflection starting with the themes of the two encyclicals of Pope Francis: "Laudato Sì" and "Fratelli Tutti"; this part was entrusted to three Academicians. The first speech stimulated a theological reflection whereas the other two speeches focused on ecological and environmental aspects.

This part was moderated by Prof. Gabriella Gambino, under-secretary of the Laity, Family, Life Dicastery (in the picture, second from left).

In the first speech, Prof. M. Therese Lysaught, Loyola University of Chicago, addressed the connection between the two encyclicals. «Pope Francis is calling us to a vibrant and powerful anthropology, grounded in the Trinity, that is lived as openness, hospitality, joy, dialogue, vulnerability, love, care, interconnectedness. But it still needs one more piece. For what happens when we are encountered by God or when God encounters God?  Again, Saint Francis points the way — “Laudato si’, mi signore!” What other response can there be but praise, awe, wonder, joy! Today - concluded the theologian - «a next step would be to trace how it is manifest in the concrete practices of social friendship (among persons and with creation) these documents recommend for advancing an integral ecology and healing the earth and our communities».

In the second speech, Prof. Felix Löwenstein, president of the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW - Germany), examined issues related to biodiversity, defined «the immune system of the earth». In fact, «it is also indispensable for the production of our food and for the resilience of ecosystems to the challenges of climate change. I do not have time to go into the consequences of the pollution of drinking water on all continents. Or to point out what it means that by the middle of this century there will be more tonnes of plastic in the world's oceans than tonnes of fish. I am convinced that the Pontifical Academy for Life must look into the question of what economic connections lead to such consequences; according to which principles we must learn to recognise when an innovation is progress – which many have been in our history! - and when it only leads us closer to the abyss; how we must use research and knowledge to fulfil our responsibility to the Creator of this infinitely precious and beautiful world in which we live; and how we must live in our Common Home so that we can look in the eye of our descendants when they ask us what we have done with the resources necessary for their living».

In the third speech, Prof. Mounir Farag, professor at Senghor University in Alexandria (Egypt), founder and director of the St. Joseph Institute for Family and Pro Vita (Egypt), underlined that «the year 2020 was marked by the massive Covid-19 health crisis, which became a global phenomenon cutting across boundaries. These events have taught us how important it is to care for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society. A culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time».

At the end of the meeting, Archbishop Paglia underlined the importance of a theological and scientific reflection able to go beyond what is «already known», so that intellectuals, humanists and scientists can face the epochal change we are experiencing. In this sense, the Pope indicates a path with his encyclicals, «it is up to us to go on, to broaden the space for thinking about all the dimensions of the term 'life' to robotics, artificial intelligence, Global Bioethics. And by doing that, we see that 'everything holds', everything is connected: there is a need for new sources of thought to satisfy the thirst for hope and trust in the world».

(Original text: Italian; translation by Leonardo Stefanucci, revised by Fabrizio Mastrofini)