Fr General’s Message on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of the foundation of the Alphonsian Academy

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On 9 February 1949, in Rome, the Institute for Moral and Pastoral Studies was established as an internal school of the Congregation under the name of the Alphonsian Academy. From that day, “Alfonsiana” has developed as a study and formation centre in the field of moral theology, and since 1960, has been affiliated with the Pontifical Lateran University. Recently, Pope Francis, recognising the role and importance of the mission of the Alphonsian Academy, conferred on it the title of Pontifical Institute.

Fr. Rogério Gomes, Superior General of the Redemptorist Congregation and General Moderator of the Alphonsian Academy, has taken the occasion of the 74th foundation anniversary of “Alfonsiana” to address with a special message to professors, students and all Redemptorist Family.

Message on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of the foundation
of the Alphonsian Academy

Missionaries of Hope in the Footsteps of the Redeemer

To all the Confreres,
To the Congregations and Institutes that are part of the Redemptorist Family,
To the Redemptorist Nuns,
To our brother Redemptorist Bishops,
To Aspirants, Postulants and Novices,
To the lay men and women associated with our mission and the Redemptorist Oblates,
To the Redemptorist Missionary Youth,
To the groups of Former Redemptorist Seminarians,
To the Confreres the Professors of the Alphonsian Academy and the Redemptorist Professors of Moral Theology present in the five Conferences.

  1. On 9 February, the Alphonsian Academy celebrates its 74th anniversary. This date is an occasion of jubilation for our Redemptorist life. This anniversary asks us to commemorate our Founder as the Patron of Confessors and Moralists and invites us, as a religious family, to continue to develop a moral theological proposal anchored in pastoral benignity, in moral discernment, in the formation of conscience, ready to scrutinise the signs of the times, in fidelity to the Word of God, the Magisterium of the Church and our Constitutions and Statutes. This rich moral tradition has two essential foundations for us Redemptorists: Christ the Redeemer and the most abandoned. Alfonsian moral theology is born from the profound encounter between the cry of the abandoned and the proximity of Christ the Redeemer. Our excellence in moral reflection is therefore not simply a matter of achieving a status in university and church rankings. It is a function of the quality of our service to the people of God and the most abandoned. If this is our north pole, having Alphonsus as our inspiring compass, we are called to read the signs of the times and seek the best tools to help form adult consciences capable of moral discernment. All our academic production is aimed at the pastoral service of the People of God, the Church and the Congregation. This gives us a great sense of responsibility!
  2. The Alphonsian Academy has had a good run in history to date, taking on challenges and joys. On 9 February 1949, the Institute for Moral and Pastoral Studies was established as an internal school of the Congregation under the name of the Alphonsian Academy. We must acknowledge the efforts of Father Leonard Buijs for this educational, missionary and evangelising work, who also gave the newly borne “Alfonsiana” a ratio studiorum. In him, I thank all the former Moderators General, who supported this service for the universal Church! On 25 March 1957, the Academy was recognised by the Congregation of Religious as an internal and public school of Moral Theology. In 1960 it was incorporated into the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Lateran University as the Higher Institute of Moral Theology. In 1969, with the approval of the Statutes by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, the two-year course of the specialised licence (2nd cycle) and doctorate (3rd cycle) in moral theology were established. On 20 June 2019, legal personality was granted to Alphonsiana as a “civilly recognised religious body”. On 5 January 2021, the Congregation for Catholic Education included the Alphonsian Academy – entrusted to the care, direction and administration of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer – in the Pontifical Lateran University as an Institute ad instar facultatis with its own Statutes, recognising it as a “centre of excellence for the specialisation in moral theology”. On 19 January 2023, the Dicastery for Culture and Education, with Official Notice No. 00298/2023/E, informed us that on 16 January 2023, Pope Francis wished to grant, on his own initiative, the Pontifical title to the Alphonsiana. The Grand Chancellor of the Lateran University, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, informed us of this recognition on 27 January 2023. This path gives us a glimpse of the richness that emerges from our charism regarding Moral Theology and its importance for the Church. 
  3. I would like to remember all those who, in various forms and ways, have collaborated with the Academy to date. A remembrance in prayer to the Moderators General and professors who are in the glory of the Lord. Special thanks to the retired professors: Denis Billy, Silvio Botero, Seán Cannon, Joseph Fonseca, Bruno Hidber, Brian Johnstone, Terence Kennedy, Edmund Kowalski, Francisco Lage, Sabatino Majorano, Stephen Rehrauer, Réal Tremblay, Marciano Vidal, Sebastiano Viotti and Gabriel Witaszek. I would like to thank all the (vice) Provinces of the Congregation that have collaborated and continue to collaborate by sending Confreres to teach in Rome, to help in the bursar’s office, the secretariat, the library, and by sending students to the Major College to specialise in the area of Moral Theology. This international presence of so many Confreres contributes to enriching our rich moral and spiritual tradition within the Church. 
  4. In these 74 years, many brethren from all five Conferences have contributed to the Academy’s scientific knowledge, developing many paths of investigation, giving lectures and participating in conferences and events. Thank you all! We look forward to counting on your valuable cooperation again! A word of recognition on behalf of the General Government and myself is due to the excellent work of the professors from other Congregations, the Diocesan Clergy and the lay lecturers who collaborate with us. My thank you also goes due to all our employees for the work they do in the various areas and for their wish to be part of our moral tradition, in synodical style, and continue walking in our footsteps.
  5. To the professors currently serving in the Academy as true partners in mission, I express the gratitude of the entire Congregation for the service they often render in a silent manner. Do not be discouraged in this task of searching for moral truth. In a challenging world and a time of change, we are called to be missionaries of hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. In this stormy sea, we are called to be anchors, compasses and beacons. The Redeemer is with us in the boat. To cross the stormy sea, it is important that as professors and researchers, we increasingly develop teamwork and the mystique of true and profound sharing to be prophetic signs of hope. On this journey our Redemptorist spirituality gives us direction!
  6. The title of “Pontifical Institute” granted by the Holy Father recognises the contribution and importance in the field of theology that our Institute has offered to the Church. At the same time, it unites the Alphonsian Academy with other “Pontifical” university centres of higher learning present in Rome and represents the best of the theological proposal of the Holy See. The title granted in time will make other steps possible, such as institutional and recognised collaboration in the field of moral theology with other institutes in the world, such as FUSA (Bogotà), ISPES/ITESP (São Paulo), SATMI (Davao), Mt. St. Alphonsus Theology Institute Bangalore and other inter-congregational consortia in Africa, in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Kinshasa in Congo, Harare in Zimbabwe. As I wrote, these are horizons to be explored in the future and in dialogue with the dicastery responsible for education and the Pontifical Lateran University. 
  7. General Statute 023 recalls the importance of the study of moral and pastoral theology as part of specialised and continuing education, stating that: “Members should devote themselves to the study of theological and human sciences in compliance with the wishes of the Church. Through this study, they will be qualified to offer to the people of God the helps necessary for salvation in the living of their daily lives. They should give particular attention to the study of moral and pastoral theology and of spirituality as required by the character of the Congregation and taking example from its history. It is for this purpose that the Alphonsian Academy has been set up in Rome. It should be maintained and supported by the whole Congregation, since its scope is very closely connected with the purpose of the Congregation”. Thus, the Academy is understood not only as a place to develop scientific knowledge, but also as a work of evangelisation of the Congregation. In this sense it is not an isolated work of the Congregation within the walls of Rome. It is an expression of our Redemptorist charism. Therefore it is important that in our formation process the study of moral theology is encouraged, as a tool for pastoral service to the people of God. We need confreres from all five Conferences, especially English-speaking ones, for the teaching of moral theology here in Rome and abroad.
  8. Being a work of evangelisation, the General Chapters have always taken a special interest in the Academy, demonstrating the co-responsibility of the Congregation towards it. At present, the Academy has two major challenges: economic self-sufficiency and new lecturers to articulate, in communion, more and more a research programme that can grasp the moral questions of today’s world. As a ‘civilly recognised religious body’, Academy has fundraising possibilities open up. Some progress has already been made in this field. However, pandemics, war and the economic crisis have made and continue to make this difficult. At the level of the academic body, as Moderator General together with the General Council, we ask the (vice)provincial superiors to make available confreres for this ministry in the field of moral theology and to stimulate new generations of Redemptorists to study moral theology not only for teaching but also in the pastoral field.
  9. May St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church and Patron Saint of moralists and confessors, inspire us to be missionaries of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer with pastoral benignity, formators of consciences ready for dialogue, promoters of discernment and the search for moral truth, to serve the most abandoned. Amen!

On behalf of the General Council, fraternally in Christ the Redeemer!

Rogério Gomes, C.S.R
Superior General
General Moderator – 
Alphonsian Academy

Original text: Italian