The Pontifical Alphonsian Academy has a special audience with his Holiness Pope Francis

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On the 23rd March 2023, the entire Alphonsian Academy including Professors, Staff, Students, and Redemptorists from the communities in Rome (San Alfonso, San Gioacchino, Monterone, and from the Province of Naples, including the Novice Master and Novices from Ciorani) with the General Council met with His Holiness Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina in the Vatican. The meeting with the Holy Father was a fitting climax to the Convention organized by the Pontifical Alphonsian Academy on the topic, “St. Alphonsus Pastor to the little ones (the least) and Doctor of the Church.” The Pope entered the Sala Clementina to rapturous applause from 195 members present. Fr Alfonso Amarante, C.Ss.R., the Preside of the Academy, greeted the Holy Father and thanked him, particularly for bestowing on the Academy the honor of being a Pontifical Academy. He also thanked the Holy Father for his keen interest in the Academy and in the Alphonsian Moral Thought while at the same time constantly calling the Academy to be true to the teachings of St. Alphonsus in our times.

The Holy Father then addressed the group. He emphasized the fact that Theologians, moralists, missionaries, and confessors are called to enter into a living relationship with the People of God, attentive to the cry of the least. To the members of the Pontifical Alphonsian Academy, Pope Francis recommended discernment in the sign of mercy. And in the field of bioethics, he urged the members to “shun extremist polarising dynamics”, reconciling scientific rigor and closeness to people’s real lives.

He further emphasized, “Use the “language of the people” in the tradition of St. Alphonsus and elaborate practicable and humanizing moral life proposals to make the fruits of theological reflection accessible.” The exhortation is to “always be on the side of the concrete human being”, and “not to forget the feeling of the people” to which each one belongs, using the tools of ethical reflection to build solid fortifications that defend them from the rampant mentality of utility and waste”.

He further emphasized, “You have been taken from the flock’, you belong to them, do not forget the air of the people, the thought of the people, the feeling of the people. And this is not communism, socialism, no! This is God’s holy faithful people who are infallible at times unbelieving, don’t forget that! Vatican I and then Vatican II.”

Pope Francis cautioned about falling prey to a cold morality of the classroom and writing desk that is feelingless but rather choose a proposal matured from a ‘pastoral discernment charged with merciful love, aimed at understanding, forgiving, accompanying and above all integrating’. Every moral theological proposal in fact has God’s love as its foundation. The Holy Father shared a personal memory in this regard. He said, “Imagine that we could not, it was forbidden to read Häring’s first book, “The Law of Christ”: “No! It is heretical, you cannot read it!”. And I only studied with that morality of casuistry: ‘It is a mortal sin if two candles are missing in the table, venial if only one is missing’… And all the casuistry like that and I say it humbly… Thank God that passed, it was a morality of a cold desk.” Moral theologians, missionaries and confessors are called to enter into a living relationship with the People of God, taking on especially the cry of the least, to understand their real difficulties, to look at existence from their angle, and to offer them answers that reflect the light of the Father’s eternal love.

He emphasized the middle way chosen by St. Alphonsus of intense listening, of journey with people in forming their consciences, and of humility and hope. Moreover, the Holy Father then took up questions of social morality. The attitude suggested for entering the complex fabric of the society in which we live is to walk humbly with God’s people, avoiding condemning attitudes:
The environmental crisis, the ecological transition, war, a financial system capable of conditioning people’s lives to the point of creating new slaves, and the challenge of building brotherhood among people and between peoples: these issues must stimulate us to research and dialogue. “The Lord is the end of history” and the human race, renewed in Christ, is destined to grow as God’s family.

The Holy Father finally bestowed on the gathering his Apostolic Papal Blessing and greeted each of the 195 members personally and finally posed for a photograph with the entire group. It was a beautiful day of blessing for the Pontifical Alphonsian Academy celebrating 75 years of its service to the Church but also for the entire Congregation as we seek to live in the spirit of St. Alphonsus as Missionaries of Hope in the Footsteps of the Redeemer.

Joseph Ivel Mendanha, C.Ss.R.
General Consultor

See also: Address of the Holy Father Francis to the Participants in the Conference Promoted by the Alphonsian Academy (Vatican website, text in Italian)

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