12/05/2008, 00.00
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Theologians’ first virtue is obedience to the faith, says Pope

In receiving the members of the International Theological Commission, Benedict XVI said that there is an “urgent need” to create the conditions to raise awareness of the value of natural moral law,” which is everyone’s “true guarantee” against ideological manipulations and the law of the strongest.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – For Pope Benedict XVI the “fundamental virtue” of theologians is to obey “the faith” so that they can co-operate with ‘truth” which “objectively” is “God’s Revelation in Jesus Christ.” This way, theologians “do not talk about themselves” but let “the truth speak through them”.

In meeting today the participants to the plenary session of the International Theological Commission the Pope outlined the guidelines theologians must follow in their work as he discussed the Commission’s own study on the “nature of theology, its meaning and methods”.

Benedict XVI, who headed the Commission for many years, focused in particular on two issues it is currently examining, namely theology and natural law. The latter will be part of a draft paper entitled The search for universal ethics: A new look at natural law that will be released in the near future.

There is, the Pope said referring to the document, an “urgent need, in the current situation of culture and of civil and political society, to create the conditions necessary to raise awareness of the indispensable value of natural moral law,” for the latter “is the true guarantee everyone has in order to live free and be respected in their dignity as human beings, and to feel they are protected from any form of ideological manipulation and abuse carried out on the basis of the law of the strongest.”

As for the meaning and method of theology, the Holt Father said that in “today’s emerging global society, theologians are often asked to promote inter-faith and intercultural dialogue, develop ethics based on peace, justice, and environmental protection. From this perspective they are asked to provide adequate answers to help overcome the alienation that affects human lives and oppress people.”

“Of course all these are legitimate concerns that deserve due consideration. However, we cannot leave out the fact that theology’s identity is not based on this kind of problems or needs. Truth is the central question that informs the human need for transcendence and direction that is sustainable and worthy of universal attention. Theology’s essential and inescapable feature is to raise questions about the truth of faith, not just consider its practical and social effectiveness.”

“From an objective point of view’” said the Pope, “God’s Revelation in Christ is the Truth whose answer is obedience to the faith in communion with the Church and its Ministry. With theology’s identity thus restored, understood as argued, systematic and methodical reflection about Revelation and faith, the issue of method becomes clear.”

The methods of theology cannot be constituted only on the basis of criteria and rules common to other academic fields, but must above all conform to the principles and rules that stem from Revelation as well as faith, with the latter understood in terms of its personal and ecclesial dimensions".

“From a subjective point of view, that of theologians, their fundamental virtue is in seeking obedience to the faith and becoming collaborators of the truth. This way they will not talk about themselves, but through the inner purification that comes from obeying to the truth, they can let the truth be brought forth into the world through them. Then again, obedience to the truth does not mean giving up research or exerting one’s mind. Although the mind will be restless, which believers cannot appease during their life because they too are on a quest to know more about the Truth, the same restlessness will accompany and stimulate them as their thoughts travel in pilgrimage towards God, and thus bear fruit.”

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