Word of Welcome
H.Em. Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Your Excellency, Bishop Sánchez Sorondo,
Dear Professor Archer, President of the Academy
It gives me great pleasure to greet you and to offer a few words on this last day of your Plenary Meeting. I thank you for your service to the Holy See and I wish to encourage you to carry forward the fruits of your discussions here, which offer valuable and tangible ways to work for a more fraternal and engaged world, one that is just and excludes no one.
The Church’s Social Teaching in the formulation and development of which you play a significant role, has never endorsed a mechanicistic approach, whereby an invisible hand maintains justice, merely by harmonising the self-interest of individuals, or whereby the dictatorship of one class can develop a society that excludes no one.
The Church rather, has always maintained that there are no a priori or one-size-fits-all solutions, which exonerate leaders of society from pursuing justice. And this is not only because human life develops in a variety of historical, geographical, economic and cultural contexts, each significantly different from the other. But, above all, because God’s image in every man and woman bestows on them a personal dignity and a richness of intelligence and emotion, which precede and supersede every other social construct.
Human dignity and all of its potentiality must not only be respected but also helped to flourish. This is the ultimate goal of inclusion, that all may be true and worthy agents of their own integral human development and of the various spheres in which social life develops: family, friendship, local communities, civil society, government and the Church. There are innumerable examples of men and women who, whether in daily life or in the dramatic circumstances of war, civil strife and natural disasters, are able to sacrifice their self-interests in order to place their own lives at the service of others. History also presents us, however, with those who, in the words of the Apostle Paul, have as their God their belly and their glory is in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (cfr. Philippians 3:19).
Social and cultural inclusion necessarily presumes the primary and vital disposition of generosity and the ability to recognise the dignity of the other. In contrast, reducing the human person to a self-absorbed being always means excluding others who, in turn, are then seen as either useful for personal interest, or as obstacles to them. There is a choice: either we embrace the view that men and women are capable of responsible behaviour, that is of giving a free response that life is a gift, that love is the source of the meaning of life, and that one cannot withhold one’s urge to do good to another, or we uphold the view of those who have placed all their hope in technology, consigning their freedom to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest and of violence.
In certain contexts, permeated by a superficial idolatry of technology, according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm, which sees science as a technique of possession, mastery and transformation of something formless, completely open to manipulation, new ideologies emerge, such as transhumanism and technological singularity. These foresee even the exclusion and subsequent disappearance of every aspect of humanity that does not have real and complete access to – and mastery of – new technologies and is incapable of interacting with them. The invisible hand and the dictatorships of the 19th and 20th centuries are today capable of transforming into what seems harmless, but is in fact a radically alienating technocratic dictatorship for the 21st century.
Your work has examined today’s civilization and has sought a concrete approach in order to respond to the Holy Father’s call to reassess society and the whole of the Universe as being open to God’s transcendence and as being a field for a revolution of tenderness. That is, having a love for humanity that becomes close and becomes real. Only then can human freedom offer an intelligent contribution towards a positive development, transforming human history into a blossoming of freedom, growth, salvation and love, instead of a path that is decadent and self-destructive.
I believe that the Holy Father’s thoughts summarise the spirit which has guided your discussion, and I am certain that the conclusion of your assembly will make a significant contribution to a greater understanding and renewing of the Social Teaching of the Church.
Though unable to be with you, the Holy Father, who greeted you at the beginning of your meeting in the person of Archbishop Gallagher, has kept you in his prayers and you can be sure that he holds great hope in the fruitfulness of your discussion.
Together with my own cordial greetings and appreciation, I wish to convey the Holy Father’s blessing to you and your families, and the assurance of his prayer for your professional and personal endeavours. Thank you very much.