In Madrid, Spain, a National Congress of the Laity was held from 14 to 16 February on the theme “The People of God reaching out”. Fifty members of the Teresian Association were present, both PA and ACIT, many of whom were part of their diocesan groups through commissions or parishes.
The Congress was convened by the bishops and was planned “not as an event but as a synodal process in which the laity are to be listened to in an exercise of discernment”, in the words of Luis Manuel Romero Sánchez, director of the Secretariat of the Episcopal Commission for Secular Apostolate of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE).
Four major themes
More than two thousand congress participants shared experiences concentrated around four major themes: the initial proclamation, accompaniment, instruction courses and presence in public life. Each theme was briefly presented and followed by time for listening and sharing with talks and testimonies in smaller groups.
The initial document of the Congress had been drawn up with contributions made by the dioceses during the previous phase. 37,000 people in 2,485 groups participated in response to a document-questionnaire prepared by the Contents Commission.
Pedro Poveda Chair
One of the contributions at this event made by the TA through the Sector and ACIT Associations of Spain, was given by the Pedro Poveda Chair which is in the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical University of Salamanca. This was in the panel discussion on “Dialogue in the accompaniment of unbelief”, part of the wider topic of accompaniment.
Loreto Ballester, Professor of Chemistry, was the speaker from the Pedro Poveda Chair. She was with Pedro Fernández Castelao, representative of the Francisco José Ayala Chair of Science, Technology and Religion of the Comillas Pontifical University and the Dominican Xabier Gómez who spoke on behalf of “O-Lumen” and presented a project called “Space for the Arts and the Word”. Camino Cañón was moderator of the panel discussion.
Loreto Ballester focused her intervention on the relationship between science and faith. This is, she said, “one of the great themes that sustained the life and mission of St. Pedro Poveda: dialogue between faith and contemporary culture. He urged educators, and particularly women, to undertake this dialogue that requires solid preparation and sensitivity capable of building bridges”.
She described the 21st century as one in which society is dizzy with the rapid development of scientific knowledge and unstoppable technological development. There is concern about the difficulty of controlling their impact on human life and nature. It is a time when the Church is called upon for guidance about the role of God in all of this and the conflicting statements about God’s presence and existence.
With reference to those being reached by the activities of the Pedro Poveda Chair in Salamanca and Madrid, she explained that it is intended preferably for young university students from a range of academic fields. It offers an integrating vision that helps them to question and to discover dimensions of life, including the spiritual and religious, to which today's society gives little recognition.
She went on to say that accompaniment depends on well-prepared adult laity who can facilitate dialogue with those who do not believe. They must be able to respond to basic and profound questions. It is for this reason that the Chair encourages interdisciplinary work, continuous updating in different areas of knowledge and collaboration between scientific developments and theological study.
A place for the Arts
The panel discussion continued with the testimony of the Dominican Xabier Gómez on how the spaces provided by his order in Barcelona, Madrid and other places relate with the arts and artists. The dialogue that takes place between sentiments represented in art and provocation leads to mystery, to a deepening of faith and to a fruitful encounter for which O-lumen also provides a frame of reference and criteria.
Artificial intelligence and transhumanism are two of the themes that exemplify the activity that was presented by the Francisco José Ayala Chair of Science, Technology and Religion at the Pontifical Comillas University. Its multidisciplinary work focuses on research, teaching and dissemination of leading issues in scientific and technical development and their impact on human beings. From the perspective of Theology, Philosophy, Sciences and Technology, it seeks to contribute to dialogue between the world view advocated by the sciences and that which comes from the various cultural, moral and religious traditions of humanity.
These events took place on Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. In both cases a space for dialogue was opened. In spite of the problem of acoustics in the small roofless rooms, the desire was expressed to keep alive in the Church the difficult mission of dialogue with the advances and approaches of science. We must welcome the basic questions that can shake up the preconceptions of faith and also help believers and non-believers to advance in their humble journey of discovery.
Translation: TA Translation team.