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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Introduction of Archbishop Bruno Forte

Riggs Library
Georgetown University
November 10, 2008


It is a pleasure to welcome all of you tonight to Riggs Library and this dinner in honor of His Excellency—a man of great faith, and intellect, and scholarship—Archbishop Bruno Forte. As those of you who attended our guest’s thoughtful lecture already know, he is the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, and has served as a professor of systematic theology at the Pontifical Theology Faculty in Naples. He is also a member of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

As one of the foremost theologians of our time, it is especially fitting that we honor him in Georgetown’s original library. This is a place devoted to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. But the plaster shields of the Society of Jesus that adorn this room are also a tangible reminder that knowledge—critical thought—can be a powerful tool in the service of faith.

I’ll speak more about knowledge and faith—and the Archbishop’s extraordinary contributions to both—after dinner. But to begin our evening, I’d like to introduce Fr. John Langan. A distinguished member of the Georgetown community, Fr. Langan has served as the Rose Kennedy Professor of Christian Ethics in our Kennedy Institute of Ethics since 1987. He also holds the Cardinal Bernardin Chair in Catholic Social Thought, and is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy. Widely published, he has taught at the Yale Divinity School, Drew University, and Loyola University in Chicago. Fr. Langan will now offer tonight’s blessing…

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I hope you all enjoyed your dinner—and that you were as challenged and inspired as I was by Archbishop Forte’s outstanding lecture on a “Theology of Beauty: A Way to Unity?”—which addressed how beauty may be the key to Christian, and even global, unity.

I especially liked His Excellency’s opening remarks on “The rediscovery of beauty as a way to truth…” Like any academic institution, pursing the truth—through knowledge, scholarship, and research—is the mission of Georgetown. But that leads to a question: What are the pillars that support our mission?

To answer that question, I turn to another line from Archbishop Forte. When discussing St. Augustine’s understanding of beauty, Archbishop Forte noted that the Saint believed that “Only the Church, which is united by faith and charity, is credible in proclaiming God’s beauty.”

Here at Georgetown, faith…and charity—in the form of concern for our neighbors in our own communities or in the global community—provide the foundation on which we build our mission. First, our Catholic and Jesuit heritage and tradition—our faith—infuses every aspect of our community. And in terms of charity—in the best sense of the word—Georgetown continually works to instill in the generations of young people who come to us a single ideal. It was an ideal first expressed by former Jesuit Superior-General Pedro Arrupe: That they must be women and men for others.

But how do each of us—as individuals—effectively respond to what faith and charity—in their fullest sense—demand of us? I believe they call us to do three things. They call us to promote peace…to advance justice…and to embrace solidarity. Tonight, I want to spend a few moments discussing these three ideas with you.

In order to respond to what faith and charity demand, we must first promote peace. Peace demands that we take a deep and penetrating look within our own hearts and minds to seek out—and acknowledge—the dark roots of injustice, hatred, conflict, fragmentation, and marginalization. It demands that we recognize the human dignity of every individual. And it requires that we welcome and embrace the stranger—all those whose ideas or ideals; culture or faith; lifestyle or background are different from our own—and that we welcome them not just as the “other” in our midst, but as fellow members of the global community.

As we promote peace, we must also advance justice. We all know that globalization has created enormous promise and possibility—but it has also produced staggering differences in wealth and well being. Three billion people—half of the world’s population—live on two U.S. dollars a day…one billion on less than a dollar a day. Sixty percent of the world’s population exists on only six percent of the world’s income. Entire communities are being exploited, marginalized, and neglected.

We know that all people are equal in the eyes of God—and that’s why we must accept responsibility for the most vulnerable, the most needy, the most wounded in our midst. We all need to champion a stronger global framework for the allocation of resources that can effectively respond to the challenge of the exploited and the neglected. We must support global structures and institutions that promote equality. We must advocate for a global economy that benefits not the few—but the many. And we must accept responsibility not only for our own development—but for the collective development of the human family.

As we work for peace and justice, the third thing we must do is to embrace solidarity. Solidarity demands more than simply service to those in need…to the marginalized…to the rejected…to those who are different—to the stranger. It demands a true concern for others that seeks to express itself in works of justice.

As Pope John Paul II wisely observed, “Solidarity helps us to see the ‘other’—whether a person, people, or nation—not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength…but as our ‘neighbor,’ a ‘helper,’ to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves…in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.” (Encyclical letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 39)

Taken together—working for peace, justice, and solidarity—is an expression of simply one thing: Of love for our fellow members of the world family…
…And it is the idea of love that—in many ways—was actually at the crux of Archbishop Forte’s lecture, “A Theology of Beauty: A Way to Unity?” For as His Excellency noted, “beauty can be understood as revealed and hidden love…” and “crucified love is the beauty that saves the world.”

For John Keats, beauty may have been truth. But for Archbishop Forte, beauty is also love—and who among us could argue that love is fundamental to the unity of the Christian community…and the global community.

I know that all of us who heard His Excellency’s extraordinary remarks earlier this afternoon found them imaginative and inspirational. He offered us significant insight; originality of thought; profound theological ideas; much to consider on our personal spiritual journeys—and a remarkable vision of beauty and love in the service of ecumenism and the entire human family.

We are all the better for having him engage with us today, and I would now like to invite Archbishop Forte to say a few additional words to us this evening.

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Thank you again, Your Excellency, for your ideas and insights. To mark your visit with us today…as an expression of our gratitude…and—most of all—in recognition of your work to promote Christian unity, and even global unity, by advancing ecumenism and promoting a “Theology of Beauty”—Georgetown would like to present you with this crystal globe. We hope that it will always remind you of your time with us…as well as of our sincere appreciation and friendship.

And now, to close our evening, I want to introduce Fr. Lydio Tomasi. Born in Vincenza, Italy—and brother to Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the U.N.—Fr. Tomasi attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained a priest in 1962.

After ordination, he was assigned as an instructor at St. Charles Seminary in Staten Island, New York. Fr. Tomasi then worked at the parish level, and from 1968 to 2001, he directed the “Center for Migration Studies of New York.” During his tenure there, he was the founding editor of Migration World Magazine, a bi-monthly review of current issues in migration and migration policy. He was also the editor of the annual volume, In Defense of the Alien. While later serving as Pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown, he had the opportunity to test theories of the institutional role of churches in the adjustment process of immigrants.

In 2006, Fr. Tomasi was appointed as Pastor of Holy Rosary Church—a unique national Italian parish—here in Washington, DC.

Throughout his career, he has produced numerous articles and books on immigrants in general, and the Italian-American experience in particular. He has also contributed significantly to scholarship on international migration. Among his numerous awards, in 1985 the President of the Republic of Italy bestowed on Fr. Tomasi the title of “Cavaliere Ufficiale in the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy.”

It is a privilege to have him join us this evening, and I would now like to ask Fr. Tomasi to provide tonight’s benediction…

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Thank you Fr. Tomasi. And again, thank you Archbishop Forte for honoring us by engaging with our community. As we leave tonight, I know that we will all continue to reflect on the challenges—and the reasons for hope—that you presented in your lecture. Finally, I am grateful to all of you—including members of the Georgetown community; the Jesuit community; and the local Catholic community—for joining us for this very special—and thought provoking—evening.

Thank you and good night.

 

 

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