‘Humana Communitas’ Human life in the drama of relationships

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Carlo Casalone, SJ

 Carlo Casalone, SJ / Church Thought / 21 March 2019


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On the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL), Pope Francis sent a letter of gratitude in recognition of its service and to relaunch its mission for the future. Recalling the communal origin and destiny of the human family, the pope widens the horizon in which human life is to be understood.

Life must be protected throughout its entire development, and the Academy is urged to address the issues posed by global bioethics and technologies, proceeding with discernment and fostering dialogue in the plurality of scientific wisdom traditions, religious perspectives and worldviews. The author is a member of the PAL and teaches Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome January 6, 2019, Pope Francis sent a letter to the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) for the 25th anniversary of its foundation.[1]

Even the date, the feast of the Epiphany, together with the title itself, indicates the universal horizon in which the Holy Father intends to situate the questions that are posed today with regard to the human person, to life and corporeality.

In what follows we examine the text of Francis’ letter, highlighting the difficulties and main implications, paying special attention to the points relevant to ethics.

Relationship as a fulcrum

The introduction to the document highlights the central role of relationships in the understanding of human life.

It not only looks to the relationship between individuals, but also the bond that, beginning with the more immediate sentiments felt in the family context, extends through neighbor to neighbor to the entire human community. Of course, here we perceive the great attention that Francis reserves for the notion of a people and the dynamics of its progressive constitution.[2]

Even the etymology of the word communitas offers us an interpretive key. It suggests, in fact, a group of subjects who recognize themselves to have received together (cum) the same munus. Now, since munus signifies “gift,” and, more precisely, a specific modality of gift that bears with it a “duty,” the community is that group of persons who, sharing the same gift, assume responsibility for it.[3]

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