Looking to Explain Suffering

A Congress Focuses on a Christian Challenge

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ROME, MARCH 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Although suffering in the Bible appears at times as "a scandal and a mystery," it is also a means of "revelation of God himself," a congress was told.



The congress that gathered biblicists, theologians, philosophers, psychologists, physicians and health care pastoral agents on March 24-25 addressed the challenge faced by Christians to communicate the fruitful meaning of suffering.

The meeting focused on "Suffering: Between Resistance and Resignation" and was organized by the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum and the Camillanum International Institute of Health Care Ministry, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of John Paul II's apostolic letter on suffering, "Salvifici Doloris."

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, offered a biblical reading of suffering, explaining that "Scripture looks with realism at the phenomenon and the first response is the operative commitment to overcome it."

"The meaning of the paradox of the Catholic faith lies in interpreting the forms of suffering present in creation, such as the birth pains that lead to life," the cardinal suggested.

Philosopher Mario Bizzotto said that "the encounter with Christ is the encounter with the world of those who suffer," while Teresianum professor Bruno Moriconi said that in the Bible suffering "is an unavoidable reality, a scandal and a mystery." Yet, he reminded the participants that it is also a means of "revelation of God himself."

Monsignor Sergio Lanza, professor of pastoral theology at the Lateran University, said that the pastoral problem of the Church in regard to suffering consists in "transmitting and communicating the contents of faith in an adult society."

"The whole Christian community," the monsignor said, "must be a witness of the necessary integration between the word of God and daily life," as well as of the way in which the sacraments are administered and received.

Father Giuseppe Cina, professor at the Camillianum, explained that the congress also marked the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's decree on ecumenism, "Unitatis Redintegratio."

In fact, the motto of the congress was inspired by the figure of Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhöffer, killed by the Nazis. From prison, Bonhöffer wrote in 1944 that "Christ does not help us in virtue of his omnipotence but of his suffering."

The minutes of the congress are to be published later this year.