Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his address at the opening of the symposium, drew attention to a recent tragedy that caught the world's attention and raised profound questions.
"After the devastating experience of the tsunami, many Christians wondered where God was: 'Why did a merciful God permit this?'" observed the prelate.
An answer, he said, is found in No. 400 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which talks about original sin as that which broke man's harmony with creation, to such a point that, because of sin, "creation is now subject 'to its bondage to decay.'"
"The consequence foretold of disobedience is death, which enters into the history of humanity. Thus creation becomes alien, hostile to man," the Vatican official said at the symposium. The School of Theology of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University organized the event.
Archbishop Amato recalled that the subject of original sin has been a theological question since ancient times.
To the question of what original sin is and why it touches us, Archbishop Amato answered with a quotation from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the doctrinal congregation.
According to Cardinal Ratzinger, "in order to respond, one must learn to understand man," who cannot live shut-in on himself; on the contrary "he lives in those that he loves, in those for whom he lives and exists; man is relationship and experiences his own life and himself only in terms of relationship."
The prefect has affirmed that sin is the loss of relationship with God, and such sin transforms and disturbs the world.
From this point of view, Archbishop Amato argued that "in the last analysis, Catholic doctrine on original sin is summarized in the solidarity of men in Adam contrasted with the solidarity of men in Christ."
The truth that corresponds to reality, he said, affirms that "in Christ there is salvation; therefore, self-salvation is excluded as a theological impossibility and anthropological arrogance," the prelate continued.
"Today more than ever the principle is revealed that grace is at the beginning, not sin," he said. "God loves first before being loved and remains faithful to his plan even in face of infidelity and disobedience."
The prelate added: "All this should be affirmed in respect of the universal horizon of grace that alone precedes and overcomes original and personal sin."