Universality and Specificity of Cultures

Dr. Edward Alam, appointed by Pope Francis as a Consultor on The Pontifical Council for Culture.

Dr. Edward Alam, Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at Notre Dame University, was recently appointed by Pope Francis as a Consultor on The Pontifical Council for Culture—a department of the Roman Curia charged with fostering the relationship of the Catholic Church with different cultures. The history of the Council dates back to the Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul II founded it on 20 May 1982. He later merged the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers (founded in 1965) with it. Pope Benedict XVI gave the Council new impetus in his desire to build ‘a dialogue with contemporary artists’. “We are reminded of the urgent need for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness not only by contemporary cultural and artistic debate, but also by daily reality,” said Pope Benedict XVI, in a November message to pontifical academies. The Council currently fosters relationships between the Holy See and exponents of the world of culture and promotes dialogue with various contemporary cultures.

The Council has two sections: Faith and Culture and Dialogue with Cultures. The Faith and Culture section concentrates on the work the Council did before the Council for Non-Believers was merged with it, while the Dialogue with Cultures section continues the work of the latter Council, establishing dialogue with those who do not believe in God or profess no religion, but who are open to genuine cooperation. The Council cooperates with Episcopal conferences, universities and international organizations such as UNESCO with regard to its fields of interest.

The permanent staff at the Council’s headquarters consists of the President (currently Gianfranco Ravasi), the Secretary and the Under-Secretary. The Council has a Plenary Assembly at least once every three years. This year, during the month of February, a Plenary Assembly will take place—the theme of which is “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference”. Dr. Alam will participate in this Plenary Assembly. Its purpose is to evaluate the day-to-day running of the Council, to plan the department’s programs and to pool experiences and reflections on the variety of cultural situations in contemporary societies. All of this is done in the context of evangelization and the Church’s dialogue with cultures. The Members of the Assembly are cardinals and bishops appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms.

The Pope also appoints Consultors, (priests, religious, and laity predominate in this group), who can be called on at any time for advice and assistance. The Council relies on the Consultors for the study of particularly important questions. Consultors are appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms. There are currently 33 of them: they come from all over the world, and are specialists in the field of culture and dialogue with non-believers. They assist the Council by their research and the information and opinions they provide.

This Papal appointment is not only an honor personally for Dr. Edward Alam, but is a great honor for Notre Dame University and for Lebanon as well.

Pontifical Council for Culture - Papal Appointment of Edward Alam (2)  

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