Monday, February 1, 2010

People of the Year - #7

From Inside the Vatican

Each year for the past 10 years, Inside the Vatican has chosen 10 "People of the Year" -- men and women of courage, vision, learning and faith.

I find myself unable to write currently, and so in my desire to bring Freedom Through Truth, will be bringing to you things that I have seen and admire for their veracity.

Here is the seventh member of that illustrious group.

Bishop Mario Toso
He was consecrated a bishop on December 12, 2009, by none other than the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Ber­tone, also a member of the Salesian Order.
Mario Toso, born in 1950, comes from the northern Italian region of Veneto, and in October became the Secretary of the Pontifical Council Iustitia et Pax, which sets the Vatican’s policy on many social questions. It has been presided over by personalities like François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, Vietnamese martyr bishop and later Cardinal, on the road for sainthood, and after him by Renato Raffaele Martino, a Cardinal with 16 years of experience at the United Nations as the Pope’s representative.

Benedict XVI has now called an African to guide “his” social doctrine: the African Cardinal Peter Turkson (see elsewhere among our “Top Ten” for his profile).
And with Turkson, Bishop Toso, a professor, who was involved in the preparatory work on the Pope’s latest encyclical, Caritas in veritate.

Mario Toso is a simple and shy man who made his first appearance in public at a press conference a few days after his consecration, together with Cardinal Martino, former President of Iustitia et Pax, for the presentation of the Pope’s message for World Peace Day 2010.

In few minutes, he traced the most important lines of Benedict XVI’s message, and recalled the themes of Caritas in veritate: the defnse of justice and peace in social life, locally, nationally and internationally.

The heart of the message was a call for a radical change of life style, a sobriety which is respect for one’s neighbor.

It was a true appeal for religious responsibility: man must recognize his vocation for giving. And Christian faith can help him to see the needs of the other.

Monsignor Toso expressed these ideas well last October at the inauguration of the academic year 2009-2010 at the “Studio Interdiocesano di Teologia e dell’Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose” of Alessandria in North Italy.

“Benedict XVI explains in a masterly fashion and with such rigorous persuasiveness the historic fruitfulness of Christianity in the integral development of the human family, that the faithful are reassured and encouraged to invest in their identity and to be proud of their faith. But that is not all.

“He wants to make them more conscious of the fact that the charity of Christ, who was incarnated among men in order to redeem mankind and free mankind from any negative factor, does not estrange from history, but drives the faithful to act in history, not with means of war or battle against an enemy to defeat or a hinder to destroy, but to build and fight to elevate and transfigure man.

“A true Christian works for the good, and defeats evil with love, not destroying it with another evil.
“Today, for many different reasons, the times of transfiguration seem to grow longer, and the creation of a new mankind seems to be delayed. Often, in many nations, the time of waiting grows, and thus also that of patience. Unfortunately, in many places the narrow road of silent witnessing is the only possible road. The tragic and heroic humanism with which the personalists of the last century have taught us is still a relevant revolution of charity in truth.”

Mario Toso studied in Milan and Rome, completing his degree in philosophy at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan in 1978 with a thesis was on the Thomistic thought of French historian and philosopher Etienne Gilson.

He later earned a Licentiate in Philosophy at the Pontifical Salesian University and one in Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, both in Rome, where he then taught at both universities, as Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the Salesian University and as Professor of Social Magisterium at the Lateran. He was also Rector of the Pontifical Salesian University from  2003-2009.

As a scholar, Toso has dedicated a great deal of reflection to the theme of the Welfare State. He is known for his many publications in this field, some of which have been translated into Spanish and Polish. He has also been vice director of the only Italian scholarly review in the field of Catholic social doctrine, La Società, sharing John Paul II’s conviction that the Church’s social doctrine is an “essential element of evangelization.”

As a scholar and a specialist of the Italian bishops’ conference, he followed the process of the National Office for Social Problems and Work, collaborating in the preparation of several documents on social and economic questions. He has been a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on the themes of non-violence and the distribution of property. He gave an important contribution to the elaboration of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2004.
He is a man whose heart goes out to the poor — and his head as well. —Angela Ambrogetti

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