Lessons from the John Paul II Centennial International Conference
READERS' VIEWS (The Freeman) - January 25, 2020 - 12:00am

Last week was a highlight for Cebuanos who gathered for the Sinulog. However, a different kind of celebration also took place within the main campus of University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R).

From January 16 to 18, scholars and students from many parts of the country and abroad came together to celebrate the life and thoughts of Pope John Paul II (JP2). The year 2020 would have seen him turn 100 if he were alive today; yet through activities like the John Paul II Centennial International Conference, his legacy lives on.

The three-day conference allowed thinkers to present ideas inspired by the teachings of the great Pope. The plenary sessions were an abundant resource that were recorded for the public to enjoy. Msgr. Marek Slonka from Poland brings to light how JP2 clarified the need for faith and reason to work together and countered creationism that took the words of the creation story of Genesis as a complete fact, calling to attention the beauty of Biblical symbolism to present the cultural views of the ancient Israelites, which should not be construed as an accurate history.

Dr. Alma Santiago-Espartinez creatively discussed the personalistic philosophy of JP2 and its criticism of transhumanism, a movement calling for rapid development of technology, such as cyborgs and advanced AI, that would help us surpass human limitations. Participants were reminded of the human person’s inviolable dignity and the need to accept our physical failures to find greater meaning in life while cautiously monitoring such projects so that they serve the common good.

The plenary sessions were more than philosophical discourses on humanity and concepts but spoke to challenges of our times while encouraging Filipinos to strengthen their faith. Dr. Glenn Parajes, Dean of the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of USJ-R, brought to light the application of JP2’s philosophy in addressing the issues in the Philippines, from the war on drugs and fake news to HIV/AIDS and climate change. To cap it off, Fr. Dan delos Angeles told the story of how the John Paul II Avenue got its name and composed a march sung by the Rogationist seminarians. The parallel sessions were the avenue for professors and students alike to present ideas on subjects such as modernization, labor rights and priestly celibacy.

Of the many topics presented, sexuality and reproductive health were among the most frequently discussed. Through JP2’s “Theology of the Body” and his first major book “Love and Responsibility”, presenters formulated responses to sex education, contraception and marriage that reminded audiences of the human body’s sacred nature in its role of allowing us to engage in unconditional love and mutual self-giving.

These are but a few examples of where JP2’s legacy has touched the fields of philosophy and intellectual reflection. Let us continue to find ways to commemorate the inspiring story and profound teachings left for us by the holy man who transformed the modern world.

Mar Louie Vincent C. Reyes


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