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The first session of the International Theological Commission was held at Rome, at the Domus Mariae, 6-8 October 1969, with His Eminence Cardinal Šeper presiding. Of the Commission s thirty members, twenty-nine were present. The object of this first session was to permit the members to meet each other and make initial contacts, to form a more exact concept of the nature and objectives of the Commission, to express their opinions on the most urgent questions to be dealt with, to specify working procedures, and to form subcommissions for study of these questions.

The statutes of the Commission, created this year by Pope Paul VI, at the request of the Synod of Bishops in 1967, specify that it is at the service of the Holy See, and especially of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with regard to doctrinal questions of great importance. The Commission is not a part of the foresaid Congregation but rather is governed by its own particular norms. Nonetheless, its president is the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation. The results of its work are transmitted directly to the Holy Father before being communicated to the Congregation.

The Commission does not deal with specific doctrinal problems, such as the examination of a book or an article, but studies the most fundamental doctrinal problems that are crucial in the life of the Church today.

The psychological climate at the session was excellent. In the three days during which they were together, the theologians had the opportunity of exchanging ideas with the greatest liberty, and they did so indeed. The same climate of liberty and fraternal confidence prevailed during the study session.

Some time before the session the theologians had received a volume containing a report by Father Rahner on the principal questions that, in his opinion, should be dealt with by the Commission, a report by Monsignor Philips on the spirit and the method of organization of the work, and the opinion of each of the members on problems to be dealt with and methods of work to be employed.

In the study sessions the discussion centered especially on the problem of theological pluralism and on the Magisterium and the practical exercise of its power in the present circumstances.

Exhaustive discussions were not planned. It was, rather, a question of becoming aware of the scope of the problems. In raising these questions, the theologians sought better to understand the present crisis in the Church. Of course, all admitted that there exists a pluralism that is legitimate and necessary, even in regard to doctrine.

The divergence of their opinions became evident on the subject of the extension of this legitimate pluralism. It seemed that certain points should be discussed more deeply in order to safeguard the unity of the Faith and of the Church.

The Commission sought to establish the manner in which men today really receive the interventions of the Magisterium. It was observed that the present situation renders the task of the Magisterium more difficult, but that it also requires of theologians a keener sense of their responsibility.

They saw the importance of a sound notion of the nature and the value of religious knowledge – as well as of all knowledge – and its authenticity, as much for the question of pluralism as for that of the Magisterium.

It is evident that these problems need to be seriously studied and that this should be done with the most absolute fidelity to the Church and complete understanding of the needs of our era,.

The methodological norms to be applied in the future work of the Commission were worked out chiefly from the experience of the Second Vatican Council, and they are sufficiently flexible to permit any modifications that may be necessary as the work proceeds.

At present, from among the subjects that the Commission offered to study, the four following questions have been chosen:

1. the unity of the Faith,

2. the priesthood,

3. the theology of hope: the Christian Faith and the future of humanity,

4. the criteria for Christian moral conscience.

Four subcommissions were formed to study these themes. It is up to each group to decide precisely on its particular theme.

Other themes will be dealt with later.