Philadelphia, PA – Aquinas Center director Dr. Bethany J. Welch has been invited to Rome to represent the United States at the Solemn Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, a landmark document of the Second Vatican Council that promoted interfaith encounter and the Catholic Church’s witness to social justice concerns.
The gathering, coordinated by Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is designed to establish a dialogue among different generations on the issues raised by Gaudium et Spes, which are still of great urgency and which have assumed new connotations, especially after the election of Pope Francis, who has called on the Catholic Church to confront inequality and to minister to the margins of society.
“The invitation to attend the proceedings in Rome is a huge honor and comes at a unique time following the visit of the Holy Father to the United States,” remarks Dr. Welch. “I was particularly struck by his address to Congress when he said, ‘Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.’” “His call for responsiveness and solidarity reflects the impact of a document like Gaudium et Spes and reinforces the values on which Aquinas Center was founded.”
The Second Vatican Council, which was held from 1962 to 1965, led the Catholic Church into the modern era. Notably, it led the Church to begin celebrating Mass in the vernacular language, including English, transformed the Church’s efforts on interfaith dialogue and led the Church to rededicate itself to the cause of social justice. Gaudium et Spes is one of four key documents, known as constitutions, that were published by the Council fathers during the Second Vatican Council.
The celebrative event will be concluded by a gesture of symbolic handing over of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes legacy to an invited representation of youth and young adults from the different continents, with Dr. Welch representing the United States of America at the invitation of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
This groundbreaking dialogue will be held November 5-6, 2015 at the New Synod Hall in the Vatican and continue on at the Church Palace.
Bethany J. Welch, Ph.D, is the founding director of the Aquinas Center, which is housed in a multicultural, multilingual immigrant parish. The center opened in January 2013 with a mission to build unity in diversity, support learning, and inspire thoughtful action. The Aquinas Center is home to urban immersion experiences, counseling services, legal services to help immigrants (regardless of documents), community organizing and advocacy efforts, English classes and urban revitalization activities. Bethany Welch identifies systemic injustice as a root cause of poverty alongside a lack of access to social services and high quality education based on geography. She speaks from the heart about the dignity of all persons informing her work, and how the work of Aquinas Center demonstrates the power of Catholic social teaching.
Her Catholic faith motivates her to promote an authentic “culture of encounter”, to which Pope Francis has called each of us. Bethany has worked to infuse this mission into the work of Aquinas Center, especially in its leadership trainings and through its community organizing. According to Bethany, “Everyone has dignity. Everyone has gifts to share.” In recognition of her gifts and devotion to working in solidarity with people living in poverty in her community, Bethany was awarded the 2014 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. She received the award at a special reception at the Spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in New Orleans, LA, on June 12, 2014.
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