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Acton Notes - February 2007

Centesimus Annus in Rome

On December 12, Acton held its final Centesimus Annus conference for 2006 at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University on the relationship between Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus and Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est. These important reflections mark the fifteenth anniversary of Centesimus Annus.

Nearly 300 participants—an astounding turnout for a Rome event of this sort—enjoyed hearing experts discuss the nuances of the two seminal documents on social doctrine. EPPC senior fellow George Weigel delivered the principal address, with responses from Dr. Jean-Yves Naudet, professor of economics at the Universite d’Aix-Marseilles III, and His Imperial Royal Highness Dr. Otto von Habsburg, a member of the European Parliament from 1979 until 1999. Included among the guests were a significant number of people from the diplomatic corps and other leading sectors of Roman society. The following was taken from George Weigel’s speech, “From Centesimus Annus to Deus Caritas Est: The Free and Virtuous Society of the Twenty-first Century.”

Addressing his fellow Catholics in a language that can be engaged by any morally serious person, believer or not, Pope Benedict made several key points in Deus Caritas Est. First, he insisted that love of neighbor, expressed in works of charity that embody a personal responsibility to the “other,” cannot be outsourced to government agencies. Those agencies have their place, but we fail the test of our own humanity—we fail to grow into the persons we ought to be—if charitable giving and charitable activity are not part of the rhythm of our lives. Something is awry in our own hearts if we imagine that paying the taxes that support governmental social services fulfills the obligation of love-of-neighbor, however we conceive the source of that obligation.

More of George Weigel’s speech and coverage of the event is available at: www.acton.org/centesimusannus.

From Our Conference Participants

At Acton I had the chance not only to learn, but I had the marvelous opportunity of sharing meals, conferences and most important discussing ideas with people who may very well be the future leaders of their nations, as much as I hope to be of mine.

—Fernando Coronel Velasco
Universidad Catolica de Santiago de Guayaquil
Guayaquil, Ecuador

Without your support, my financial situation would have barred me from this opportunity to interact with scholars whose values I share and whose work crucially refines my own career goals. My experience at the Acton conference was invaluable.

—Kony Kim
Westminster Seminary
Escondido, California

Father Sirico Meets Pope Benedict XVI

On December 9, Pope Benedict XVI granted an audience to Fr. Robert Sirico while he was in Rome presiding at Acton’s Centesimus Annus conference (see cover story). There Sirico addressed the Fifty-sixth National Conference of I Giuristi Cattolici Italiani (the Italian Catholic Lawyers) on “Benedict XVI and True Liberalism.”

At the Vatican, the pope extended his Apostolic Blessing to Fr. Sirico, founder and president of the Acton Institute, and to collaborators, friends, and benefactors. The pope also gave Fr. Sirico his zucchetto, a small white skullcap.

Welcoming New Board Members

Since its founding, the Acton Institute has always been blessed by the care and inspiration of our board of directors. Last year, we were honored to welcome three new board members—Mr. Kenneth J. Muraski (confirmed June 14, 2006), and Mr. John C. Kennedy, III, and Dr. Gaylen J. Byker (both confirmed October 26, 2006).

Mr. Muraski has been a supporter of Acton since 1994. In addition to serving on Acton’s board, Ken is president and general manager of Kent Manufacturing Company, a family-owned business helping the local economy of Grand Rapids, Michigan, for over fifty years. Kent Manufacturing specializes in the conversion of pressure-sensitive adhesive-coated materials for applications across a wide range of industries, and provides top-quality precision-machined solutions for the automotive market. In addition to his services as an Acton board member, Mr. Kennedy serves on the board of the Van Andel Institute and holds an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Byker, an Acton supporter since 1995, serves as the president of his alma mater, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in addition to his services as an Acton board member. Dr. Byker received his M.A. in political science from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania.

Acton’s staff would like to extend a warm welcome to these new board members and thank them for their active, leading roles in the promotion of a free and virtuous society.

Announcing New Book

The Good that Business Does, by Dr. Robert Kennedy, is the latest book in Acton’s Christian Social Thought series. In this book, Kennedy brings together management experience and theological expertise to examine the significance and responsibilities of business in contemporary societies. Dr. Kennedy applies economics, law, and the Christian tradition of moral reflection to elucidate the ways in which business enterprises contribute to personal and common goods.

The book is available for $6.00 through the Acton Book Shoppe (www.acton.org/bookshoppe or call 616-454-9454).