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Freedom is the only active principle

· Elvio Celestino Fontana remembers Cornelio Fabro born on 24 agosto 1911 ·

“He was an apostle and missionary of culture and through culture”. That is what is written in the pamphlet distributed after the death of the philosopher priest Cornelio Fabro on 4 May 1995 in Rome by the brothers of the Congregation of Stigmatines, the same religious order as Fabro. And precisely in these days, 24 August, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great philosopher and theologian from Flumignano (Udine, Italy).  In remembering this scholar and follower of Christ, we interviewed Fr Elvio Celestino Fontana from the Institute of the Word Incarnate and Director of the Cornelio Fabro Cultural Project.

How is the “Cornelio Fabro Cultural Project” coming along?

We have succeeded, not without difficulty, to publish 25 volumes of hundreds expected in the future. The material as a whole is vast. To my knowledge, no other contemporary author has left – by the mysterious providence of God – such a wealth of documentation and of such a wide variety: in addition to the books he published – of which we have a number of drafts with handwritten corrections – we have numerous university course lectures and notes written by him or by his students, complete records of courses or cycles – especially from the years he was assigned in Perugia – letters from foundations or private individuals, titles and honours he received, photograph, radio and film archives, and some unpublished things, of which Fabro even left the first drafts corrected. All this valuable material will be made available to scholars and students. A new chapter in our work has just opened which is to collect some of the many testimonies from people who knew him and attest to his spiritual quality and the exemplarity of his life.

Would it be wrong to say that Cornelio Fabro developed the metaphysics which Søren Kierkegaard lacked?

His studies and translations started with the first works published by Kierkegaard-Renaissance. He exposed our total lack of the Diaries in translation, for which he immediately took up studying the Danish language. To correct a common notion, we should add that Fabro is not “just” a translator of Kierkegaard, but a student, and it is together with St Thomas, his principle teacher, that he marks “a decisive encounter, as he says, in finding the underlying unity in philosophical thought throughout the various cultural epochs”. Fabro further writes that “the Kierkegaardian opus proceeds, it is true, through ‘existential experiments’, but then expands into a discussion about concepts and fundamental problems: it is realist, without falling into dogmatism; it is dialectic, without falling into skepticism; it is a phenomenology of exceptional intuition, without falling into nihilism”.  There is no doubt that Fabro identifies the vis metaphisica of the great “Socrates of the North”.

What was novel in Fabro’s hermeneutical reading of Aquinas?

Fabro with Thomas traversed through all the paths of modernity: he identifies for the first time in the history of his thought the dialectic of the notion of participation as the hermeneutical key to Thomism. It becomes the starting point for the future: the platform for a project which will explore the intricacies of modern and contemporary thought, a metaphysical revolution which he confronts and discusses in Participation and Causality . The original application participation is revealed in surprising ways in anthropology, in the cognitive process, in elevation, both spiritual and mystical. Metaphysical reflection, and therefore esse , is directed to the spirit, affirms Fabro, through knowing and loving. Its love reaches out to every good, that is, out to happiness without limitation. The dialectic of participation has its roots and its locus metaphisicus here.

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