Speeches 2005-13 555
Good Friday, 6 April 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once more in meditation, prayer and song, we have recalled Jesus’s journey along the way of the cross: a journey seemingly hopeless, yet one that changed human life and history, and opened the way to “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. Rev Ap 21,1). Especially today, Good Friday, the Church commemorates with deep spiritual union the death of the Son of God on the cross; in his cross she sees the tree of life, which blossoms in new hope.
The experience of suffering and of the cross touches all mankind; it touches the family too. How often does the journey become wearisome and difficult! Misunderstandings, conflicts, worry for the future of our children, sickness and problems of every kind. These days too, the situation of many families is made worse by the threat of unemployment and other negative effects of the economic crisis. The Way of the Cross which we have spiritually retraced this evening invites all of us, and families in particular, to contemplate Christ crucified in order to have the force to overcome difficulties. The cross of Christ is the supreme sign of God’s love for every man and woman, the superabundant response to every person’s need for love. At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ’s cross. There we can find the courage and strength to press on; there we can repeat with firm hope the words of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rm 8,35).
In times of trial and tribulation, we are not alone; the family is not alone. Jesus is present with his love, he sustains them by his grace and grants the strength needed to carry on, to make sacrifices and to evercome every obstacle. And it is to this love of Christ that we must turn when human turmoil and difficulties threaten the unity of our lives and our families. The mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection inspires us to go on in hope: times of trouble and testing, when endured with Christ, with faith in him, already contain the light of the resurrection, the new life of a world reborn, the passover of all those who believe in his word.
In that crucified Man who is the Son of God, even death itself takes on new meaning and purpose: it is redeemed and overcome, it becomes a passage to new life. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12,24). Let us entrust ourselves to the Mother of Christ. May Mary, who accompanied her Son along his way of sorrows, who stood beneath the cross at the hour of his death, and who inspired the Church at its birth to live in God’s presence, lead our hearts and the hearts of every family through the vast mysterium passionis towards the mysterium paschale, towards that light which breaks forth from Christ’s resurrection and reveals the definitive victory of love, joy and life over evil, suffering and death. Amen.
Clementine Hall Monday, 16 April 2012
Dear Mr Minister President,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I will dispense with addressing each one of you by your name and title — it would take far too long. However I assure you that I have read the guest list twice, the list of those who have come. I read it with my heart and in doing so I greeted each one of you individually within myself: no one present here is anonymous. I have seen each one of you in my mind’s eye and I am glad to greet you here now. I have had a talk with each one of you — welcome to you all!
What can be said on such an occasion? My feelings go beyond words and so, as a way of thanking you, I must say what on the contrary has not been said. Yet I would like to thank you really warmly for your words, Mr Minister President, you have enabled the heart of Bavaria — a Christian, a Catholic heart — to speak, and have thereby moved me and at the same time mentioned all the important aspects of my life. I am equally grateful to you, Your Eminence, for your affectionate words as Pastor of the diocese to which I belong as a priest, in which I grew up and to which, I still belong in spirit, remembering at the same time the Christian aspect, our faith in its full grandeur and beauty.
Dear Mr Minister President, you have gathered here a sort of mirror image of both the interior and exterior geography of my life; of the exterior geography, which is nonetheless also always interior, and which began in Marktl am Inn, passing through Tittmoning to Aschau and then to Hufschlag and Traunstein, to Pentling and hence to Regensburg.... In all these stages that are present here, there is always a little piece of my life, a part in which I lived and struggled and which contributed to making me what I am as I am now in your presence and as, one day, I must present myself to the Lord. Then, there are all the areas of Bavarian life: the living Church of our land is here — and for this I thank the Bavarian bishops. There is also, thanks be to God, the ecumenical dimension with the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Munich.... This reminds me of the great friendship that bound me to Bishop Hansemann, whose memory I treasure, and it bears witness to me of how one progresses. Likewise, I remember the Jewish community with Dr Lamm and Dr Snopkowski: with them too cordial friendships were born which brought me inwardly close to the Jewish portion of our people, and to the Jewish People as such who are present within me in memories. Then there are the media which convey to the world what we are doing and saying... at times we have to make a few adjustments but what would we be without their service? And then, dear Mr Minister President, you have presented Bavaria as alive in the children, in whom we recognize that Bavaria continues to be faithful to itself because it is faithful to itself, remains youthful and continues to advance. In addition, there is the music I have been able to listen to, which reminds me of my father, who used to play on the zither, “Gott grüße Dich”: the sounds of my childhood have returned but they are also the sounds of the present and of the future — “Gott grüße Dich”....
A full heart would need many words, while I am limiting myself because what I would have to say would be too much. In the end, however, everything is summed up in the one word with which I would like to conclude: “Vergelt’s Gott!” — may God reward you.
Paul VI Hall Friday, 20 April 2012
Mr Minister President,
Distinguished Guests from the Free State of Saxony and the City of Leipzig,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
With this splendid performance of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Symphony n. 2, the “Lobgesang”, you have offered me and everyone present a precious gift on my birthday. In fact this symphony is a great hymn of praise to God, a prayer with which we have praised and thanked the Lord for his gifts. First of all, however, I would like to thank those who made this experience possible. In the first place, the Gewandhausorchester, which in itself has no need of introduction: it is one of the oldest orchestras in the world with a tradition of excellent performances and indisputable fame. I extend my cordial thanks to the splendid choirs and soloists and, in particular to Maestro Riccardo Chailly for his vibrant interpretation. I extend my gratitude to the Minister President and to the Representatives of the Free State of Saxony, to the Mayor and to the Delegation of the City of Leipzig, to the Ecclesiastical Authorities, as well as to the Directors of the Gewandhaus and to all those who have come from Germany.
Mendelssohn, the “Lobgesang” Symphony, Gewandhaus: three elements that are not linked only this evening but have been linked from the outset. Indeed the great symphony for choir, soloists and orchestra which we have heard was composed by Mendelssohn to celebrate the fourth centenary of the invention of the press and was actually performed on 24 June 1840 for the first time in the Thomaskirchein Leipzig, Johan Sebastian Bach’s church by the Gewandhaus Orchestra; on the podium was Mendelssohn himself, who was the conductor of this ancient and prestigious orchestra for years.
This composition consists of three movements for orchestra alone, without a solution of continuity, and then of a sort of cantata with soloists and choir. In a letter to his friend Karl Klingemann, Mendelssohn himself explained that in this Symphony “first the instruments sing praise in their congenial manner, then the choir and the individual voices”. Music as praise of God, the supreme Beauty, is the basis of Mendelssohn’s approach to composition, not only of his liturgical or sacred music but of the whole of his opus. For him, as Julius Schubring says, sacred music as such was not higher up the ladder than other music; every form of music was to serve and honour God in its own way. And the motto that Mendelssohn wrote on the score of the “Lobgesang” says: “I want to see all the arts, particularly music, at the service of the One who has given and created them”. Our author’s ethical and religious world was not separate from his concept of art, indeed it was an integral part of it: Kunst un Leben sind nich sweierlei”, art and life are not two separate things but one, he wrote.
Profound unity of life — whose unifying element is faith — characterized Mendelssohn’s entire existence and guided his decisions. In his letters we perceive this pervasive theme. He said to his friend Schirmer on 9 January 1841, referring to the family: “Of course, worries and serious days are at times not lacking... and yet one can only pray God fervently to preserve the health and happiness he has given us”. And on 17 January 1843 in Klingemann, he wrote: “I cannot but thank God on my knees every day for every good he gives me”. His was therefore a solid and convinced faith, deeply nourished by Sacred Scripture, as, among other pieces, his two Oratorios, Paulus and Elias, demonstrate, as well as the symphony we have heard which is full of biblical references, especially from the Psalms and from St Paul. I find it difficult to evoke some of the intense moments we have experienced this evening; I would only like to mention the marvellous duet of the sopranos and choir on the words “Ich harrete des Herrn, und er neigte sich zu mir un hörte mein Fleh’n”, from Psalm 40: “I have hoped in the Lord and he bent down to me and heard my cry”; it is the hymn of those who place all their hope in God and are certain that they will not be disappointed.
I once again thank the Orchestra and Choir of the Gewandhaus, the Choir of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), the soloists and the director, as well as the Authorities of the Free State of Saxony and of the City of Leipzig for the performance of this “luminous work” (Robert Schumann), which has enabled us all to praise God, and I have been able to thank God once again in a special way for the years of my life and ministry.
I would like to conclude with the words that Robert Schumann wrote in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, after attending the first performance of the symphony we have heard and which are intended to be an invitation on which to reflect: “Let us, as the text splendidly set to music by the Maestro says, increasingly ‘abandon the works of darkness and take up the weapons of light’”.
My thanks and good evening to you all!
I am pleased to greet the members of the Papal Foundation on the occasion of your annual pilgrimage to Rome. May your visit to the tombs of the apostles and martyrs strengthen your love for the crucified and risen Lord and your commitment to the service of his Church. I am happy to have this occasion to thank you personally for your support of a wide variety of apostolates close to the heart of the Successor of Peter.
In coming months I will have the honor of canonizing two new Saints from North America. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and Blessed Mother Marianne Cope are striking examples of sanctity and heroic charity, but they also remind us of the historic role played by women in the building up of the Church in America. By their example and intercession, may all of you be confirmed in the pursuit of holiness and in your efforts to contribute to the growth of God’s Kingdom in the hearts of people today. Through the work of the Papal Foundation, you help to further the Church’s mission of evangelization, promote the education and integral development of our brothers and sisters in poorer countries, and advance the missionary endeavors of so many dioceses and religious congregations throughout the world.
In these days I ask your continued prayers for the needs of the universal Church and in particular for the freedom of Christians to proclaim the Gospel and bring its light to the urgent moral issues of our time. With great affection I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 50th ANNIVERSARY Dear Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Hon. Mr President of the Chamber and Mr Ministers,
Distinguished Authorities, Lecturers, Doctors, Distinguished Health-Care and University Staff,
Dear Students and Dear Patients,
I meet you with special joy today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic. I thank the President of the Istituto Toniolo, Cardinal Angelo Scola and the Pro-Rector, Prof. Franco Anelli, for their courteous words. I greet the President of the Chamber, Hon. Mr Gianfranco Fini, the Ministers, Hon. Mr Lorenzo Ornaghi and Hon. Mr Renato Balduzzi, the numerous authorities, as well as the lecturers, doctors, staff and students of the Polyclinic and of the Catholic University. I address a special thought to you, dear patients.
On this occasion I would like to contribute a few thoughts. Our time is one in which the experimental sciences have transformed the vision of the world and even man’s understanding of himself. The many discoveries and the rapid succession of innovative technologies are a well founded reason for pride but they are frequently not without disturbing implications. Indeed, against the background of the widespread optimism in scientific knowledge is being overcast by the shadow of a crisis in thought. Rich in means but less so in their aims, the men and women of our time are often conditioned by reductionism and relativism, which leads to the loss of meaning of things; blinded, as it were, by technical efficiency, they forget the fundamental horizon of the need for meaning, thereby relegating the transcendent dimension to irrelevance. Against this background thought is weakened and an ethical impoverishment which blurs valuable norms of reference gains ground.
What was the fertile root of European culture and progress seems to have been forgotten. In it the search for the Absolute — the quaerere Deum — included the need to deepen the knowledge of the profane sciences, the entire world of knowledge (cf. Address to the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, 12 September 2008). Scientific research and the question of meaning, even with their specific epistemological and methodological features, in fact flow from one source, the Logos, that presides over creative work and guides the sense of history. A fundamentally technological and practical mindset generates a perilous imbalance between what is technologically possible and what is morally sound, with unforeseeable consequences.
Thus it is important for culture to rediscover the vigour of the meaning and dynamism of transcendence, in a word, to present the horizon of the quaerere Deum decisively. St Augustine’s famous sentence springs to mind: “you have made us for yourself [O Lord] and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Confessions, I, 1).
It may be said that the impulse of scientific research itself stems from the longing for God that dwells in the human heart: basically, scientists, even unconsciously, strive to attain that truth which can give meaning to life. Yet, however enthusiastic and tenacious human research is, it is incapable merely with its own efforts of reaching a safe landing place, for “man is incapable of fully explaining the strange semi-darkness that overshadows the question of the eternal realities.... God must take the initiative of reaching out and speaking to man” (J. Ratzinger, L’Europa di Benedetto nella crisi delle culture, Cantagalli, Roma 2005, 124).
To restore reason to its native, integral dimension, one must rediscover the source which scientific research shares with the quest for faith, fides quaerens intellectum, according to Anselm’s intuition. Science and faith have a fruitful reciprocity, an almost complementary need for understanding the real. Paradoxically, however, the positivist culture itself, excluding the question on God from scientific discussion, determines the decline of thought and the enfeeblement of the ability to understand this reality.
Yet the human quest for quaerere Deum would lose itself in a maze if it were not to meet illumination and reliable orientation, which is the way of God himself who, with immense love, makes himself close to man: “In Jesus Christ God not only speaks to man but also seeks him out.... It is a search which begins in the heart of God and culminates in the Incarnation of the Word” (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 7).
As the religion of the Logos, Christianity does not relegate faith to the sphere of the irrational, but attributes the origin and sense of reality to creative Reason, which, in the crucified God, is expressed as love and invites us to take the way of the quaerere Deum: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. Here St Thomas Aquinas comments: “For the destination of this way is the end of human desire. Now human beings especially desire two things: first, a knowledge of the truth, and this is characteristic of them; secondly, that they continue to exist, and this is common to all things. These two were already applied to Christ... If then, you ask which way to go, accept Christ, for he is the way” (Esposizioni su Giovanni, chap. 14, Lecture 2).
The Gospel of life thus illuminates man’s uphill journey and when he faces the temptation of absolute autonomy, reminds him: “man’s life comes from God; it is his gift, his image, his imprint, a sharing in his breath of life” (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae EV 39). And it is precisely by taking the path of faith that man is enabled to discern in the very realities of suffering and death, which pass through his life, an authentic possibility for the good and for life. In the Cross of Christ he perceives the Tree of Life, a revelation of God’s passionate love for man. The cure of those who are suffering is thus a daily encounter with the Face of Christ, and the dedication of the mind and the heart become a sign of God’s mercy and of his victory over death.
Experienced fully, the search is enlightened by science and faith and from these two “wings” draws dynamism and an impetus, without ever losing its proper humility, the sense of its own limitations. In this way the quest for God becomes fertile for the mind, a leaven of culture, a champion of true humanism, a search that does not stop at the surface.
Dear friends, always let yourselves be guided by the knowledge that comes from on high, by knowledge illuminated by faith, recalling that wisdom demands the passion and effort of seeking.
The indispensable task of the Catholic University fits in here. It is a place in which the educational relationship is placed at the service of the person in the construction of a qualified scientific skill, rooted in a patrimony of the different branches of knowledge which the evolution of generations has distilled into wisdom of life; a place in which the relationship of treatment is not a profession but a mission; where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first seat of learning and the face of suffering man is Christ’s own Face: “you did it to me” (Mt 25,40).
The Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in the daily work of research, teaching and study, lives in this traditio that expresses its own potential for innovation: no progress, less still at the cultural level, is nourished by mere repetition but demands an ever new beginning. Further, it requires the availability for exchange and dialogue that opens the mind and witnesses to the rich fruitfulness of the patrimony of faith. In this way the personality is endowed with a solid structure, in which the Christian identity penetrates daily life and from within expresses an excellent professionalism.
Today the Catholic University, which has a special relationship with the See of Peter, is called to be an exemplary institution that does not limit learning to economic question but rather broadens its scope to the ability to plan. In this the gift of intelligence investigates and develops the gifts of the created world, surmounting a utilitarian vision of existence geared solely to production, because “the human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension” (Caritas in Veritate ).
Precisely this combination of scientific research and unconditional service to life outlines the Catholic features of the Agostino Gemelli Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, because the perspective of faith is found within — neither superimposed nor juxtaposed — the keen and tenacious search for knowledge.
A Catholic Faculty of Medicine is a place where transcendent humanism is not a rhetorical slogan but a rule of daily devotion put into practice. Dreaming of an authentically Catholic Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Fr Gemelli — and many others with him, such as Prof. Brasca — brought back to the centre of attention the human person in his frailty and greatness, in the ever new resources of passionate research and likewise in the awareness of both the limitation and the mystery of life. For this reason you wished to set up a new university centre for life to support other institutions already in existence, such, as for example, the Paul vi International Scientific Institute. I therefore encourage attention to life in all its phases.
I would now like to address in particular all the patients present here at the Gemelli, to assure them of my prayers and affection and to tell them that here they will always be lovingly cared for because the face of the suffering Christ is reflected in their own faces.
It is truly God’s love that shines out in Christ, that renders the researcher’s gaze acute and penetrating and grasps what no investigation can perceive. Bl. Giuseppe Toniolo had this clearly in mind when he asserted that it is in man’s nature to read in others the image of God Love and his imprint on creation. Without love even science loses its nobility. Love alone guarantees the humanity of research. Thank you for your attention.
Clementine Hall Friday, 4 May 2012
I receive you with joy this morning for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Malaysia, Ireland, the Republic of the Fiji Islands and the Republic of Armenia. You have just addressed friendly words to me on behalf of your Heads of State for which I thank you. Please kindly reciprocate my deferential greetings and respectful good wishes to them, both for them personally and for the lofty mission they are carrying out at the service of their country and their people. I likewise wish to greet through you all the civil and religious authorities of your countries, as well as all your compatriots. Naturally, my thoughts also turn to the Catholic communities present in your countries, to assure them of my prayers.
The development of the means of communication has in a certain way made our planet smaller. The almost immediate transmission of events taking place across the world and knowledge of the needs of peoples and individuals is a pressing appeal to be close to them in their joys and in their trials. Awareness of the great suffering caused in the world by poverty and destitution, physical as well as spiritual, calls for a new drive to face with justice and solidarity all that threatens humankind, society and its surroundings.
The migration to the cities, the armed conflicts, famine and the pandemics that are affecting so many populations exacerbate poverty which today comes in new forms. The world economic crisis is precipitating more and more families into an increasingly precarious situation. While the creation of multiple needs gave the impression that unlimited enjoyment and consumption were impossible, the lack of the necessary means to satisfy them has resulted in sentiments of frustration. Loneliness due to exclusion has increased. And when poverty exists beside great wealth, an impression of injustice arises that can become a trigger of uprisings. It is thus right for States to ensure that social legislation does not widen inequalities and enables everyone to live a dignified life.
In order to do this, considering the people in need of help before considering the shortage to be remedied means restoring their role as active members of society and enabling them to take their future in their own hands, to occupy a place in society that befits them. For “it is what a man is, rather than what he has, that counts” (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes GS 35). The development to which every nation aspires must concern the whole dimension of each person and not merely economic growth. This conviction must motivate effective action. Expedients such as micro credit and initiatives to create fair partnerships show that it is possible to harmonize economic targets with social ties, democratic management and respect for nature. It is also right, for example, that restoring dignity to manual work will promote and foster an agriculture that is first and foremost at the service of the local inhabitants. It will provide effective help which, implemented at the local, national and international levels, takes into account the uniqueness, value and integral good of each person. The quality of human relationships and the sharing of resources are at the root of society, enabling each and every one to have a place and to live a dignified life in it, in conformity with their aspirations
To strengthen the human basis of the social and political situation it is necessary to be attentive to another kind of poverty: that of the loss of reference to spiritual values and to God. This emptiness makes the discernment of good and evil more difficult as well as the surmounting of personal interests with a view to the common good. It facilitates adherence to the current trends by evading the effort required by reflection and criticism. And many young people in search of an ideal, turn to artificial paradises which destroy them. Addiction, consumerism, materialism and well-being do not fulfil the human heart which is made for the Infinite. For the greatest poverty is the lack of love. In distress, sympathetic and disinterested listening are a comfort. It is possible to be happy without great material resources. It is possible to live simply in harmony with what one believes and become ever more so. I encourage all efforts made, especially for families. Furthermore, education must awaken awareness of the spiritual dimension, for “the human being develops when he grows in the spirit” (Caritas in Veritate ). Such an education makes it possible to weave and to reinforce more authentic relations because education opens people to a more fraternal society which it helps to build.
It is the duty of States to make the most of the cultural and religious patrimony which contributes to the standing of a nation, and to facilitate access to it to all, for in becoming acquainted with history each one is brought to discover the roots of his or her own existence. Religion enables one to recognize in the other a brother or sister in humanity. Allowing anyone the possibility of knowing God in full freedom, is to help him to forge a strong inner personality which will prepare him to witness to the good and to carry it out even at great personal cost. “Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity” (ibid., n. 78). Thus a society may be built in which moderation experienced will reduce poverty, stem indifference and selfishness, profit and waste and above all exclusion, to the advantage of brotherhood.
As you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I am eager to assure you, Your Excellencies, that you will always find courteous attention and the help you may need from my collaborators. Upon you yourselves, upon your families, upon the members of your diplomatic missions and upon all the nations you represent, I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.
Dear Brother Bishops,
I greet all of you with affection in the Lord and I offer you my prayerful good wishes for a grace-filled pilgrimage ad limina Apostolorum. In the course of our meetings I have been reflecting with you and your Brother Bishops on the intellectual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization in the context of contemporary American society. In the present talk, I wish to address the question of religious education and the faith formation of the next generation of Catholics in your country.
Before all else, I would acknowledge the great progress that has been made in recent years in improving catechesis, reviewing texts and bringing them into conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Important efforts are also being made to preserve the great patrimony of America’s Catholic elementary and high schools, which have been deeply affected by changing demographics and increased costs, while at the same time ensuring that the education they provide remains within the reach of all families, whatever their financial status. As has often been mentioned in our meetings, these schools remain an essential resource for the new evangelization, and the significant contribution that they make to American society as a whole ought to be better appreciated and more generously supported.
On the level of higher education, many of you have pointed to a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church's mission in service of the Gospel. Yet much remains to be done, especially in such basic areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines. The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church’s educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.
It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country. The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church. It is gratifying to realize that, in our day too, the Christian vision, presented in its breadth and integrity, proves immensely appealing to the imagination, idealism and aspirations of the young, who have a right to encounter the faith in all its beauty, its intellectual richness and its radical demands.
Here I would simply propose several points which I trust will prove helpful for your discernment in meeting this challenge.
First, as we know, the essential task of authentic education at every level is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts. There is a constant need to balance intellectual rigor in communicating effectively, attractively and integrally, the richness of the Church’s faith with forming the young in the love of God, the praxis of the Christian moral and sacramental life and, not least, the cultivation of personal and liturgical prayer.
It follows that the question of Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus. All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith as part of the exciting intellectual discoveries which mark the experience of higher education. The fact that so many new students find themselves dissociated from the family, school and community support systems that previously facilitated the transmission of the faith should continually spur Catholic institutions of learning to create new and effective networks of support. In every aspect of their education, students need to be encouraged to articulate a vision of the harmony of faith and reason capable of guiding a life-long pursuit of knowledge and virtue. As ever, an essential role in this process is played by teachers who inspire others by their evident love of Christ, their witness of sound devotion and their commitment to that sapientia Christiana which integrates faith and life, intellectual passion and reverence for the splendor of truth both human and divine.
In effect, faith by its very nature demands a constant and all-embracing conversion to the fullness of truth revealed in Christ. He is the creative Logos, in whom all things were made and in whom all reality “holds together” (Col 1,17); he is the new Adam who reveals the ultimate truth about man and the world in which we live. In a period of great cultural change and societal displacement not unlike our own, Augustine pointed to this intrinsic connection between faith and the human intellectual enterprise by appealing to Plato, who held, he says, that “to love wisdom is to love God” (cf. De Civitate Dei, VIII, 8). The Christian commitment to learning, which gave birth to the medieval universities, was based upon this conviction that the one God, as the source of all truth and goodness, is likewise the source of the intellect’s passionate desire to know and the will’s yearning for fulfilment in love.
Only in this light can we appreciate the distinctive contribution of Catholic education, which engages in a “diakonia of truth” inspired by an intellectual charity which knows that leading others to the truth is ultimately an act of love (cf. Address to Catholic Educators, Washington, 17 April 2008). Faith’s recognition of the essential unity of all knowledge provides a bulwark against the alienation and fragmentation which occurs when the use of reason is detached from the pursuit of truth and virtue; in this sense, Catholic institutions have a specific role to play in helping to overcome the crisis of universities today. Firmly grounded in this vision of the intrinsic interplay of faith, reason and the pursuit of human excellence, every Christian intellectual and all the Church's educational institutions must be convinced, and desirous of convincing others, that no aspect of reality remains alien to, or untouched by, the mystery of the redemption and the Risen Lord’s dominion over all creation.
During my Pastoral Visit to the United States, I spoke of the need for the Church in America to cultivate “a mindset, an intellectual culture which is genuinely Catholic” (cf. Homily at Nationals Stadium, Washington, 17 April 2008). Taking up this task certainly involves a renewal of apologetics and an emphasis on Catholic distinctiveness; ultimately however it must be aimed at proclaiming the liberating truth of Christ and stimulating greater dialogue and cooperation in building a society ever more solidly grounded in an authentic humanism inspired by the Gospel and faithful to the highest values of America's civic and cultural heritage. At the present moment of your nation’s history, this is the challenge and opportunity awaiting the entire Catholic community, and it is one which the Church’s educational institutions should be the first to acknowledge and embrace.
In concluding these brief reflections, I wish to express once more my gratitude, and that of the whole Church, for the generous commitment, often accompanied by personal sacrifice, shown by so many teachers and administrators who work in the vast network of Catholic schools in your country. To you, dear Brothers, and to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and peace in the Risen Lord.
Speeches 2005-13 555