Pope Benedict XVI met with members of the Pontifical Academies in the Clementine Hall on Thursday morning, following their 14th annual public session a day earlier. Reminding them of the importance of keeping up to date with the contemporary culture and maintaining a degree of "originality" in their research, he called for them to look to the figure of St. Thomas Aquinas for inspiration.
Addressing the 300 members present from seven academies, the Holy Father congratulated them on their "glorious past" and then pointed out that at the present time "contemporary culture, and even more so believers themselves, continually petition the Church to concentrate her reflections and actions in those fields in which new problems emerge.”
Members of the academies, the Pope reminded, "are called to offer a qualified, competent and passionate contribution, so that all the Church... can offer occasions, language and of adequate means to dialogue with contemporary culture and respond effectively to the question and to the challenges that face her in the different areas of knowledge and human experience."
Pontifical academies approach questions concerning everything from philosophical and theological research to reflection on the figure of Mary, the heritage of the Christian witness and artistic creativity.
"As I have said before," continued Pope Benedict, "today's culture is strongly influenced by a vision dominated by relativism and subjectivism and by methods and attitudes that are sometimes superficial and even banal." These, he said, "damage the seriousness of study and reflection and, consequently, also dialogue, exchange and interpersonal communications."
Reflecting on the current situation, the Pope insisted, it is "urgent and necessary to recreate the essential conditions of a real capacity for deeper study and research, so as to dialogue reasonably and effectively confront various problems, with the view of a common growth and a formation the promotes man in his entirety and completeness."
Benedict XVI added that "social harmony and, above all, the formation of young generations" suffer from the lack of points of reference for ideals and morals, and that they should be introduced to "an ideal and practical offer of values and truth, of strong reasons for life and hope."
The need to form young people is "particularly urgent" in forming seminarians, he underscored.
The Holy Father pointed out a model for their work in Saint Thomas Aquinas, whom he said is an "always current model" that can "inspire action and dialogue of the Pontifical Academies with diverse cultures."
Citing the saint's ability to produce "an extraordinary theological synthesis" from Arabic, Jewish and Greek traditions, the Pope called for members of the academies to take a lesson from his "extraordinary and pervasive pedagogic originality."
The "thought and witness of St. Thomas Aquinas prompt us to study emerging problems with great attention, in order to offer adequate and creative responses," he added.
Acting as the saint, with trust in 'human reason' and its possibilities, concluded the Pope, "we must ... always draw from the richness of the Tradition in the constant search for the 'truth of things.'"