Pope Benedict, earlier today visited Rome’s Sacred Heart Catholic University, where he described and challenged faculty and students with his vision for a truly Catholic University--one that seeks to recover the synthesis between faith and reason.
The university is currently celebrating the inauguration of its new academic year.
Prior to the Pope's arrival, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general of the diocese of Rome celebrated Mass with students and faculty from the Milan, Brescia, Piacenza-Cremona, Campobasso and Rome branches of the university.
The celebration began in earnest at 11.00 a.m. in the main hall of the "Agostino Gemelli" where Lorenzo Ornaghi, rector of the university, gave a brief speech, followed by a greeting from Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, Italy.
The famous Gemelli hospital, part of Sacred Heart, takes its name from the university’s founder, Fr. Agostino Gemelli.
After greeting leaders of the university, Pope Benedict began his address, saying that, "Finding ourselves here together we cannot but think of the time charged with trepidation and emotion we experienced in this hospital during John Paul II's final months.”
“During those days,” he said, “from all over the world the thoughts of Catholics and non-Catholics alike were directed to the Gemelli hospital where, from his ward, the Pope provided everyone with a matchless lesson on the Christian meaning of life and suffering, bearing personal witness to the Christian message."
The Holy Father then thanked hospital staff for "the attentive care given to the Holy Father."
Moving on to the thousands of young people who pass through the university, the Pope asked: "How do they leave? What culture did they find, assimilate, develop? This is the great challenge: ... to give life to a true Catholic university, one that excels for the quality of its research and teaching and, at the same time, for its faithfulness to the Gospel and to the Church's Magisterium."
He stressed that "the Catholic university is a great workshop in which, in keeping with the various disciplines, new lines of research are constantly being developed in a stimulating encounter between faith and reason, one that aims to recover the synthesis" between these two elements.
This synthesis, he said however, is "unfortunately contrasted by important currents of modern philosophy. As a consequence, ... the fundamental questions facing man - how to live and how to die - seem to be excluded from the realm of rationality and are left to that of subjectivity.”
“The end result”, said Benedict, “is that the question which gave rise to the university - that of truth and goodness - disappears, to be replaced by the question of feasibility.”
“This then is the great challenge facing Catholic universities: to practice science within the horizon of a rationality different from that which dominates today, in keeping with a form of reason open to the transcendent, to God."
The Pope then called on the teachers and students to cast out their nets "into the high seas of knowledge, trusting in the Word of Christ, even when you experience the fatigue and disappointment of not having 'fished' anything.”
“In the great sea of culture,” he said, “Christ always has need of 'fishers of men,' in other words, of people of conscience, well prepared people who place their professional expertise at the service of the Kingdom of God. And university research, if carried out from the standpoint of faith, is also part of this service to the Kingdom and to mankind."
As the Holy Father closed his address, he referred to the "Paul VI International Scientific Institute of research on human fertility and infertility for responsible procreation," which was founded in November 2000.
"It is, he said, "an eloquent example of that synthesis of truth and love that constitutes the living center of Catholic culture."
He noted that the institute, "which came into being in response to the appeal launched by Paul VI in his Encyclical 'Humanae vitae,' aims to give a secure scientific foundation both to the natural regulation of human fertility and to the commitment to overcome infertility by natural means.”
Before bidding farewell to the assembled faculty and students, the Pope echoed John Paul II’s “grateful appreciation for this scientific initiative, I trust it may find the necessary support in continuing to carry out its important research activities.