Science in the 21st century must work for the "true good of man," the Pope told a group of scientists Oct. 28. The "positive outcome" of this century largely depends on it.
The Holy Father hosted members of the Pontifical Academy for Science in audience at the Vatican. The group is gathered in Rome for the academy's plenary meeting examining "The Scientific Legacy of the Twentieth Century."
Noting the great advances in science in the last century, he said that the field can be neither categorized in the extreme of being able to answer all questions of man's existence nor as a source of fear from the "sobering developments" it has created such as nuclear weapons.
The task of science, rather, "was and remains a patient yet passionate search for the truth about the cosmos, about nature and about the constitution of the human being," said the Pope.
The Church, he added, supports ongoing scientific research and is grateful for scientific endeavor.
The Church “is convinced that scientific activity ultimately benefits from the recognition of man’s spiritual dimension and his quest for ultimate answers that allow for the acknowledgment of a world existing independently from us, which we do not fully understand and which we can only comprehend in so far as we grasp its inherent logic," he said.
As scientists commit their experience to observing a world they did not create and attempt to imitate it, said the Pope, they are led to "admit the existence of an all-powerful reason, which is other than that of man, and which sustains the world."
And, it is here that the "meeting point between the natural sciences and religion" is found, he explained. "As a result, science becomes a place of dialogue, a meeting between man and nature and, potentially, even between man and his Creator."
Pope Benedict closed by offering two thoughts to guide their discussions during this year's meeting. He asked them first to examine the perception of the ever greater need to tie philosophical reflection into an interdisciplinary approach to research.
Secondly, he pointed out that science should be guided in this "new century" by "imperatives of fraternity and peace, helping to solve the great problems of humanity, and directing everyone’s efforts towards the true good of man and the integral development of the peoples of the world.
"The positive outcome of twenty-first century science," he concluded, "will surely depend in large measure on the scientist’s ability to search for truth and apply discoveries in a way that goes hand-in-hand with the search for what is just and good."