The Holy Father joined rectors and university professors from all over Europe in the Paul VI Auditorium on Saturday to discuss the theme of a ‘New Humanism.’ The meeting was organized to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, “which gave rise to the present European Union”, the Holy Father noted.
The pontiff first noted the moral climate of Europe: “Europe is presently experiencing a certain social instability and diffidence in the face of traditional values, yet her distinguished history and her established academic institutions have much to contribute to shaping a future of hope.”
Commenting on what this new philosophy might embody, Benedict remarked: “Promoting a new humanism, in fact, requires a clear understanding of what this "newness" actually embodies. Far from being the fruit of a superficial desire for novelty, the quest for a new humanism must take serious account of the fact that Europe today is experiencing a massive cultural shift, one in which men and women are increasingly conscious of their call to be actively engaged in shaping their own history.”
The current moral and intellectual crisis is largely due to the attempt “to build a regnum hominis detached from its necessary ontological foundation.” Modern man has attempted to construct a kingdom of mankind, without any reference to its Creator.
The Holy Father diagnosed the current cultural crisis in Europe as suffering from “a false dichotomy between theism and authentic humanism.” In its extreme form, this belief sees “an irreconcilable conflict between divine law and human freedom”.
Quoting his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict questioned the result of man’s progress: “we need to ask ‘whether in the context of all this progress, man, as man, is becoming truly better, that is to say, more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible and more open to others.’” (Redemptor Hominis, 15).
Benedict spoke of a theme often touched on by John Paul II: Man cannot know himself without knowing Christ. He said, “In my recent visit to Brazil, I voiced my conviction that "unless we do know God in and with Christ, all of reality becomes an indecipherable enigma."
In conclusion, the Holy Father referred to universities as “laboratories of culture”, stated that they provided a needed service of wisdom to society, and hoped that they would work, with the help of theologians, to address “the questions of particular importance to society.”