Pope Benedict XVI teaches on 'true authority'

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI


Fifteen thousand people were present in St. Peter’s Square for today's general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. In his address, the Pope summarized the work of St. John Scotus Erigena, an Irish theologian of the ninth century who taught that true authority and reason can never contradict each other.

Scotus had an intimate knowledge of both the Greek and Latin Patristic culture, and developed a particular love for the writings of Dionysius, which led the Irish theologian to study the latter’s works thoroughly and to translate them into Latin, the Pope explained.

According to Pope Benedict, Scotus’ writings are important because they highlight the need to “constantly search for truth.” The Irish saint "develops certain stimulating theological and spiritual ideas which could indicate interesting avenues for further study, even for modern theologians," said Benedict XVI, referring to his understanding of “true authority.”

“He is convinced that authority and reason can never be in contrast with one another,” the Pope explained, summarizing the saint's teachings. “True religion and true philosophy coincide.”

Scotus warned: “No authority should ever distract you from what helps you understand the persuasion of true rational contemplation.” Authentic authority, the saint taught, never contradicts true reason, neither can the latter ever contradict true authority.  Both originate from the same source that is divine wisdom.

Turning to Scripture, the Pontiff laid out St. John Scotus' observation that God gifted Scripture with a teaching aspect so that man could remember “everything that was engraved on his heart from the moment of his creation 'in the image and likeness of God,' and that original sin had caused him to forget.”

“Only thanks to constant purification of the eye, heart and mind can we achieve true comprehension,” Benedict XVI expounded. “This path brings the intelligent creature to the very portal of the divine mystery.”

Pope Benedict closed his reflection by recalling the affirmations of the Irish theologian that people must desire the joy of the truth that is Christ and nothing more and that the greatest torment for a rational creature is His absence.

“These are words,” Benedict said, “that we can make our own and which constitute our hearts deepest desire.”

After his discourse, the Holy Father greeted all the English-speaking visitors present, especially seminarians from the United States participating in “The Rome Experience Program” as well as pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Karachi in Pakistan.

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