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Pope: Without love, even science loses its nobility

by Vatican Radio | Source:

2012-05-03 Vatican Radio

Below a Vatican Radio Translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s address to authorities, healthcare professionals and professors at the Catholic Sacred Heart University, Policlinico “Agostino Gemelli”

On this occasion I would like to offer some reflections. Ours is a time when the experimental sciences have transformed the world view and understanding of man. The many discoveries, innovative technologies that are developing at a rapid pace, are reason for pride, but often are not without troubling implications. In fact, behind the widespread optimism of scientific knowledge, the shadow of a crisis of thought is spreading. Rich in means, but not in aims, mankind in our time is often influenced by reductionism and relativism which lead to a loss of the meaning of things; as if dazzled by technical efficacy, he forgets the essential horizon of the question of meaning, thus relegating the transcendent dimension to insignificance. In this context, thought becomes weak and an ethical impoverishment gains ground, which clouds legal references of value. The once fruitful root of European culture and progress seems forgotten. In it, the search for the absolute - the quaerere Deum - included the need to deepen the secular sciences, the entire world of knowledge (cf. Address to the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, September 12, 2008). Scientific research and the search for meaning, in fact, even in their specific epistemological and methodological physiognomy, spring from a single source, that Logos that presides over the work of creation and guides the mind of history. A fundamentally techno-practical mentality generates a risky imbalance between what is technically possible and what is morally good, with unpredictable consequences.

   It Is important then that the culture rediscover the vigour and dynamism of the meaning of transcendence, in a word, it must open up to the horizon of quaerere Deum. One is reminded of Augustine's famous phrase "You created us for you [Lord], and our heart is restless until it rests in you" (Confessions, I, 1). One can say that the same impulse to scientific research stems from nostalgia for God which lives in the human heart: after all, the men of science tend, often unconsciously, to reach for that truth which gives meaning to life. But however passionate and tenacious human research is, it is not capable of finding a safe harbour by its own means, because "man is not able to fully elucidate the strange shadow that hangs over the question of eternal realities ... God must take the initiative to encounter and speak to man "(J. Ratzinger, Benedict's Europe in the Crisis of Cultures, Ignatius Press). To restore reason its native, integral dimension we must rediscover the wellspring that scientific research shares with the search for faith, fides quaerens intellectum, according to the Anselmian intuition. Science and faith have a fruitful reciprocity, an almost complementary requirement of intelligence of what is real. But, paradoxically, it is the positivist culture, in its exclusion of the question about God from the scientific debate, that is determining the decline of thought and the weakening of the capacity of intelligence of what is real. But man’s quaerere Deum could loose itself in a tangle of roads if it were not met by a path of illumination and safe harbour, which is God who makes himself close to the man with great love: "In Jesus Christ God not only speaks to man but also seeks him out.... It is a search which begins in the heart of God and culminates in the Incarnation of the Word. "(John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 7).

   A religion of Logos, Christianity does not relegate faith to the irrational sphere, but attributes the origin and meaning of reality to the creative Reason, which is manifest in the crucified God as love and invites us to walk the path of quaerere Deum "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." St. Thomas Aquinas comments: "The culmination of this path is in fact the end of human desire. Now man principally desires two things: first, that knowledge of the truth that is characteristic of his nature. Secondly, the permanence in being, this property common to all things. In Christ is the one and the other ... If, therefore, you seek a way forward, receive Christ because he is the Way "(Expositions of John, chap. 14, lectio 2). The Gospel of life then illuminates the arduous path of man, and before the temptation of absolute autonomy, recalls that " Man's life comes from God; it is his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life ( JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium vitae, 39). And it is by travelling along the path of faith that man is enabled to see the same reality of suffering and death, that cross his existence, an authentic possibility of good and of life. In the Cross of Christ he recognizes the Tree of life, a revelation of the passionate love of God for man. The care of those who suffer is then a daily encounter with the face of Christ, and the dedication of the intelligence and heart becomes a sign of God's mercy and His victory over death.

   Experienced integrally, research is illuminated by faith and science, and from these two 'wings' draws impetus and momentum, without ever losing the right humility, the sense of its own limitations. Thus the search for God becomes fruitful for intelligence, a leaven of culture, promoting true humanism, a research that does not stop at the superficial. Dear friends, allow yourselves to always be guided by the wisdom that comes from above, from a knowledge illuminated by faith, remembering that wisdom requires the passion and hard work of research.

   In this context is the irreplaceable role of the Catholic University, where the educational relationship is placed at the service of the person in the construction of qualified scientific expertise, rooted in a wealth of knowledge that the passing of generations has in turn has distilled into a wisdom of life; the place where the relationship of care is not a profession, but a mission where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first chair and the face of the suffering the Face of Christ, "you did unto me." The Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in the daily work of research, teaching and studying, lives in this traditio which expresses its potential for innovation: no progress, not least on a cultural level, is nourished by mere repetition, but it requires an ever new beginning. It also requires that willingness to debate and dialogue that opens the mind and testifies to the fruitfulness of the rich heritage of faith. In this way a solid structure of personality is formed, where the Christian identity penetrates the daily lives and expresses itself from within a professionalism of excellence.

   The Catholic University, which has a particular relationship with the See of Peter, is called today to be an exemplar institution which does not restrict learning on the basis of an economic outcome, but extends the breath of projects in which the gift of intelligence investigates and develops the gifts of the created world, going beyond a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life, because "the human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension. " (Caritas in veritate, 34). It is this conjugation of scientific research and unconditional service to life that delineates the physiognomy of the Catholic Faculty of Medicine "Agostino Gemelli", because the perspective of faith is within - not overlapping or juxtaposed to – the acute and tenacious search for knowledge.

   A Catholic Faculty of Medicine is a place where the transcendent humanism is not a rhetorical slogan, but a lived rule of daily devotion. Dreaming of an authentically Catholic Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Father Gemelli - along with many others, like Prof. Brasca -, brought the human person in his fragility and greatness back to the centre of attention, in the ever-new in resources of a passionate research, and no less aware of the limits and the mystery of life. This is why you have wanted to establish a new University Centre for Life, which supports other existing realities such as, for example, the Paul VI International Scientific Institute. I encourage, therefore, attention to life in all its phases.

   I would like to address now, in particular, all the patients here at the "Gemelli", assuring them of my prayers and my affection and to tell them that they will always be cared for here with love, because their face reflects the face of the suffering Christ.

   It is the love of God, which shines in Christ, that renders the eyes of research sharp and piercing and help grasp that which no study is capable of grasping. Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo, who affirmed that it is in the nature of man to read in others the image of the God who is love and his imprint in creation, knew this well. Without love, even science loses its nobility. Only love guarantees the humanity of research. Thank you.

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