In his speech, he started by asking the very pertinent questions of "Who
is the Pope and what is his responsibility? And what is the university's place
and mission in today's society"? And he went on to lay out the building blocks
of his answer, one at a time, from the historical foundation of La Sapienza
by Pope Boniface VIII, to the search for knowledge in the contemporary secular
(and state owned) university. If he, the Pope, as the guide of his community
of believers, needs to keep it on the way toward God, he also acknowledged that
his voice has become more and more the voice of the ethical reason of humanity.
In the university, the development was, from medieval times to today, to search
for the truth based on the 4 disciplines of the medical and legal branches and
the twin branches of philosophy and theology and it represented the university's
effort to bear fruits in every field of knowledge. Along the way, theory and
practice need to be intertwined. If not, if the search for knowledge becomes
separated from the search for the ethics of mankind, then the sad results will
easily degenerate in a utilitarian worldview. With references to Aristotle,
Thomas Aquinas, John Ralls and Jürgen Habermas and more, Pope Benedict's expose
is fascinating and is all about the faith offered freely, the freedom brought
by the truth and the progress made possible by reason!
And to think that they could not wait to shut him off…
Well, succeed they did not and his voice on his duty to keep the sensitivity to truth alive was clearly heard worldwide. In the process, we witnessed a very interesting exercise on the political limits of the freedom of expression understood by some and the immense facility of modern technological ways. Thus it is ironic that the (very) narrow understanding of science used by some to reject a man of the Church was in the end defeated by science itself.
The ability to exercise freedom of worship is key to all the other freedoms enjoyed in our Western nations: freedom of press and freedom of speech, access to education and libraries, the ability to work and to change jobs; it is also related to safety and security. They are all linked together in one seamless garnment because they are all part of the essential fabric of our lives
If reason becomes deaf to the great message
that comes from the Christian faith and its wisdom,
it will wither like a tree
whose roots no longer reach the waters that give it life.
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