Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Pope made an appeal today against violence in Lebanon and Gaza, for leprosy patients on World Day of Leprosy, but above all to scientists and men and women of culture “not to be afraid” of the dialogue between faith and reason so that we can avoid the risk of “schizophrenia”, irrationality, and the conflict with cultures in the south of the world.
To talk again about the issue of “faith and reason”, which he so skilfully addressed in Regensburg, the Holy Father used as his starting point today’s saint, the philosopher and theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, “a compelling model of harmony between reason and faith, dimensions of the human spirit, that are fully realised in their meeting and dialogue.”
“The relationship between faith and reason,” the Pope stressed, “represents a great challenge to the Western world’s prevailing culture and for this reason, the beloved John Paul II devoted an encyclical to the issue titled just that: Fides et ratio – Faith and Reason. I, too, recently took up the issue in my address at Regensburg University.”
The problem is that today man often reduces himself “to think only about material and experimental objects and shuts himself off from the main questions about life, himself and God” and therefore “becomes poorer”. Benedict XVI calls this situation, “schizophrenia”.
“In reality,” he said,” modern scientific development brings innumerable positive effects and this must be acknowledged. At the same time however, we must admit that the tendency to consider true only what can be demonstrated experimentally represents a limitation of human reason and causes a terrible schizophrenia in which rationalism, materialism, hyper-technology and unrestrained instinctiveness” live side by side.
From this comes the Pope’s appeal to “rediscover in new ways human rationality that is open to the light of the divine Logos and its perfect revelation Jesus Christ, Son of God made man. When the Christian faith is true it does not mortify freedom and human reason. If so, why then should faith and reason fear each other when meeting and engaging in dialogue can enable them to express what is best in each other? Faith supposes reason and perfects it, and reason, enlightened by faith finds the strength to rise to the knowledge of God and spiritual reality. Human reason loses nothing by opening up to the contents of faith; on the contrary, the latter need its free and conscious adherence.”
Referring to Saint Thomas Aquinas, who in the 13th century was able to achieve a synthesis of Christian, Islamic and Jewish cultures, Benedict XVI noted that by rediscovering reason open to faith it is possible to engage in dialogue with non European cultures which view with concern and fear the atheistic culture of the West.
“With far-sighted wisdom,” the Pontiff explained, “Saint Thomas Aquinas was able to fruitfully relate to the Arab and Jewish ideas of his time so much so that he can always be considered a relevant teacher of dialogue between cultures and religions. He was able to achieve that admirable Christian synthesis between reason and faith which represents a precious heritage upon which Western civilization can draw and which can be used effectively to engage in dialogue the other great cultural and religious traditions of the East and the South of the world.”
The Pope ended saying: “Let us pray that Christians, especially those that operate in the world of academe and culture, can express the reasonableness of their faith and bear witness to it in a dialogue inspired by love. Let us ask the Lord for this gift by the intercession of Saint Thomas Aquinas and especially of Mary, Seat of Wisdom.”
Following the Angelus prayer Benedict XVI made an appeal for peace in Lebanon and an end to violence on the Gaza Strip.
“In the last few days,” the Pope said, “violence has caused blood to be shed in Lebanon. It is unacceptable to go down that path to back one’s own political goals. I feel a profound sorrow for that dear people. I know the Lebanese may be tempted to give up hope feeling disoriented by what is happening. I agree with what His Beatitude Card Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir said about the fratricidal clashes. I join him and other religious leaders, calling for God’s help so that all the Lebanese without distinction may work together to make their homeland a truly common home, overcoming the selfish attitudes that prevent them from really taking care of their country (cf Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, n. 94). To the Christians of Lebanon, I repeat the exhortation that they promote a real dialogue between the various communities and call upon Our Lady of Lebanon to protect one and all.”
“Furthermore, I hope that violence in the Gaza Strip ends soon. To its entire population I wish to express my spiritual closeness and assure them of my prayers so that the will to work together for the common good may prevail upon everyone, that they may choose peaceful ways to settle differences and reduce tensions”.
The Pope also made another appeal, one for the World Day of Leprosy which is observed today.
“I would like to greet assuring a special mention in the prayer to all those who suffer from this disease,” Benedict XVI said. “I wish them recovery or, in any case, proper treatment in conditions of dignity. I encourage health care workers and volunteers who help them to continue [in their work] as well as all those who in different ways have joined the struggle to overcome what is not only an illness but also a social evil. In the footsteps of Christ many men and women have done all in their power in this noble cause, people like Raoul Follereau and the Blessed Damien de Veuster, the apostle of lepers in Molokai”.
At the end of his appeals and multilingual greetings, the Pope spoke to the 5,000 youth from Rome’s Azione Cattolica (Catholic Action) who, along with Card Camillo Ruini, ended their “Peace Caravan” in St Peter’s Square. Traditionally, they dedicate the month of January to the theme of peace. With two youths each on his side the Pope released to white doves, symbol of peace.
“You are the true messengers of peace,” the Pontiff said. “With the wings of goodness and faith, you bring everywhere the joy that comes from being the children of the same Father who is in Heaven and of living together like brothers.”
He added then: “We want to be like the doves of peace for all, for Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, everywhere.”