Rome (AsiaNews) There can be no full understanding of man if his openness to the transcendental is not acknowledged. Without it he cannot answer questions about the meaning of life and thus bring to society the ethical values that make life worthy of him. This is so because "without any reference to God, man's destiny is but desolation brought on by angst which leads to desperation".
In his visit today to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the Pope offered personal recollections about his time as a professor but also an analysis of the responsibilities an ecclesiastic university has towards students and a secularised society in today's world.
Benedict XVIwho reminded his audience that the university was founded in 1551 by Saint Ignatius of Loyola and can boast 16 popes, the inventor of the Gregorian calendar Fr Cristoforo Clavio and the evangeliser of China Matteo Ricci among its graduatestold his audience how he walked "several times" across the same quadrangle where this morning's meeting was held during the Council and in 1972 when he taught a course on the Eucharist to students specialising in dogmatic theology.
In remembering those days, the former professor, now Benedict XVI, stressed that "it is not good enough to know God; one must also love Him if one wants to really to encounter Him. Knowledge becomes love. Studying theology, Canon Law and the history of the Church does not only mean knowing what faith proposes in practical applications; it always means understanding them in faith, hope and charity for the Spirit scrutinises the depths of God (cf 1 Cor, 2:10). Only by listening to the Spirit can one see the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God (cf Rm, 11: 33). One listens to the Spirit in prayer, when the heart is open to the contemplation of the mystery of God, who revealed himself in the Son, Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God (cf Col, 1:15), summed up as the head of the body, the church, and in all things pre-eminent (cf Eph, 1: 10; Col, 1: 18)".
In a university that for almost five centuries, "distinguished itself for its studies in philosophy and theology" but also "in the humanities", "it is impossible today not to pay attention to secular culture, which in many parts of the world tends more and more not only to deny the signs of God's presence in the life of society and people, but also, by different means that disorient and confuse man's good conscience, is trying to erode his capacity to listen to God".
"What is more, one cannot leave aside relations with other religions, which are constructive as long as one avoids any ambiguity which somehow can weaken the essential content of the Christian faith that is Christ, the One given to the human race by which we are to be saved
(cf Acts, 4: 12) and the Church, the necessary sacrament for human kind's salvation (cf Dich. Dominus Iesus, nn. 13-15; 20-22: AAS 92 , 742-765)".
The Pope noted that in lieu of mathematics, physics and astronomy, which were once studied at the Gregorian University, "other sciences like psychology, social sciences, social communication are now taught. They are instrumental in trying to better understand man in his profoundly personal nature, in his external nature as builder of society, in justice and peace, in his role as communicator of truth. Precisely because such sciences look at man, they cannot leave out a reference to God. Indeed, there can be no full understanding of man as far as his internal and external natures are concerned if his openness to the transcendental is not acknowledged. Without a reference to God, man cannot answer the fundamental questions that stir and will stir his heart about the purpose and the meaning of his existence. Consequently, without it, it will be impossible to infuse society with those ethical values that make life worthy of man. Without reference to God, man's destiny is but desolation brought on by angst which leads to desperation. Only in relation to God as Love, who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, can man find the meaning of his existence and live in hope, notwithstanding the evils that can harm his personal existence and the society in which he lives. Hope is what prevents man from falling into a sterile and paralysing nihilism. And it is what opens the door to a generous commitment to the society in which he lives as way to improving it. This is the task God gave man in creating him in his image and likeness, a task that bestows on each man the greatest dignity but also a huge responsibility".