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» 10/21/2006
VATICAN
Pope: West neglects "being" for "doing", faces cultural crisis

The address of Benedict XVI at the inauguration of the academic year of the Lateran University. Man and civilization need equilibrium and to strive for tension towards authentic good.



Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The West is experiencing a dramatic crisis of identity and culture, according to Benedict XVI. He said the West is overestimating the value of its technical competence and setting aside the need to maintain respect for mankind and the tension towards what is true and good.

Delivering an address today during the inauguration of the academic year at the Lateran University and of the new Pius IX Library, the pope once again issued a warning that was already at the heart of his speech at the national convention of Italian Catholics in Verona: "The contemporary context seems to give primacy to an artificial intelligence that is succumbing ever more to experimental technique, thus forgetting that every science must safeguard man and promote his tension towards authentic good. Overestimating 'doing' over 'being' does not help to maintain the fundamental equilibrium that each one needs to give a solid foundation and valid purpose to his existence."

Benedict XVI warned against "allowing oneself to be taken up by a taste for discovery without safeguarding those criteria that come from a more profound vision", using an example the ancient myth of Icarus. "The young Icarus was taken up by the desire to fly towards absolute freedom and without paying heed to the admonitions of his old father, Dedalo, he went closer and closer to the sun, forgetting that the wings which had borne him towards the sky were made of wax. His ruinous fall and death amounted to the bill that he paid for his illusion." And he went on to explain: "In life there are other illusions that cannot be trusted without risking disastrous consequences for one's own life and that of others."

According to Benedict XVI, "university is one of the most qualified places to try to find opportune ways of getting out of this situation. At university, in fact, the wealth of tradition, which permeates the centuries, is safeguarded. The fecundity of truth can be illustrated in it when it is welcomed in its authenticity with a simple and open heart. At university, new generations are formed, that expect a serious, committed approach capable of responding to the perennial question about the meaning of one's existence. This expectation must not be disappointed".

Turning to the academics, the pope underlined that "the university lecturer has the duty not only to investigate the truth and to draw out its perennial wonder, but also to promote awareness of truth in all instances of confusion and to defend it from reductionist and distorted interpretations. Putting the theme of truth at the centre is not merely a speculative act, restricted to a small circle of thinkers. On the contrary, it is an issue that is vital to give profound identity to personal life and to promote responsibility in social relations (cfr Eph. 4:25). In fact, if one lets drop the matter of truth and the concrete possibility for each person to be able to attain it, life will ultimately be reduced to a range of hypotheses, without sure references."

Referring to the famous humanist Erasmus, Benedict XVI said: "Learning the true essence of things enables one to enter progressively into the heart of issues and opens one up to a passion for truth and joy at having found it."

The pope ended by explaining that for believers, knowing the truth, that is, God, also means finding freedom: "God is the ultimate truth towards which all reason naturally tends, encouraged by the desire to undertake the assigned path until the end. God is not an empty word or an abstract hypothesis. On the contrary, he is the foundation on which to build one's life… Believers are aware that this God has a face and that, once and for all, he became close to each and every man with Jesus Christ. Knowing Him is to know the full truth, thanks to which freedom is found."

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See also
04/27/2005 VATICAN
First papal audience on Benedict, a name that is a plan for Europe's reconciliation and renaissance
01/28/2008 VATICAN
Science cannot be the criterion of what is good, says Pope
11/08/2008 VATICAN
Pope: Pius XII, true "authoritative source" of the Council
03/08/2008 VATICAN
Pope: secularisation is invading all cultures, and even the Church
05/29/2008 VATICAN
We are in an educational emergency and credible witnesses are needed, says Pope

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