Saint Thomas Aquinas, about whom the Pope talked again before a crowd of 15,000 people, was keen on this principle.
“Are a Christ-less philosophy and the world of faith compatible or not?” he asked. Saint Thomas “was truly convinced” of the compatibility of faith and philosophy. His mission was to show that they were both independent from and related to one another; for Thomas, “rationality comes before faith but does not deny it”.
“The principle of agreement between reason and faith, whereby faith consolidates, integrates and enlightens the heritage of truth that human reason acquires”, must be revived in our day and age because both come from the one and only source of all truth, the “divine logos” that works in the domain of creation as well as redemption”.
Such a distinction must be brought back in our age for it “ensures the autonomy of the natural sciences and the humanities, like philosophy as well as theology.” Yet, this does “not mean a separation, but rather implies a mutually advantageous collaboration”. Faith, in fact, “protects reason from any temptation to distrust our capacities. It stimulates our openness to broader horizons, keeps alive the search for foundations, and when reason itself is applied to the supernatural domain of the relationship between God and man, it enriches its work”. In turn, “reason, with its tools, can bring something important to faith, providing a three-fold service,” which Saint Thomas sums up as follow: “demonstrate the foundations of faith, explain by means of similarities the truth of faith, and reject objections raised against faith.”
Thomas’ thought led to “the recognition of the inviolability of human rights” and the doctrine based upon it. For this reason, “natural truths” and natural law must be rediscovered if we wish to see “the development of a health democracy”. Indeed, “no one, no majority, no state can deny or destroy these values—they can only promote and recognise them.”
“All men, whether they are believers or not, are called to recognise the needs of human nature as expressed by natural law, and find inspiration in it when they formulate positive legislation, i.e. the laws that civil and political authorities issue to regulate human relations.”
“When natural law and the responsibilities it implies are denied,” the Pope insists, “the path is opened wide towards ethical relativism at the individual level and state totalitarianism at the political level. The defence of man’s universal rights and the affirmation of human dignity require a foundation. Is natural law not that foundation with the non-negotiable values that it entails?”
Quoting from John Paul’s encyclical Evangelium vitae, the Pope concluded his address saying, “The future of society and the development of a healthy democracy require the rediscovery of essential and native, human and moral values, which come from man’s own truth and express and protect human dignity, which are values that no individual, majority or state can ever create, change or destroy, but can only recognise, respect and promote.”
At the end of his speech, in extending his greetings in English, the Holy Father spoke directly to the members of St Andrew Parish in Hong Kong, who were accompanied by their parish priest, Fr Giorgio Pasini, PIME.