POPE HIGHLIGHTS THE VITAL ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY
VATICAN CITY, 7 JUN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received participants in the sixth European Symposium of University Professors, which is being held in Rome from 4 to 7 June on the theme: "Broadening the Horizons of Reason. Prospects for Philosophy".
The symposium has been promoted by university professors in Rome and organised by the Office for Pastoral Care in Universities of the Vicariate of Rome, in collaboration with regional and provincial institutions and the local city authorities.
In opening his address to them the Pope mentioned the fact that this year marks the tenth anniversary of John Paul II's Encyclical "Fides et ratio", and he recalled how when that document was published "fifty professors of philosophy in Roman universities ... expressed their gratitude to the Pope with a declaration underlining the importance of re-launching the study of philosophy in universities and schools".
"The events of the years that have passed since the publication of the Encyclical have", said the Holy Father, "delineated more clearly the historical and cultural stage onto which philosophical research is called to enter. Indeed, the crisis of modernity is not a symptom of the decline of philosophy; on the contrary, philosophy must embark upon new lines of research in order to understand the true nature of that crisis".
"Modernity is not simply a historically-datable cultural phenomenon; in reality it requires a new focus, a more exact understanding of the nature of man".
Benedict XVI indicated that since the beginning of his pontificate he had received various suggestions "from men and women of our time", and that "in the light of these I have decided to offer a research proposal which I feel may arouse interest in a relaunch of philosophy and of its unique role within the modern academic and cultural world".
Quoting his own book, "Introduction to Christianity", he said: "The Christian faith has made a clear choice: against the gods of religion for the God of the philosophers, in other words against the myth of custom and for the truth of being". And he went on: "This affirmation ... is still fully relevant in the historical-cultural context in which we now live. Indeed, only on the basis of this premise - which is historical and theological at one and the same time - is it possible to respond to the new expectations of philosophy. The risk that religion, even the Christian religion, be surreptitiously manipulated, is very real even today".
"The proposal to 'Broaden the Horizons of Reason' should" he proceeded, "be understood as a request for a new openness towards the reality to which human beings in their uni-totality are called, overcoming old prejudices and reductive viewpoints in order to open the way to a new understanding of modernity".
"The new dialogue between faith and reason which is needed today cannot come about in the terms and the ways it did in the past", said the Pope. "If it does not want to see itself reduced to the status of sterile intellectual exercise, it must start from the current real situation of mankind, and upon that build a reflection that embraces man's ontological and metaphysical truth".
In closing, Benedict XVI referred to the need to "promote high-profile academic centres in which philosophy can enter into dialogue with other disciplines, in particular with theology, to favour new cultural syntheses capable of guiding society". In this context, he expressed the hope that "Catholic academic institutions may be ready to create true cultural laboratories" and he invited the professors to encourage young people "to commit themselves to philosophical studies by facilitating appropriate initiatives" to guide them in that direction.
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