Vatican City, 10 April 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the professors, students and non-teaching staff of the Gregorian Pontifical University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute. These institutions, brought together in a consortium by Pope Pius XI in 1923, were entrusted to the Society of Jesus and the Holy Father recalled the importance of collaboration between them in “safeguarding historical memory and, at the same time, taking responsibility for the present and looking to the future with creativity and imagination”.
Pope Francis indicated two aspects that should characterise the task of the members of the consortium, both teachers and students. The first is to acknowledge the value of the place where they work and study – the city and above all the Church of Rome. “There is a part and there is a present. There are the roots of faith: the memories of the Apostles and the Martyrs; and there is the ecclesial 'today', the current path of this Church which presides over charity, the service of unity and universality. All this must not be taken for granted! … But at the same time you bring here the variety of your Churches of origin and of your cultures. … This offers a valuable opportunity for growth in faith and in opening the mind and the heart to the horizon of Catholicity. Within this horizon, the dialectic between 'centre' and 'periphery' takes on a form of its own, an evangelical form according to the logic of a God who reaches the centre from the periphery, to then return to the periphery”.
The second aspect was the relationship between study and spiritual life, and which constitutes “one of the challenges of our times: transmitting knowledge and offering a key to a vital understanding, not an accumulation of unconnected notions. There is a need for a true evangelical hermeneutics to better understand life, the world, and humankind, not a synthesis but a spiritual atmosphere of research and certainty based on the truths of reason and faith. Philosophy and theology enable us to acquire the convictions that structure and strengthen intelligence and enlighten will … but all this is fruitful only if it is done with an open mind and on one's knees. The theologian who is satisfied with his complete and conclusive thought is mediocre. A good theologian and philosopher is open, or incomplete in thought, always open to the 'maius' of God and of the truth, always in development. … And the theologian who does not pray or does not adore God ends up sinking into the most repugnant narcissism. And this is an ecclesiastical sickness. Narcissism in theologians and in thinkers is harmful and repugnant”.
The Holy Father continued, “The aim of study in any pontifical university is ecclesial. Research and study are to be integrated with personal and community life, with missionary commitment, with fraternal charity and sharing with the poor, with attention to inner life in relation to the Lord. Your Institutes are not machines for producing theologians and philosophers; they are communities in which one grows, and growth occurs in the family”. The university family is “indispensable for creating an attitude of concrete humanity and wisdom, making students into people capable of building humanity, of transmitting the truth in a human dimension, of knowing that if there lacks the goodness and beauty of belonging to a working family one ends up as an intellectual without talent, an ethicist without goodness, a thinker lacking the splendour of beauty and simply 'adorned' with formalism. Respectful and daily contact with the laboriousness and the witness of the men and women in your institutions will give you the quota of realism necessary for your science to be human and not merely that of the laboratory”, he concluded.