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May 25, 2000


The Pontifical Council for Culture, part of whose remit is to promote dialogue with science, has been entrusted by the Holy Father with the task of organising the Jubilee for Men and Women from the World of Learning, which will take place in Rome on 25 May 2000, as part of the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

In accordance with the spirit and practice of former jubilee years, an invitation to come on pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles in Rome will be extended to Christians who are professional academics, in the broadest sense of that term: that is, to people working in both the experimental and the human sciences.

John Paul II spells out the aim of the Jubilee in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente. It is "to give glory to the Trinity, from whom everything in the world and in history comes and to whom everything returns" (TMA 55). The world of learning should offer up a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God who is three in one. As well as this, which is the beginning and foundation of the whole of Christian life, "the Jubilee celebration should confirm the Christians of today in their faith in God who has revealed himself in Christ, sustain their hope which reaches out in expectation of eternal life, and rekindle their charity in active service to their brothers and sisters" (TMA 31).

Above all, the Jubilee will achieve its aim for men and women committed to academic research and the various branches of science and knowledge, if they can strengthen their faith by bringing it into closer harmony with their intellectual life, if they can make science and knowledge ever more an agent of hope without in any way wishing to suppress its transcendent dimension, and if they can make sure science and knowledge are open to charity and service to one’s fellow men and women.

In order to facilitate this process, the Jubilee will be celebrated in two phases:

  1. Reflection: the purification of memory, present witness, and openness to the future. The congress of men and women from the world of learning, 23 and 24 May 2000, on the theme of new approaches to science and learning, and to the relationship between science and faith, in the light of the Encyclical Fides et Ratio.

  2. Meeting Jesus Christ, alive in the sacraments and present in the Church: Jubilee day, 25 May 2000, presided over by the Holy Father: prayer for forgiveness, profession of faith, celebration of the Eucharist.


I. International Congress on the dialogue between Science and Faith

The human search for truth
Philosophy – Science – Faith: the outlook for the Third Millennium

This international congress for men and women from the world of learning, to take place on 23 and 24 May 2000, has been organised by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Academy of Science, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Vatican Observatory. It is offered, in the context of the Jubilee for Men and Women from the World of Learning, as a way of preparing for the imminent Jubilee day, and its purpose is to help Christian academics and scientists to be strong in faith, sound in hope and living examples of charity. The personal witness of good example in Christian life in this situation, as well as prayer and reflection in common, are an excellent preparation for the Jubilee.

The congress will offer experts in every discipline and from every part of the world time to reflect on the relationship between their faith and their specialised knowledge, in the light of the guidance given in the Encyclical Fides et Ratio. Special attention will be given to new questions and challenges in science and technology: creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua, evolution, Scriptural exegesis and scientific studies, the place and the role of the human person in the cosmos, the relationship between the concept of eternity and the spatio-temporal structure of the physical universe, theories of epistemology, artificial intelligence and the mind-body relationship etc. At the same time there will be an attempt to rediscover the sapiential dimension of the sciences; research into nature and humanity must include a deeper awareness of its human dimension and of the human values which undergird it, so that as our knowledge of the world increases, so, too, will the ethical values which give life meaning.

This international congress as addressed primarily to Christians who are professionally involved in the world of science. The organisers understand "science" in its broadest sense, which covers both the experimental sciences and those known as human sciences or sciences of the spirit, including philosophy and theology.

The invitation is addressed not only to those teaching in universities, but also to researchers, intellectuals and thinkers who work outside the university sphere, or in national academies of science, in order to make it as representative as possible across the whole spectrum of disciplines.

Invitations will be extended, as a matter of course, to Christians of other denominations and to believers from other religions who are clearly basically in tune with the Church’s approach to scientific knowledge.

To allow for a better exchange of ideas and reflections, it seems best to think in terms of a relatively small number of participants, 300 at most.

How the Congress will be organised
Four working sessions are planned, to take place on the mornings and afternoons of 23 and 24 May. It is foreseen that there will be 12 speakers, distributed evenly over the four sessions, who will each be asked to speak for approximately half an hour. The second part of each session will consist of work in smaller study groups, which will be open to all those taking part.

Since this gathering is meant as a celebration of faith, each session will begin with a brief meditation, which will at once be a witness of faith and life, and give praise to God who is both one and three.

Other initiatives
The Jubilee and the congress that precedes it are, of their very nature, "one-off" events. However, it would be ideal if this great international event were to inspire similar meetings of more modest proportions elsewhere in the world. The Pontifical Council for Culture, whose mission it is to foster dialogue with science, would welcome all such initiatives.

It is envisaged that the proceedings of the congress will be published later on.


II. The Jubilee Day

The Jubilee Day, 25 May 2000, is the heart of the whole Jubilee of men and women from the world of learning, and all the preparatory activities will build up to it.

The Jubilee Day is meant not only for those involved in the preparatory international congress, but also for as many people as possible linked to any field of academic or scientific specialisation. Through them, the world of learning and research will give an eloquent testimony of faith in the God who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.

In accordance with the spirit and intentions expressed by John Paul II in his Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the key moments on this day of meeting will be the celebration of the sacrament of penance, the communal profession of faith and the celebration of the Eucharist, at which the Holy Father himself will preside.

Penitential liturgy
As the Holy Father indicated, "the joy of every Jubilee is above all a joy based upon the forgiveness of sins, the joy of conversion" (TMA 32). Therefore it is essential to give due space to the celebration of the sacrament of penance and all those penitential practices which express a desire to begin life afresh. Without this, stepping over the threshold of the Holy Door will not make sense, since it is meant to be an expression and sign of moving towards a new life fully enlightened by Christ the Lord.

It is, above all, a matter of recognising and confessing one’s own sins, especially those which cast a shadow on one’s work as an academic: losing sight of coherence with the truth; not doing enough to respect justice and practise charity in its many forms, even intellectual charity; always needing to be the centre of attention; taking praise for other people’s achievements in plagiarism or failing to divulge one’s sources; looking down on others or failing to respect people’s dignity, and so on.

By its very nature, the Jubilee celebration has also to include the purification of historical memory to which the Pope has drawn everyone’s attention: "an act of courage and humility in recognising the wrongs done by those who have borne or bear the name Christian" (Inc. Myst. 11), especially with regard to scientific and intellectual work: "we cannot but deplore certain habits of mind, sometimes found too among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science. The arguments and controversies which they spark lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed" (GS 36). It is also a question of admitting errors and collective sins committed in the name of science: deviations and dogmatism, moments when science has thought it could oust every other form of human knowledge, and everything which detracts from her service to humanity.

The penitential liturgy will be celebrated in the afternoon of 24 May - the day before the celebration of the Eucharist - in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, when the international congress has finished.

Passing through the Holy Door
Passing through the Holy Door "evokes the passage from sin to grace which every Christian is called to accomplish" (Inc. Myst. 8). It acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the only saviour of humankind. For scientists and other academics, who could be tempted to play God in their knowledge of good and evil and in their ability to control nature, this symbolic act is a profession of faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ, the Lord of the cosmos and of history.

The gesture of passing through the Holy Door will take place in Saint Peter’s Basilica immediately before the celebration of the Eucharist, as a final moment of preparation.

The Celebration of the Eucharist and the Profession of Faith
The celebration of the Eucharist, which is the "source and summit" of Christian life, is the heart of the Jubilee. The successor of Peter, whose mission in the Church is "to strengthen the faith of his brethren", will preside at the celebration, a real song of thanksgiving and praise to the Trinity, which is the goal of the whole Jubilee:
Per ipsum, cum ipso et in ipso, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria.

An important moment in this celebration will be the profession of faith (Credo). Although it is not liturgically required, it seems very appropriate to give it this emphasis, given that the Jubilee is a celebration of faith, and it will take place in the Easter season. It could either be sung in Latin, which more visibly expresses the unity of faith, or in the form of a dialogue, as it is done in the Easter liturgy. Candles could also be lit from the paschal candle as an evocative liturgical gesture.

The celebration of the Eucharist, at which the Holy Father will preside, will take place in Saint Peter’s basilica. At diocesan celebrations it would be possible to choose from several Masses: the Holy Year Mass; the second votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, which emphasises the role of the Holy Spirit in the search for truth; Masses in memory of Saint Thomas Aquinas or Saint Albert the Great, where there is a clear vision of the harmony between human activity and the enlightenment of faith.