The Holy See
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Most distinguished Rector,

The annual celebration of the Day of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart gives the Holy Father the pleasant opportunity to renew to the Lecturers, students and all who work in various capacities in this university the expression of his affection for and deep appreciation of the tireless commitment the Athenaeum devotes to scientific research and to the work of the cultural mediation of the faith in our epoch, marked by so many demanding challenges.

At this time, people are sensing a more pressing need to build true peace on the solid pillars of justice, love, freedom and truth, as Bl. John XXIII taught 40 years ago in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris. In this perspective, the Catholic university, as a highly qualified centre of study and research, is also called to make its contribution to building a civilization of peace, in particular by serving the cause of truth. "It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic University", Pope John Paul II recalls in his Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesia, "to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth. This is its way of serving at one and the same time both the dignity of man and the good of the Church" (n. 4).

The path of peace, however, passes through the recognition of the authentic criteria that must regulate human action. From this perspective one discovers the specific service that the Church expects from the Catholic University: a constant, tireless effort to elaborate an ethical foundation for social action and to identify a structural framework for a policy at the service of the human being. In particular, it is a question of envisioning perspectives of global development under the banner of solidarity and justice, promoting dialogue among the different cultures and religious traditions in a society that is becoming more and more conspicuously multiethnic and multireligious.

Consequently, it is right for the Catholic University to strive to include in its research programmes "the study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world's resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level. University research will seek to discover in its profundity the roots and causes of the serious problems of our time, paying special attention to their ethical and religious dimensions" (Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, n. 32).

A special vocation for Catholic universities is also outlined: they are called to direct their research activity to promoting the integral development of each person and of all persons. From biomedicine to cybernetics, from journeys in space to biological cultures, from the recycling of refuse to the use of sea water, vast opportunities for scientific research are presented in areas crucial to the future of humanity as a whole.

Yet everyone realizes how difficult it is for the international scientific community to assume as a project the development of the human person or the creation of ideal conditions for the improvement of the average quality of life on earth. Indeed, the research panorama today frequently seems to be dominated by the laws of the market economy. Even more dangerous is the detachment from any ethical prospect that various researchers have laid down as a condition for pure, neutral research, imposing a vision of scientific research in which all that is technically possible can and must be subject to experimentation.

This path leads to man being considered as an assembly of component parts, devoid of a unifying metaphysical identity, and hence, subject to technological intervention from the very moment of conception. Once the dignity of the human person is denied, man is relegated to the rank of a machine and subject to manipulation by aberrant forms of experimentation. In such a setting, it is obvious that fostering critical vigilance in the name of the truth is an authentic service to development and peace.

The commitment to building the future by transmitting a culture that can stand up to the challenges posed by technological development postulates a new intellectual creativity that lays the basis of a new humananism. It is urgent to outline a fundamental ethical chart that guides the search for goals compatible with human dignity, which must be honoured and never bartered.

The urgent need to define "a deontological code" for scientific research will spur Catholic Universities to a high-profile reflection on the priorities of research and the responsibilities of researchers, and if need be, to have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths that may not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.

With all the means it has at its disposal, the Catholic University is called to witness that the Christian faith constitutes a great space of freedom, for people themselves and for their scientific investigation, demonstrating that "the human limit is ontological". An ethics of limit should be rediscovered. In scientific research, the recognition of a limit is not an arbitrary and external imposition of the conditions that must regulate the cognitive impulse of the human being, but more positively, it is the identification of the true, genuine horizon to which scientific developments must be oriented. In this regard, the Holy Father is confident of the tireless commitment of the Catholic University, also thanks to the valuable support provided by the Toniolo Institute whose task is "to guarantee that the university of Italian Catholics remains ever faithful to its twofold statutory purpose: scientific research enlightened by faith, and the training of qualified Christian professionals", as he has recently said (Letter to the President of the Giuseppe Toniolo Institute, 24 June 2000; ORE 9-16 August 2000, p. 7).

As he invokes upon each one the motherly protection of Mary, Sedes Sapientiae (Seat of Wisdom), the Supreme Pontiff imparts his Apostolic Blessing to you, Mr Rector, to the Academic Staff, to your collaborators and to the entire University Community.

In offering you this singular gift, a sign of the constant and tender benevolence of His Holiness for the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, I would also like to convey my personal greeting to you, with deep respect, as I remain,

Yours devotedly in the Lord,

Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State

From the Vatican, 4 May 2003