The Holy See
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Your Eminence,

Every year, the Day for the Catholic University provides the opportunity to convey to the great family of the Athenaeum a special greeting from the Holy Father and his appreciation for your constant commitment to the cultural, human and spiritual growth of the new generations. Eighty years ago, when the late Pope Pius XI of venerable memory authorized the Giuseppe Toniolo Institute for Higher Studies to promote this special Day, his intention was to urge Italian Catholics to contribute to the growth of their University, founded and guided by this Institute whose purpose was to develop culture and the sciences in light of the Gospel message.

In addressing you, Your Eminence, who have recently become President of the "Toniolo" Institute, I cannot but recall that the Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini, your Predecessor also in this office, clearly reaffirmed the Institute's fundamental role as depository of the confidence of the Holy See, which expects it to guarantee and control effectively the University's policy.

The theme: Young people and the University, leaders of a new world, fully corresponds to His Holiness John Paul II's special concern for young people and for undergraduates in particular. He has always placed great trust in the young and encouraged them to face squarely the challenges of their time. He has said that he considers them "a special gift of the Spirit of God" to the Church, and feels "moved" as it were by their deep yearning for authentic values that are fulfilled in Christ (cf. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 9).

Many young people are at university, which enables them to broaden their horizons, to be passionately involved in scientific research and to deepen their reflection on various aspects of the complexities of human life. It is essential that they be made aware that they live in a world shaped by the previous generations which demands from each one of them the creative contribution of a mature personality, serious commitment to research and original thought.

Young university students "should realize the responsibility of their professional life, the enthusiasm of being the trained leaders of tomorrow, of being witnesses to Christ in whatever place they may exercise their profession" (Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, n. 23). Today, these "places" embrace the whole world, destined to become a family of peoples co-responsible for the universal common good. In this regard, Italy and particularly Europe have a specific role, at a time when Europe is about to be "extended" to the East, in which Catholic Universities are called to foster cultural and scientific integration in recognition of Europe's common religious, historical and social roots.

People once again today feel the need to invest in study, research and a deeper culture in order to encourage the spiritual and ethical quality of humanity. The religious dimension of the human person also makes an indispensable contribution to this since it can give unity to speculative investigation, starting from reflection on the meaning of life and of history.

The university offers ways and means to ensure that this essential dimension of life is discussed in respectful and fruitful dialogue with reason and with human history. Even more, the Catholic University presents itself as a specialized laboratory, a source of inspiration and a place of dialogue for all young people who intend to put their Christian consciences at the service of the community by committing themselves to a demanding training.

There is thus a need for university teachers who can enter into dialogue with students so as to make the most of their contribution and to work together on practical projects.

In recent years, young people have been obliged due to unemployment to adapt themselves and undergo many forms of exploitation, but they display hidden skills and use their gifts of intelligence and insight in unusual ways. Adults are asked to direct their experiments, to trust young people and to offer them the suggestions they need to find jobs where they can make the most of their studies.

Adults must assist young people who are dreaming of new worlds and help them concretize their ideals: universities are one of the most fruitful places for this kind of exchange.

The Catholic University has a rich history in the education sector and has always offered valid intellectual resources that can contribute to forming a Christian vision of social coexistence in Italy.

His Holiness hopes, therefore, that the 80th Day for the Catholic University will be a favourable opportunity for renewing the commitment to the young generations and for offering them the wonderful possibility of studying and elaborating their cultural heritage in the light of the revealed truth of Christ, the Redeemer of man. This is the Athenaeum's specific contribution to building the civilization of love and peace.

In presenting these reflections to you, I am pleased to assure you of the Supreme Pontiff's special prayer. As he invokes the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom, he cordially imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Your Eminence, and to the Members of the Giuseppe Toniolo Institute, the Rector of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, the Academic Staff, the students and all those who collaborate in the Athenaeum's projects.

With this letter, I am sending you the gift the Supreme Pontiff has wished to offer also this year as a renewed expression of his special concern for this Academic Institution. I take this opportunity to offer you my respectful good wishes.

From the Vatican, 15 April 2004