The Holy See
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Bergen (Norway), 19-20 May 2005


Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In building new forms of academic unity on the continent where two totalitarian systems were created in the last century, it is our moral duty to recognise the central value of human dignity and its basic role in the society of the new Europe. John Paul II used the term "human ecology" to denote the set of basic values necessary to promote the integral growth of the human person. To foster this growth the Holy See emphasises the role of "those fundamental values, acquired through a decisive contribution of Christianity, which can be summarized in the affirmation of the transcendent dignity of the human person, the value of reason, freedom, democracy, the constitutional state and the distinction between political life and religion" (Ecclesia in Europa, 109). By highlighting the human search for truth, beauty, and freedom, we safeguard these basic values which constitute the essence of our moral, spiritual and cultural growth.

As we learn from history, human values will only persist if they are rooted in a transcendental background. The well-known Oxford fellow and author of "The Idea of a University", John Henry Newman, said:  "Mere natural virtue wears away, when men neglect to deepen it into religious principle" (J.H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. 3, London 1901, 40).

Consequently, the Holy See assures that the 187 ecclesiastical Faculties in Europe will conform to the criteria of comparability and compatibility leading to the creation of a European Higher Education Area.

At the threshold of European culture, one finds important intellectual elements which go beyond the biological principle of the struggle for survival. There was no pragmatic profit and no pragmatic advantage in the Hellenic concern for metaphysics, ethics, mathematics and aesthetics. In their intellectual concerns, our Hellenic ancestors stressed the role of spiritual self-awareness inspired by the principle of gnothi seauthon. They developed the role of the Socratic ethical evaluation, so important in moral dilemmas. They sought canons of beauty which are utterly unrelated to biological profit. Having discovered this reality, the human person was oriented towards a transcendent world which does not bring any immediate practical gains, but which constitutes the very core of the being that we call animal rationale. We should not allow its existence to be reduced to the level of the "consumer man", interested mainly in pragmatic success.

The cultural heritage of ancient Greece developed and reached its culmination in the axiology proposed by Jesus Christ. He came into our world as a homeless infant, and died as a criminal condemned by the leaders of His own nation. He declared the poor, those who weep and those who are persecuted to be blessed. By penetrating the culture of the continent of Europe, which was for a long time known as Christendom (Christianitas), the Gospel created the intellectual climate in which universal human values were recognized when human brotherhood and the equality of all the children of our heavenly Father were stressed. In this intellectual climate, on the one hand, the theoretical principles of humanism and the doctrine of human rights were developed; on the other hand, the universities were founded, the principles of modern science were defined in Newton's Principia and the discoveries of technology were put to the service of humankind.

To continue this great tradition, the consistent exposition of integral humanism must take precedence in our academic practice over utilitarian formations in which the moral and axiological dimension of science is ignored. Students in our universities are entitled to expect an integral formation in which a symbiosis between faith and the intellectual training is expressed in forming both the mind and moral sensitivity.

There is a truth about human life which cannot be expressed in terms of logical algorithms. This truth can be discovered in philosophical search, theological reflection and wonderment and in the contemplation of human life. Newton and Einstein, Planck and Gödel made great contributions to our knowledge of the world. This knowledge, however, would be incomplete and very much the poorer were it not for the philosophical contributions of Plato and Thomas Aquinas, the theological works of Saint Augustine and John Henry Newman, the mystical experiences of John of the Cross and Thomas Merton's reflections on spirituality. If one were to eliminate these latter elements from human culture, then we would be left with a profoundly warped and one-dimensional culture.

Trying to foster the interdisciplinary dialogue so important for the integral education, John Paul II wrote on the occasion of the tricentennial of the publication of Newton's Principia: "Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish" (Letter to George Coyne, M13). We realise that in the billions of years of cosmic evolution, the existence of the human species is measured only in thousands of years. In this context, it is the moral duty of our generation to assume our responsibility for the academic and cultural growth of Homo sapiens. In undertaking this duty, the Holy See will consistently support the Declaration of Bologna to construct a new academic model of unity in diversity.

*L'Osservatore Romano 23.6.2005 p.2.