ON BEHALF OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 30th MEETING
FOR FRIENDSHIP AMONG PEOPLES HELD IN RIMINI
17 August 2009
Your Most Reverend Excellency,
On the occasion of the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples which this year is celebrating its 30th anniversary, I am particularly pleased to convey the Holy Father's greeting to you and to all those who have sponsored and organized this cultural event. In three decades, hundreds of thousands of men and women have taken part in it, especially youth, and thousands of speakers have taken the platform at the Rimini Trade Fair. Assisted by scholars of every discipline, by artists, by religious authorities and by the spokespersons of the worlds of politics, finance and sport, it has been possible to exchange ideas on the fundamental questions and instances of human life and to examine the reasons for being Christian in our epoch. His Holiness hopes that the Meeting will continue to take up the challenges and questions to faith that our time poses and respond to them, treasuring the teaching of the late Mons. Luigi Giussani, Founder of the Ecclesial Movement, Communion and Liberation.
The theme of the 2009 Meeting revolves around "knowledge that is always an event". "Event" is a word with which Fr Giussani attempted to express anew the very nature of Christianity, which for him was an "encounter", that is, an experience of knowledge and communion. It is possible, precisely by juxtaposing the words "event" and "encounter", to perceive the message of the Meeting more clearly. Contemporary gnoseological and epistemological reflection has brought to light the crucial role of the subject of knowledge of the actual act of knowing. Unlike the presuppositions of the positivist "dogma" of pure objectivity, Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty has clarified that this is also true for the natural sciences: even in these disciplines whose "object" seems to be regulated by the invariable laws of nature, the observer's perspective is a factor that conditions and determines the result of the scientific experiment and hence of scientific knowledge as such. Pure objectivity therefore turns out to be pure abstraction, an expression of an inadequate and unrealistic gnoseology.
However, if this is true for natural sciences, it is especially true for those "objects" of knowledge which in turn are structurally linked to the freedom of men and women, to their choices and to their diversity. Let us think of the historical sciences. They are based on testimonies in which converge as factors that influence their way of communicating the reality they transmit the view of the world of those who composed them, together with their convictions, linked in turn to those of their time, their personal situations, the decisions by which they are placed in relation to the reality they describe, their moral calibre, their capacities and their ingenuity, their culture. The scholar who approaches his object must therefore discern all this, in order to understand and appreciate the meaning and importance of the message transmitted in an overall context, acting as though he were before a person he does not yet know well but who is telling him something which in any case he considers important to know. The most important consequence of this situation is that knowledge cannot be described as the registration of a detached spectator. On the contrary, involvement with the known object by the knowing subject is a conditio sine qua non of knowledge itself. Therefore, it is not detachment and the absence of involvement that are the ideal to seek in vain in the search for "objective" knowledge, but rather an appropriate involvement with the object, an involvement likely to impart its specific message to the person who is questioning knowledge.
This is why knowledge can be an "event". It "happens" like a real encounter between a subject and an object. That this encounter is necessary in order to speak of knowledge does not make us look at subject and object as two important things that can be kept at an ascetic distance from each other to preserve their purity; on the contrary, they are two living realities that influence each other when they come into contact. The intellectual honesty of the one who knows is fully inherent in that supreme art of "playing host to the object", in such a way that it can reveal itself as it truly is, even if not wholly or exhaustively. And the acceptance of the object, the readiness to listen which characterizes the knowing subject as a true lover of the truth, can be described as a sort of "sympathy" for the object. Here, as much Medieval thought has conveyed to us, is found the special cognitive force proper to love. "To love" means "to want to know", and the desire and search for knowledge are an internal urge of love as such. At a closer look, therefore, this establishes a permanent relationship between love and truth. Knowledge presupposes, by its nature, a certain "conformation" of subject and object: a fundamental intuition, already condensed in Empedocles' ancient axiom: "like knows like". The Evangelist John implicitly recalls this in writing: "when [God] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3: 2).
One might wonder if there is knowledge more necessary to man than knowledge of his Creator; if there is a knowledge more adequately described by the word "encounter" than that of the fundamental relationship that exists, precisely, between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. One then understands why the Fathers of the Church insisted on the need to purify the eye of the soul in order to succeed in seeing God, referring to the Gospel Beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Mt 5: 8). Human rationality can only be exercised and thus reach its goal, which is knowledge of the truth and of God, through a purified heart that sincerely loves the truth it seeks. Purified in this manner, the human spirit can open itself to the revelation of truth. Hence there is a mysterious connection between the Gospel Beatitude and the words that Jesus addressed to Nicodemus, recorded by St John: "what is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.... You must be born from above" (3: 6-7).
The Holy Father Benedict XVI expresses the hope that these words of Christ may resound in the hearts of those taking part in the 30th Rimini Meeting, as a call to turn to him with confidence, to welcome his mysterious presence which is a source of truth and love for man and for society.
I gladly add my own good wishes, and take this opportunity to confirm with respect that
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone