Open your mind to the Creator’s presence
The Jubilee for Men and Women from the World of Learning was held
in the Vatican from 23 to 25 May. The first two days were dedicated
to a symposium exploring the relationship between faith and reason,
in which over 300 representatives of the physical and social
sciences, theology and philosophy took part. On Thursday morning, 25
May, the participants attended a Mass celebrated in St Peter's
Basilica by Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical
Council for Culture. After the liturgy the men and women of learning
were addressed by Pope John Paul II, who urged them to bear witness
to their fidelity to Christ and to devote all their "energies
to developing a culture and a scientific approach which will always
let God's providential presence and intervention be disclosed".
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address, which was given
in French, English, Spanish and Italian.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Friends who represent the world of learning and research,
1. I welcome you with deep joy on the occasion of your Jubilee
pilgrimage. I thank Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the
Pontifical Council for Culture, for his words of welcome and for
having organized this Jubilee, together with his entire staff. I
express my deep gratitude to H.E. Prof. Nicola Cabibbo, President of
the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for his tribute to me on behalf
of you all.
In past centuries, science, whose discoveries are fascinating,
has held a dominant place and at times was considered the only
criterion of truth or way to happiness. A reflection based
exclusively on scientific elements tried to accustom us to a culture
of suspicion and doubt. It refused to consider the existence of God
or to view man in the mystery of his origin and his end, as if this
perspective might call science itself into question. It sometimes
saw God merely as a mental construct which would not stand up to
scientific knowledge. These attitudes have estranged science from
man and from the service it is called to offer him.
God's presence can be discerned in creation
2. Today "we face a great challenge to move from phenomenon
to foundation, a step as necessary as it is urgent. We cannot
stop short at experience alone; ... speculative thinking must
penetrate to the spiritual core and the ground from which it
rises" (Encyclical Fides et ratio, n. 83). Scientific
research is also based on the capacity of the human mind to discover
what is universal. This openness to knowledge leads to the ultimate
and fundamental meaning of the human person in the world (cf. ibid.,
'The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament
proclaims his handiwork" (Ps 19:1); with these words the
psalmist evokes the "silent account" of the Creator's
marvellous work inscribed in the reality of creation itself. Those
involved in research are called in a certain way to have the same
experience as the psalmist and to experience the same wonder.
"One must aim at encouraging the human spirit to develop its
faculties of wonder, of understanding, of contemplation, of forming
personal judgements and cultivating a religious, moral and social
sense" (Gaudium et spes, n. 59).
3. Based on an attentive observation of the complexity of
terrestrial phenomena, and following the object and method proper to
each discipline, scientists discover the laws which govern the
universe, as well as their interrelationship. They stand in
wonderment and humility before the created order and feel drawn to
the love of the Author of all things. Faith, for its part, is able
to integrate and assimilate every research, for all research,
through a deeper understanding of created reality in all its
specificity, gives man the possibility of discovering the Creator,
source and goal of all things. "Ever since the creation of the
world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has
been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom
By increasing his knowledge of the universe, and in particular of
the human being, who is at its centre, man has a veiled perception,
as it were, of the presence of God, a presence which he is able to
discern in the "silent manuscript" written by the Creator
in creation, the reflection of his glory and grandeur. God loves to
make himself heard in the silence of creation, in which the
intellect senses the transcendence of the Lord of Creation. Everyone
who seeks to understand the secrets of creation and the mysteries of
man must be ready to open their mind and heart to the deep truth
which manifests itself there, and which "draws the intellect to
give its consent" (St Albert the Great, Commentary on John,
4. The Church has a great esteem for scientific and technological
research, since it "is a significant expression of man's
dominion over creation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church,
n, 2293) and a service to truth, goodness and beauty. From
Copernicus to Mendel, from Albert the Great to Pascal, from Galileo
to Marconi, the history of the Church and the history of the
sciences clearly show us that there is a scientific culture rooted
in Christianity. It can be said, in fact, that research, by
exploring the greatest and the smallest, contributes to the glory of
God which is reflected in every part of the universe.
God has placed In the human a desire to know the truth
Faith is not afraid of reason. They are like two wings on which
the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has
placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in
a word, to know himself—so
that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the
fullness of truth about themselves" (Encylical Fides et
ratio, Proem). If in the past the separation of faith and reason
was a tragedy for man, who risked losing his interior unity under
the threat of an ever more fragmented knowledge, today your mission
is to carry on your research with the conviction that "for the
intelligent man ... all things are in harmony and agreement"
(Gregory Palamas, Theophanes).
I invite you, then, to ask the Lord to give you the gift of the
Holy Spirit, since to love truth is to live on the Holy Spirit (cf.
St Augustine, Sermo, 267, 4), who enables us to approach God
and to call him in a loud voice: Abba, Father. May nothing prevent
you from calling on him in this way, even if you are absorbed in the
rigour of your analyses of the things he has set before our eyes.
5. Dear men and women of learning, great is the responsibility to
which you have been called. You are asked to work in a way that
serves the good of individuals and of all humanity, while always
being attentive to the dignity of every human being and to respect
for creation. Every scientific approach needs an ethical base and a
wise openness to a culture that respects the needs of the person.
This is precisely what the writer Jean Guiton stresses when he says
that in scientific research the spiritual aspect should never be
separated from the intellectual (cf. Le travail intellectuel:
Conseils a ceux qui etudient et a ceux qui ecrivent, 1951, p.
29). He also recalls that, for this reason, science and technology
need an indispensable reference to the value of human interiority.
I turn with trust to you, men and women in the trenches of
research and progress! In constantly exploring the world's
mysteries, let your minds be open to the horizons that faith
discloses to you. Firmly anchored to the fundamental principles and
values of your journey as people of knowledge and faith, you can
also engage in a useful and constructive dialogue with those who are
far from Christ and his Church. Therefore, first be passionate
seekers of the invisible God, who alone can satisfy the deep
yearning of your lives and fill you with his grace.
Be builders of hope for all humanity
6. Men and women of learning, be motivated by the desire to bear
witness to your fidelity to Christ! At the dawn of the third
millennium, the rich panorama of contemporary culture is opening
unprecedented and promising prospects in the dialogue between
science and faith, as between philosophy and theology. Devote all
your energies to developing a culture and a scientific approach
which will always let God's providential presence and intervention
In this regard, the Jubilee for men and women of learning is an
encouragement and a support for everyone who is sincerely seeking
the truth; it shows that it is possible to be rigorous researchers
in every field of knowledge and faithful disciples of the Gospel.
How can we not recall here the spiritual commitment of the many
people who dedicate themselves each day to demanding scientific
work? Through those of you here, I would like to extend my greeting
and my heartfelt encouragement to each of them.
Men and women of learning, be builders of hope for all humanity!
May God accompany you and make fruitful your efforts at the service
of genuine human progress. May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, protect you.
May St Thomas Aquinas and the other holy men and women who, in
various fields of learning have made a remarkable contribution to an
ever deeper knowledge of created reality in the light of the divine
mystery intercede for you.
For my part, I accompany you with constant attention and warm
friendship. I assure you of a daily remembrance in my prayer and
cordially bless you, along with your families and everyone who in
various ways contributes with sincere and constant dedication to the
scientific progress of humanity.