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Papal Address to Education-Seminar Participants

"Human Being Must Not Be Sacrificed to Success of Science"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address to participants of a seminar on "The Cultural Heritage and Academic Values of the European University and the Attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area."

The Pope gave the address in Paul VI Hall on April 1. The seminar had been organized by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you and cordially greet all of you who are taking part in the seminar on the theme: "The Cultural Heritage and Academic Values of the European University and the Attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area." You come from about 50 European countries that adhere to the so-called Bologna Process, to which the Holy See has also made its own contribution.

I greet Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who has addressed courteous and respectful words to me on your behalf, at the same time explaining the objectives of your meeting, and I thank him for organizing this meeting in the Vatican in collaboration with the Conference of Rectors of the Pontifical Universities, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, UNESCO-CEPES and the Council of Europe, with the sponsorship of the European Commission.

I address a special greeting to the ministers and representatives of the various international bodies who have wished to attend.

In these days, your reflection has focused on the contribution that European universities, enriched by their long tradition, can offer to building the Europe of the third millennium, taking into account the fact that every cultural reality is both a memory of the past and a project for the future.

The Church intends to make her own contribution to this reflection as she has done over the centuries. She has taken a constant interest in the study centers and universities of Europe which, together with "the service of thought," have passed on to the young generations the values of a special cultural patrimony, enriched by two millenniums of humanist and Christian experience (cf. "Ecclesia in Europa," No. 59).

At first, monasticism exercised considerable influence. Its merits, both in the spiritual and religious context, also extend to the economic and intellectual spheres. In Charlemagne's time, real schools were founded with the Church's contribution, and the emperor wanted as many people as possible to benefit from them.

A few centuries later, the university came into being, receiving an essential impetus from the Church. Numerous European universities, from the University of Bologna to those of Paris, Krakow, Salamanca, Cologne, Oxford and Prague, to mention but a few, rapidly developed and played an important role in consolidating the European identity and building up its cultural heritage.

University institutions have always been distinguished by love of wisdom and the quest for truth, as the true purpose of universities, with constant reference to the Christian vision that recognizes the human being as the masterpiece of creation, since he is formed in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27).

The conviction that there is a profound unity between truth and good, between the eyes of the mind and those of the heart: "Ubi amor, ibi oculos," as Riccardo di San Vittore said (cf. "Beniamin minor," c. 13), has always been typical of this vision: Love makes one see. Universities came into being from the love of knowledge and from the curiosity of knowing, of knowing what the world is, what man is, but also from a knowledge that leads to action, that leads ultimately to love.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, with a quick glance at the "old" Continent it is easy to see the cultural challenges that Europe faces today, since it is committed to rediscovering its own identity, which is not exclusively economic or political. The basic question today, as in the past, remains the anthropological question: What is man? Where does he come from? Where must he go? How must he go?

In other words, it is a matter of clarifying the conception of the human being on which new projects are based.

And you are rightly asking yourselves which human being, which image of man, does the university intend to serve: an individual withdrawn into the defense of his own interests, a single perspective of interests, a materialistic perspective, or a person who is open to solidarity with others in the search for the true meaning of existence, which must be a common meaning that transcends the individual?

We also wonder what the relationship between the human person, science and ...

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