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On the Faith-Reason Synthesis

"A Precious Patrimony for Western Civilization"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The liturgical calendar remembers today St. Thomas Aquinas, great doctor of the Church. With his charism of philosopher and theologian, he offers a valid model of harmony between reason and faith, dimensions of the human spirit, which are fully realized when they meet and dialogue.

According to the thought of St. Thomas, human reason, to say it as such, "breathes," that is, it moves on a wide, open horizon in which it can experience the best of itself. Nonetheless, when man limits himself to think only of material and experimental objects, he closes himself to the questions of life, about himself and about God, impoverishing himself.

The relationship between faith and reason is a serious challenge for the present prevailing culture in the Western world, and it is precisely for this reason that our beloved John Paul II wrote an encyclical, which was entitled precisely "Fides et Ratio" -- "Faith and Reason." I also took up this argument recently, in the address to the University of Regensburg.

In reality, the modern development of the sciences brings countless positive effects, which must always be acknowledged. At the same time, however, it must be admitted that the tendency to consider true only that which can be experienced constitutes a limitation for human reason and produces a terrible schizophrenia, evident to all, because of which rationalism and materialism, and hypertechnology and unbridled instincts, coexist.

It is urgent, therefore, to rediscover in a new way human rationality open to the light of the divine "Logos" and to its perfect revelation that is Jesus Christ, Son of God made man. When Christian faith is authentic it does not mortify freedom or human reason; then, why should faith and reason be afraid of one another, if on meeting one another and dialoguing they can express themselves in the best way?

Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of faith; what is more, the latter calls for its free and conscious adherence.

With an amply extended wisdom, St. Thomas Aquinas established a prolific confrontation with the Arabic and Jewish thought of his time, in such a way that he is considered as an always-present teacher of dialogue with other cultures and religious. He knew to introduce this Christian synthesis between reason and faith that represents a precious patrimony for Western civilization, to which recourse can be taken also today to dialogue effectively with the great cultural and religious traditions of the East and South of the world.

Let us pray so that Christians, especially those in the academic and cultural realm, are more able to express the reasonable character of their faith and to witness to it with a dialogue inspired by love. We ask this gift of our Lord through the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, and above all Mary, Seat of Wisdom.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope made an appeal for peace in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip]

In recent days, violence has again bloodied Lebanon. It is unacceptable that this path is undertaken to defend one's political reasons. I feel immense sadness for this beloved population. I know that many Lebanese feel the temptation to abandon all hope and feel themselves disoriented by all that is happening.

I make mine the firm words pronounced by His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir to denounce these fratricidal confrontations. Together with him and the other religious leaders, I invoke the help of God so that all Lebanese without distinction might be able and willing to work together to make of their homeland an authentic common home, surmounting those egoistic attitudes that prevent them from being truly dedicated to their country. (cf. "A Hope for Lebanon," 94, apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II). To the Christians of Lebanon, I repeat my exhortation to be promoters of a genuine dialogue between the different communities, and I invoke over all the protection of Our Lady of Lebanon.

I also desire, that violence in the Gaza Strip end as soon as possible. I wish to express my spiritual closeness to the entire population and assure them of my prayers so that the will might prevail in all to work together for the common good, undertaking peaceful paths to overcome differences and tensions.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, I extend affectionate greetings. In particular I welcome the boys from St. Philip's School in London and their teachers. Your patron saint is known as the Apostle of Rome -- let his gentleness and love for Christ be an inspiration to you. Upon all who are here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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