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Benedict XVI's Planned Lecture at La Sapienza

1/20/2008 - 08:52 PST

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"The Truth Makes Us Good and Goodness Is True"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2008 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the speech Benedict XVI planned to deliver at La Sapienza University in Rome. The Vatican reported Tuesday that the visit would be postponed due to what the Pope's secretary of state called a lack of the "prerequisites for a dignified and tranquil welcome."

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Magnificent Rector,
Political and Civil Authorities,
Illustrious Professors and Administrative Staff,
Dear Young Students!

It is a source of great joy for me this encounter with the community of La Sapienza -- University of Rome -- on the occasion of the inauguration of the academic year. For centuries now this university marks the journey and the life of the city of Rome, bringing the best intellectual energies to bear fruit in every field of knowledge.

Whether in the period when, after its foundation at the behest of Pope Boniface VIII, it depended directly on ecclesiastical authority, or whether when the "Studium Urbis" later developed as an institute of the Italian state, your academic community has maintained a high scientific and cultural level, which places it among the most prestigious universities of the world.

The Church of Rome has always looked upon this university center with affection and admiration, recognizing the commitment -- sometimes arduous and demanding -- to research and to the formation of new generations. Significant moments of collaboration and dialogue have not been lacking in recent years. I would like to recall, in particular, the International Meeting of Rectors on the occasion of the Jubilee of Universities that saw your community take charge, not only of welcoming and organizing, but above all of the prophetic and complex task of elaborating a "new humanism for the third millennium."

It is a pleasure, in this circumstance, to express my gratitude for the invitation you have offered to me to come to your university to give a lecture. In this regard I asked myself first of all the question: What can, and must, a Pope say on an occasion like this? In my lecture at Regensburg I spoke, indeed, as Pope, but above all I spoke as a former professor of that university of mine, trying to bring together memories and current events. At La Sapienza, the ancient university of Rome, however, I am invited precisely as Bishop of Rome, and because of this I must speak as such. Certainly, La Sapienza was once the Pope's university, but today it is a secular university with that autonomy that, on the basis of its foundational concept itself, has always been part of the university, which must be bound exclusively to the authority of the truth. In its freedom from political and ecclesiastical authorities, the university finds its particular function, precisely for modern society as well, which needs an institution of this type.

I return to my initial question: What can and must the Pope say in meeting with the university of his city? Reflecting on this question, it seemed to me that it included two others, whose clarification must lead by itself to the answer. It must, in fact, be asked: What is the nature and the mission of the Papacy? And still further: What is the nature and the mission of the university? In this place I do not wish to detain you and me with long disquisitions on the nature of the Papacy. A brief remark will suffice.

The Pope is first of all Bishop of Rome and as such, in virtue of succession to the Apostle Peter, has an episcopal responsibility in regard to the whole Catholic Church. The word "bishop" "episkopos" in Greek, which primarily means "overseer" -- has already in the New Testament been fused together with the biblical concept of shepherd: He is the one who, from a higher vantage point, considers the whole, concerning himself with the right path and of the cohesion of the whole. In this sense, such a designation of his task orientates him first of all to the entirety of the believing community. The bishop -- the shepherd -- is the man who takes care of this community; he who maintains its unity and keeps it on the way toward God, indicated, according to the faith, by Jesus -- and not only indicated by Jesus: Jesus himself is the way for us.

But this community with which the bishop concerns himself -- large or small as it may be -- lives in the world; its state, its example and its word inevitably influence all the rest of the human community in its entirety. The bigger it is, the more that its good state or its possible degradation have repercussions for the whole of humanity. Today we see with great clarity how the conditions of the religions and how the situation of the Church -- her crises and her renewals -- affect the whole of humanity. Thus the Pope, precisely as shepherd of his community, has also become more and more a voice of the ethical reason of humanity.

Here, however, there ...

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