The Pope: Scientific research stems from nostalgia for God which lives in the human heart

In this photo release by Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI is greeted by Cardinal Angelo Scola during his visit at Rome’s Polyclinic Agostino Gemelli Hospital, Thursday, May 3, 2012. 
The Holy Father visited the Catholic Sacred Heart University’s Rome campus and recalled the importance of the relationship between faith and reason for European culture.


“Paradoxically, it is the positivist culture, in its exclusion of the question about God from the scientific debate, that is determining the decline of thought and the weakening of the capacity of intelligence of what is real.” Benedict XVI pronounced these words this morning during his visit to Catholic Sacred Heart University’s Rome campus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the medicine faculty, which is named after its founder, Agostino Gemelli. Benedict XVI was welcomed in the square in front of the Polyclinic, where the ceremony took place in the open, presided over by Angelo Scola, President of the Toniolo Institute , the Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, the minister of Cultural Heritage, Lorenzo Ornaghi and the University’s pro-chancellor, Franco Anelli. Another authoritative figure present will be the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini and the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno.

In his speech, the Pope recalled that today, sciences have “transformed the world view and understanding of man” and new discoveries and innovative technologies are a “reason for pride, but often are not without troubling implications.” Benedict XVI pointed out that despite the widespread “optimism of scientific knowledge, the shadow of a crisis of thought is spreading.” “Rich in means, but not in aims, mankind in our time is often influenced by reductionism and relativism which lead to a loss of the meaning of things; as if dazzled by technical efficacy, he forgets the essential horizon of the question of meaning, thus relegating the transcendent dimension to insignificance.”
In this context, “thought becomes weak and an ethical impoverishment gains ground, which – the Pope said – clouds legal references of value.” Benedict XVI then commented that the “once fruitful root of European culture and progress seems forgotten.” “In it, the search for the absolute – the quaerere Deum – included the need to deepen the secular sciences, the entire world of knowledge.” The Pope went on to state that “Scientific research and the search for meaning, in fact, even in their specific epistemological and methodological physiognomy, spring from a single source, that Logos that presides over the work of creation and guides the mind of history. A fundamentally techno-practical mentality generates a risky imbalance between what is technically possible and what is morally good, with unpredictable consequences.”

Benedict XVI then urged culture to rediscover “the vigour and dynamism of the meaning of transcendence, in a word, it must open up to the horizon of quaerere Deum.” He added that “that same impulse to scientific research stems from nostalgia for God which lives in the human heart: after all, the men of science tend, often unconsciously, to reach for that truth which gives meaning to life. But however passionate and tenacious human research is, it is not capable of finding a safe harbour by its own means.” “God must take the initiative to encounter and speak to man.” To restore reason its native, integral dimension – Benedict XVI explained – we must rediscover the wellspring that scientific research shares with the search for faith, fides quaerens intellectum, according to the Anselmian intuition. Science and faith have a fruitful reciprocity, an almost complementary requirement of intelligence of what is real.”

“But, paradoxically, – the Pope noted – it is the positivist culture, in its exclusion of the question about God from the scientific debate, that is determining the decline of thought and the weakening of the capacity of intelligence of what is real.” But, the former theologian went on to conclude, “man’s quaerere Deum could loose itself in a tangle of roads if it were not met by a path of illumination and safe harbour, which is God who makes himself close to the man” in Jesus Christ. “A religion of Logos, Christianity does not relegate faith to the irrational sphere, but attributes the origin and meaning of reality to the creative Reason.”

Benedict XVI spoke about the special bond between the Catholic Sacred Heart University, stating that “It is this conjugation of scientific research and unconditional service to life that delineates the physiognomy of the Catholic Faculty of Medicine “Agostino Gemelli”, because the perspective of faith is within – not overlapping or juxtaposed to – the acute and tenacious search for knowledge.” In conclusion, he referred to Fr. Gemelli’s achievement in bringing “the human person in his fragility and greatness back to the centre of attention, in the ever-new in resources of a passionate research, and no less aware of the limits and the mystery of life.” Finally, the Pope spared a thought for the Polyclinic’s patients.

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