Friday, October 30, 2009

Papal Address to Astronomy Congress

"True Knowledge Is Always Directed to Wisdom"


VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today when he addressed a group celebrating the International Year of Astronomy with a two-day congress. The International Year of Astronomy was convoked by UNESCO in memory of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope.

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Your Eminence,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet this assembly of distinguished astronomers from throughout the world meeting in the Vatican for the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, and I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo for his kind words of introduction. This celebration, which marks the four hundredth anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first observations of the heavens by telescope, invites us to consider the immense progress of scientific knowledge in the modern age and, in a particular way, to turn our gaze anew to the heavens in a spirit of wonder, contemplation and commitment to the pursuit of truth, wherever it is to be found.

Your meeting also coincides with the inauguration of the new facilities of the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo. As you know, the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church’s attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion. I take this occasion to express my gratitude not only for the careful studies which have clarified the precise historical context of Galileo’s condemnation, but also for the efforts of all those committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe. I am particularly grateful to the staff of the Observatory, and to the friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, for their efforts to promote research, educational opportunities and dialogue between the Church and the world of science.

The International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. I think, for example, of the exultation felt by the scientists of the Roman College who just a few steps from here carried out the observations and calculations which led to the worldwide adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science. Who can deny that responsibility for the future of humanity, and indeed respect for nature and the world around us, demand -- today as much as ever -- the careful observation, critical judgement, patience and discipline which are essential to the modern scientific method? At the same time, the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit.

Knowledge, in a word, must be understood and pursued in all its liberating breadth. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, yet if it aspires to be wisdom, capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be committed to the pursuit of that ultimate truth which, while ever beyond our complete grasp, is nonetheless the key to our authentic happiness and freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), the measure of our true humanity, and the criterion for a just relationship with the physical world and with our brothers and sisters in the great human family.

Dear friends, modern cosmology has shown us that neither we, nor the earth we stand on, is the centre of our universe, composed of billions of galaxies, each of them with myriads of stars and planets. Yet, as we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year -- to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe -- how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? Contemplating the starry sky, he cried out with wonder to the Lord: "When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?" (Ps 8:4-5). It is my hope that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator, and of that Love which is the underlying motive of his creation -- the Love which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, "moves the sun and the other stars" (Paradiso XXXIII, 145). Revelation tells us that, in the fullness of time, the Word through whom all things were made came to dwell among us. In Christ, the new Adam, we acknowledge the true centre of the universe and all history, and in him, the incarnate Logos, we see the fullest measure of our grandeur as human beings, endowed with reason and called to an eternal destiny.

With these reflections, dear friends, I greet all of you with respect and esteem, and I offer prayerful good wishes for your research and teaching. Upon you, your families and dear ones I cordially invoke Almighty God’s blessings of wisdom, joy, and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Holy See on Human Rights

"No Religion on the Planet ... Is Free From Discrimination"


NEW YORK, OCT. 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, delivered Monday before the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly on the promotion and protection of human rights.

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Mr Chairman,

As we take up the promotion and protection of human rights, we know that the dignity of the human person is what motivates our desire to commit ourselves to work for the gradual realization of all human rights.

For some time now the United Nations has examined the notion of freedom of conscience with regard to religion and freedom of its expression. This has manifested itself especially in the context of the promotion and protection of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural diversity, and the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance in the world.

The right to religious freedom, despite being repeatedly proclaimed by the international community and specified in international instruments as well as in the Constitution of most States, continues to be widely violated today. There is unfortunately no religion on the planet which is free from discrimination. Acts of intolerance, and violations of religious freedom, continue to be perpetrated in many forms. In fact, more and more cases are brought to the attention of the courts or international human rights bodies.

With the increase of religious intolerance in the world, it is well documented that Christians are the religious group most discriminated against as there may well be more than 200 million of them, of different confessions, who are in situations of difficulty because of legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination.

Over the past months some Asian and Middle Eastern countries have seen Christian communities attacked, leaving many injured and others killed. Their churches and homes were also burned down. Such actions were committed by extremists in response to accusations against individuals, perceived –according to anti-blasphemy laws– as being in some way disrespectful of the beliefs of others. In this context, my delegation welcomes and supports the promise of the government of Pakistan to review and amend such laws.

Blasphemy laws have too easily become opportunities for extremists to persecute those who freely choose to follow the belief system of a different faith tradition. Such laws have been used to foster injustice, sectarian violence and violence between religions. Governments must address the root causes of religious intolerance and repeal such laws that serve as instruments of abuse.

Legislation which restricts freedom of expression cannot change attitudes. Instead, what is needed is the will to change. This can most effectively be achieved by raising the consciousness of individuals, bringing them to a greater understanding of the need to respect all persons regardless of their faith or cultural background. States should refrain from adopting restrictions on freedom of expression which have often led to abuse by the authorities and to the silencing of dissenting voices, particularly those of individuals belonging to ethnic and religious minorities. Authentic freedom of expression can contribute to a greater respect for all people as it can provide the opportunity to speak out against violations such as religious intolerance and racism and promote the equal dignity of all persons.

The advocacy of hatred and violence towards specific religions which persists in various places suggests a state of mind characterized by intolerance. For this reason it is imperative that the people of the various faith traditions work together in order to grow in mutual understanding. Here there is need for an authentic change of minds and hearts. This can be done best through education, beginning with children and young people, on the importance of tolerance and respect for cultural and religious diversity.

Cooperation among religions is a prerequisite for the transformation of society and must lead to a change of minds and hearts so that a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence among peoples can truly be built.

This Organization has for many years provided the international community with benchmarks for what countries need to do in order to make concrete advancements in respecting human rights. A key to this lies in adhering to the foundational instruments of the United Nations and in faithfully applying the principles enshrined therein, so that all people regardless of their beliefs will be accorded full respect in keeping with their dignity as members of the human community.

Thank you Mr Chairman.
Papal Address to Pontifical Biblical Institute

"Continue on Your Way With Renewed Determination"


VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on receiving in audience professors, students and staff of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, on the centenary of its foundation.

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Cardinals,
Most Reverend Superior-General of the Society of Jesus,
Illustrious Rector,
Illustrious Professors and Beloved Students of the Pontifical Biblical Institute

I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of your Institute, desired by my holy predecessor Pius X, in order to establish in the city of Rome a center of specialized studies on sacred Scripture and related disciplines.

I greet with deference Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, whom I thank for the courteous words he addressed to me on your behalf. I likewise greet the superior-general, Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, and I am happy to take the opportunity given to me to express my sincere gratitude to the Society of Jesus, which, not without notable effort, deploys financial investments and human resources in the management of the faculty of the Ancient East, the Biblical faculty here in Rome, and the headquarters of the Institute in Jerusalem.

I greet the rector and professors, who have consecrated their life to study and inquiry in constant listening to the Word of God. I greet and thank the staff, employees and workers for their appreciated collaboration, as also the benefactors who have made available and continue to make available the necessary resources for maintaining the structures and activities of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. I greet the former students united spiritually to us at this moment, and I greet you especially, beloved students, who come from every part of the world.

One hundred years have gone by since the birth of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. In the course of this century, it has certainly increased interest in the Bible and, thanks to Vatican Council II, especially the dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" -- of whose elaboration I was a direct witness, participating as theologian in the discussions that preceded its approval -- there is much greater awareness of the importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

This has fostered in Christian communities a genuine spiritual and pastoral renewal, which above all has affected preaching, catechesis, the study of theology and ecumenical dialogue. Your Pontifical Institute has made its own significant contribution to this renewal with scientific biblical research, the teaching of biblical disciplines and the publication of qualified studies and specialized journals. In the course of the decades several generations of illustrious professors have succeeded one another -- I would like to remember, among others, Cardinal Bea -- who formed more than 7,000 professors of sacred Scripture and promoters of biblical groups, as also many experts now present in an array of ecclesiastical services, in every region of the world.

Let us thank the Lord for this activity of yours that is dedicated to interpreting the biblical texts in the spirit in which they were written (cfr "Dei Verbum," 12), and that opens to dialogue with the other disciplines, and with many cultures and religions. Although it has known moments of difficulty, it has continued in constant fidelity to the magisterium according to the objectives themselves of your institute, which arose in fact "ut in Urbe Roma altiorum studiorum ad Libros sacros pertinentium habeatur centrum, quod efficaciore, quo liceat, modo doctrinam biblicam et studia omnia eidem adiuncta, sensu Ecclesiae catholicae promoveat" (Pius PP. X, Litt. Ap. Vinea electa (May 7, 1909): AAS 1 (1909), 447-448).

Dear friends, the celebration of the centenary is an end, and at the same time a point of reference. Enriched by the experience of the past, continue on your way with renewed determination, aware of the service to the Church required of you, to bring the Bible closer to the life of the People of God, so that it will be able to address in an adequate way the unheard of challenges that modern times pose to the new evangelization. It is the common desire that sacred Scripture become in this secularized world, not only the soul of theology, but also the source of spirituality and vigor of the faith of all believers in Christ.

May the Pontifical Biblical Institute continue, therefore, growing as a high quality ecclesial center of study in the realm of biblical research, making use of modern methodologies and in collaboration with specialists in dogmatic theology and in other theological areas; may it ensure a careful formation in sacred Scripture to future priests so that, making use of the biblical languages and of the various exegetical methodologies, they will be able to have direct access to biblical texts.

In this regard, the already mentioned dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" has stressed the legitimacy and necessity of the historical-critical method, reducing it to three essential elements: attention to literary genres; study of the historical context; examination of what is usually called Sitz im Leben. The conciliar document maintains firm at the same time the theological character of exegesis, indicating the strong points of the theological method in the interpretation of the text. This is so because the foundation on which theological understanding of the Bible rests is the unity of Scripture, and this assumption corresponds, as methodological way, to the analogy of the faith, that is, to the understanding of the individual texts from the whole.

The conciliar text adds a further methodological indication. Scripture being only one thing starting from the one People of God, which has been its bearer throughout history, consequently to read Scripture as a unit means to read it from the Church as from its vital place, and to regard the faith of the Church as the real key to interpretation. If exegesis also wishes to be theology, it must acknowledge that the faith of the Church is that form of "sim-patia" without which the Bible remains as a sealed book: Tradition does not close access to Scripture, but rather opens it; on the other hand, the decisive word in the interpretation of Scripture corresponds to the Church, in her institutional organizations. It is the Church, in fact, which has been entrusted with the task of interpreting authentically the Word of God written and transmitted, exercising her authority in the name of Jesus Christ (cfr "Dei Verbum," 10).

Dear brothers and sisters, while thanking you for your pleasant visit, I encourage you to continue your ecclesial service, in constant adherence to the magisterium of the Church and assure each one of you the support of prayer, imparting to you from my heart, as pledge of divine favors, the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Zenit: Religious Liberty a Fundamental Right, Says Pontiff
Receives Iran's New Envoy to Holy See

(see Benedict XVI's Address to Iranian Envoy)
Debating Beauty: Jacques Maritain and Dietrich von Hildebrand, by Alice von Hildebrand
(h/t to Jeff Culbreath)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What are the Orthodox arguments against the validity of the Council of Florence?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Zenit: On Theology in the 12th Century
"Knowledge Grows Only if It Loves Truth"
Dietrich Von Hildebrand Legacy Project

On EWTN Live today:
John Henry Crosby & Dr. Alice von Hildebrand
The Dietrich von Hildebrand Spiritual Legacy Project

The audio should be archived shortly.

Related links:
Growing Up with Dietrich: A Conversation with John Henry Crosby