Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Pope's Undelivered Speech

I found an English translation of the Pope's speech that he was supposed to deliver to the students and faculty of Rome University.

The speech is what you would expect of the Pope. The speech began with a discussion of historical context. It briefly traced the history of the university and its importance to the Italian state. It then discussed the Pope's connection to the actual invitation, noting that it was to the Pope as "bishop of Rome".

The speech then turned to discuss the nature and purpose of two institutions, the Papacy and the University. Looking to the history of words, the speech noted that the Pope was first and foremost a bishop, who Greek word is tied with the idea of the shepherd. So the Ope is, in essence, someone who is a voice to guide "ethical reasoning." But the Pope also speaks from faith. So as always, Pope Benedict sees faith and reason intertwined.

The Pope next turned to the purpose of the university. A university is a physical manifestation of man's quest for knowledge. Which again is where faith and reason connect. To the early Christians, the quest for knowledge was a way of blowing away the clouds of myth and understanding God. As the Pope put it, "to discover the God that is creative Reason as well as Reason-as-Love." And what is the end of knowledge? As the speech explained the "purpose of knowing the truth is to know what is good."

What is perhaps most ironic about this affair is that the Pope, the most scholarly of clerics by far, was forced away from a university. Those who protested his planned appearance would have done well to hear what would have been his closing words:

What does the Pope have to do or say in a university? He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others, which can only be freely offered. Beyond his ministry as Pastor of the Church and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral ministry, it is his task to keep alive man’s responsiveness to the truth. Similarly he must again and always invite reason to seek out truth, goodness and God, and on this path urge it to see the useful lights that emerged during the history of the Christian faith and perceive Jesus Christ as the light that illuminates history and helps find the way towards the future.
Anyway, do not take my word on it -- read the speech.

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