Soul for the Machine: A New Humanism

Archbishop Foley Makes a Plea at International Congress

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ROME, DEC. 6, 2001 ( A new humanism is needed to give technological progress a soul, says Archbishop John P. Foley.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications delivered that message at the closing of an international congress on the cinema and culture.

«Technology must help man to overcome difficulties and his own limitations, but it must not transform a machine into man and, much less so, man into a machine,» the archbishop said Tuesday.

The two-day congress, organized by the Pontifical Councils for Social Communications and for Culture, was held at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The topic addressed was «Men or Machines? The Value of Life and the Power of Technology in Culture, Social Communication, and the Cinema in the Third Millennium.»

The initiative took place within the framework of the «Tertio Millennio» Festival of Spiritual Films, held in Rome during the first two weeks of December.

Given the equation of man and machine, which has opened the way to unforeseeable developments, the U.S. Archbishop proposed a «new humanism,» as articulated by John Paul II, «founded on the person and his inalienable rights, on the values of justice and peace, on solidarity and respect, to give an authentic meaning to life and be at the latter´s service.»

In this context, «the symbiosis between men and machines must have limitations and be regulated by an objective hierarchy of values,» because «human conquests are precarious, if they are not based on service to the dignity of the person,» the archbishop stressed.

Archbishop Foley´s humanism has a positive view of progress and technology, so long as there is «the courage, awareness and discernment» and the ability to «choose and assume responsibilities, and not remain at the mercy of events.»

«It is necessary,» he said, «to be able to discern between the human and artificial, between reality and fiction, between sensitivity and automatism, without these spheres being confused, to give life to an environment in which learning is guided by truth and the person finds space and stimulation to know and continue to seek.»

This challenge was already posed Monday by Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who stressed the need to «humanize technology,» and to have the cinema be «at the service of humanity» in a world that «at this time needs, above all, signs of hope.»

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