VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2004 ( John Paul II says the past must be understood rather than denied, amid the processes of social integration occurring in the era of globalization.

And universities have a decisive role in achieving this goal, he said.

The Pope explained this today when he received an honorary doctorate in the Vatican. The Polish University of Opole conferred the honor to him for his contribution to the re-establishment of state recognition of theology in the country's universities after the fall of Communism.

In his address during the ceremony, the Holy Father made it clear that the Church "encourages the processes of unification in virtue of the common faith, the common spiritual and moral values, the same hope and the same charity that is able to forgive."

In this connection, the university offers the instruments "for further study in the heritage of culture, of the treasure of national and universal learning, and of the development of the diverse branches of science, which are not only accessible to those who share the same creed, but also to those who have different convictions," the Pope added.<br>
"If we speak about the integration of society, we cannot understand it in the sense of annulling the differences, of unifying the way of thinking, of forgetting history -- frequently marked by events that created divisions," he said.

On the contrary, integration must be based on "a persistent search for those values that are common to people, who have different roots, different histories and, therefore, their own view of the world."

"The university, in creating the possibilities for the development of the humanistic sciences, can be of help for a purification of the memory, which will not forget the errors and faults, but which allows for forgiveness and the asking of forgiveness," the Holy Father continued.

In this way, "the mind and heart can be opened to the truth, to the good and to beauty, values that constitute a great common richness and that must be cultivated and developed concordantly," he said.

"The sciences can also be useful in the work of union. It even seems that, thanks to the fact that they are free of philosophic and especially ideological premises, they can realize this task in a more direct manner," the Pope said.

"Yes, it is possible to manifest differences in reference to the ethical evaluation of the research, and these cannot be ignored," he said. But "if the researchers recognize the principles of truth and of the common good," they will open themselves to a knowledge of the world in virtue of the sources themselves, he added.

The Holy Father gave a current example: the mention of the Christian roots of Europe, a debate that has taken place within the European Convention over the preparation of the draft of the Constitutional Treaty.

"If the cathedrals, artworks, music and literature are signs of these [the Christian roots], in a certain sense they speak in silence," the Pope said. "Universities, on the contrary, can speak in a loud voice. They can speak in the contemporary language, comprehensible to all."

"Yes, this voice might not be welcome by all who have remained deafened by the ideology of the secularism of our continent," the Holy Father added.

"But this does not exempt the men of science, faithful to the historical truth, from the task to give witness through a solid study of the secrets of science and wisdom, grown in the fertile terrain of Christianity," he said.