Pope Francis' Message to the 18th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies

This afternoon, in the Great Hall of the Saint Pius X Palace, the 18th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies is taking place whose theme this year is: “Oculata fides: Reading the truth with the eyes of Christ

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The works were introduced by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Council of Coordination between the Pontifical Academies.

In the course of the Session, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, read the Message sent by Pope Francis.

Here is a translation of the text.

* * *

To the Venerable Brother


President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

and of the Council of Coordination between the Pontifical Academies

On the occasion of the 18th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, I am happy to give you my cordial greeting, which I gladly extend to the Presidents and the Academics, as well as to the Cardinals, the Bishops, the Ambassadors and to all the participants.

This year’s Session, intentionally convoked on the day of the liturgical Memoria of Saint Thomas Aquinas, was organized by the Pontifical Academy named after him and by the Pontifical Academy of Theology, and has as its theme: “Oculata fides: culata fides: Reading the truth with the eyes of Christ.” This theme refers in fact to an expression of the Doctor Angelicus quoted in the Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei. I thank you for having proposed this topic for reflection, as well as that of the relation between the Encyclical and the recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

In both these Documents, in fact, I wished to invite to reflection on the “luminous” dimension of faith and on the connection between faith and truth, to enquire not only with the eyes of the mind but also with those of the heart, that is, in the perspective of love. Saint Paul affirms: “man believes with his heart” (Romans 10:10). “Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge which faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes” (Lumen fidei, 26). On the day after Jesus’ Resurrection, his disciples did not contemplate a purely interior and abstract truth, but a truth that was disclosed to them precisely in the encounter with the Risen One, in the contemplation of His life, of His mysteries. Saint Thomas Aquinas rightly affirms that it is about an oculata fides, a faith that sees! (cf. Ibid., 30).

Important consequences stem from this, be it for the action of believers, be it for the method of work of theologians: “Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual. A common truth intimidates us, for we identify it with the intransigent demands of totalitarian systems. But if truth is a truth of love, if it is a truth disclosed in personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it can be set free from its enclosure in individuals and become part of the common good. . .. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all” (Ibid., 34).

This perspective — of a Church altogether journeying and altogether missionary — is the one developed in the Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in the present-day world. The “dream of a missionary choice capable of renewing everything” (Evangelii gaudium, 27) concerns the whole Church and every part of her. The Pontifical Academies are also called to this transformation, so that the ecclesial Body will not lack the contribution proper to them. However, it is not about doing external, “façade” operations. Rather, for you also it is about concentrating even more “on the essential, on what is more beautiful, greater, more attractive and at the same time more necessary” (Ibid., 35). In this way, “the proposal is simplified, without losing profundity and truth because of this, and thus it becomes more convincing and radiant” (Ibid.) Because of this, dear and distinguished Brothers, I ask for your qualified collaboration to the service of the mission of the whole Church.

Precisely to encourage all those, among young students of Theology, who wish to make their contribution, through research, to the promotion and the realization of the a new Christian humanism, I am happy to assign ex aequo the Prize of the Pontifical Academies, dedicated this year to theological research  and to the study of the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas, to two young scholars: the Reverend Professor Alessandro Clemenzia, for the work entitled In the Trinity as Church: A Dialogue with Heribert Muhlen, and to Professor Maria Silvia Vaccarezza for the work The Reasons of the Contingent: Practical Wisdom between Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

Finally, wishing the Academics and all here present a fruitful commitment in their respective fields of research, I entrust each one to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Sedes Sapientiae, I ask for a remembrance in prayer for me and for my ministry, and I impart from my heart a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, January 28, 2014                                                         FRANCISCUS

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