Pope's Address to University Students' Federation

“Do not be content with partial truths or reassuring illusions, but gather from your study an ever fuller understanding of reality”

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Here is a translation of the Pope’s message Friday to the Italian Catholic University Federation (FUCI), on the occasion of the Extraordinary Congress for the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, that took place in Arezzo from October 16-18. The theme was: In Spirit and Truth. The Testimony of Giovanni Battista Montini in the University and in Contemporary Culture, promoted and organized by the Federation of Italian Catholic Universities, in collaboration with the Diocese of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro.

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Dear Young People of F.U.C.I.

I learned with pleasure that your Federation is preparing to hold an Extraordinary National Congress at Arezzo, to rediscover the prophetic figure of my Venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, who was your Central Assistant from 1925 to 1933, and who I will have the joy of proclaiming Blessed on October 19, 2014. In giving the participants and all the members my affectionate greeting, I wish to assure you of my spiritual closeness and support for the works you do with three words that can help you in your commitment.

The first word I consign to you is studium. The essential thing of university life resides in study, in the effort and patience of thinking that reveals man’s tension towards truth, goodness and beauty. Be aware that, in your study, you are receiving a fecund opportunity to recognize and give voice to the most profound desires harboured in your heart, and the possibility to make them mature.

To study is to support a precise vocation. Therefore, university life is a dynamism oriented and characterized by research and fraternal sharing. Take advantage of this propitious time and study deeply and with constancy, always open to others. Do not be content with partial truths or reassuring illusions, but gather from your study an ever fuller understanding of reality. Necessary to do this are humility in listening and a farsighted look. To study is not to appropriate a reality to manipulate it, but to let it speak to you and reveal something to you, very often also something about ourselves; and reality does not let itself be understood without a willingness to refine one’s perspective and to look at it with new eyes. Therefore, study with courage and with hope. Only in this way will the University be able to become a place of careful and attentive discernment, an observatory on the world and on the questions that challenge man most profoundly. Perseverance in work and fidelity to things can bear much fruit. Study is the watch of the watchman. This is the true and proper leap of quality that occurs in the University, which makes a mature unified personality and makes us become adults in the intellectual as well as the spiritual life. Study becomes an extraordinary interior endeavour and especially an experience of grace: to pray as if everything depended on God, to act as if everything depended on us,” said Saint Ignatius of Loyola. We must do our best and become hospitable, receptive of a truth that is not ours, which is given to us always with a measure of gratuitousness.

The second word that I entrust to you is research.  May the method of your study be research, dialogue and . May the F.U.C.I. experience always the humility of research, that attitude of silent reception of the unknown, of the other and demonstrate one’s openness and willingness to walk with all those that are driven by a restless tension towards the Truth, believers and non-believers, strangers and the excluded. Research questions itself continually, it becomes encounter with mystery and opens to faith: research makes possible the encounter between faith, reason and science; it allows a harmonious dialogue between them, a fecund exchange that in the awareness and acceptance of the limitations of human understanding makes possible a scientific research carried out in the liberty of conscience. Through this method of research it is possible to attain an ambitious objective: to mend the break between Gospel and the contemporary world through the style of cultural mediation, an itinerant mediation that, without denying the cultural differences, in fact, appreciating them, places itself as horizon of positive planning. May research teach you to be capable of planning and investment, even if it requires effort and patience. It is in the long run that the fruits are gathered of what is sown with research!

This task is entrusted today in particular to young university students because they are called to a cultural challenge: the culture of our time is hungry for the proclamation of the Gospel; it is in need of being encouraged again by strong and firm testimony. In face of the risks of superficiality, of speed, of relativism one can forget the commitment to thought and formation, to a critical spirit and of presence that was entrusted to man, only to man, and which is inscribed in his dignity of person. Remember Montini’s words: “It is the idea that leads man, that generates man’s strength. A man without an idea is a man without personality.” Be able to combine the primacy of reality with the force of ideas that you have researched. Your task is to assume this challenge with the creativity of young people and the gratuitous and free dedication of university study!

The third word is frontier. The University is a frontier that awaits you, a periphery in which to receive and take care of man’s existential poverties. Poverty in relations, in human growth, which tends to fill heads without creating a shared plan of society, a common end, a sincere fraternity. Always take care to encounter the other, to get the “odor” of the men of today, until you are permeated with their joys and hopes, with their sadness and anguishes. Never put barriers that, while wishing to defend the frontier, preclude the encounter with the Lord. In study and in the forms of digital communication your friends sometimes experience loneliness, a lack of hope and of confidence in their own capacities: bring hope and always open your work to others, always be open to sharing, to dialogue. In the culture, especially today, we are in need of putting ourselves at the side of all. You will only be able to surmount the clash between peoples if you succeed in nourishing a culture of encounter and of fraternity. I exhort you to continue to bring the Gospel in the University and the culture in the Church!

This task is entrusted especially to you, young people: always have your eyes turned to the future. Be fertile terrain, journeying with humanity, be renewal in the culture, in the society and in the Church. Courage, humility and listening are necessary to give expression to renewal. I entrust you to Blessed Paul VI that, in the communion of Saints, he may encourage you in your journey and, while I ask you to pray for me, I bless you from my heart, together with your Assistants, relatives and friends.

From the Vatican, October 14, 2014-10-18

FRANCISCUS

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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