Pope Francis' Address at Inauguration of Bronze Bust of Benedict XVI

«[Benedict XVI is] great for the strength and penetration of his intelligence; great for his important contribution to theology; great for his love in addressing the Church and human beings; great for his virtue and his religiosity.»

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At 9.30 this morning, Pope Francis inaugurated a bronze bust in honor of Pope Benedict XVI, at the Pius IV Casina in the Vatican Gardens.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s address to those present, in the course of the inaugural ceremony.


Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!

As the veil of the bust fell, which the Academicians wished to have in the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in sign of recognition and gratitude, a joyful emotion arose in my mind. This bust of Benedict XVI recalls to everyone’s eyes the face of our beloved Pope Ratzinger. It also recalls his spirit: that of his teachings, of his examples, of his works, of his devotion to the Church, to his present “monastic” life. This spirit, far from crumbling with the passage of time, will appear from generation to generation, always greater and more powerful.

Benedict XVI: a great Pope. Great for the strength and penetration of his intelligence; great for his important contribution to theology; great for his love in addressing the Church and human beings; great for his virtue and his religiosity. As you well know, his love for the truth is not limited to theology and philosophy, but is open to the sciences. His love of science overflows in his concern for scientists, without distinction of race, nationality, civilization, or religion; his concern for the Academy with his presence and his word; moreover, he appointed many of its members, including the current President, Werner Arber.

Benedict XVI invited, for the first time, a president of this Academy to take part in the Synod on the New Evangelization, conscious of the importance of science in modern culture. It will certainly not be able to be said of him that study and science dried up his person and his love in his encounters with God and his neighbor but, on the contrary, science, wisdom and prayer dilated his heart and spirit. We thank God for the gift He made to the Church and the world with the existence and pontificate of Pope Benedict. I thank all those who, generously, made possible this work and this ceremony, in particular, the creator of the bust, sculptor Fernando Delia, the Tua Family, and all the Academicians. I wish to thank all of you who are present here to honor this great Pope.   

At the conclusion of your Plenary Session, dear Academicians, I am happy to express my profound esteem and my warm encouragement to carry forward scientific progress and the improvement of the conditions of life of people, especially the poorest.

You are addressing the highly complex topic of the evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go into it all, you understand well the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question. I only wish to underline that God and Christ walk with us and are present also in nature, as the Apostle Paul affirmed in his address at the Areopagus: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time that He assured them of his continual presence, giving being to every reality. And thus creation went forward for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, in fact because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world was not the work of chaos, which owes its origin to another, but it derives directly from a Supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.

In regard to man, instead, there is a change and a novelty. When, on the sixth day of the Genesis account, we come to the creation of man, God gives the human being another autonomy, a different autonomy from that of nature, which is freedom. And He tells man to give a name to all things and to go forward in the course of history. He renders him responsible for creation, also so that he will dominate Creation, so that he will develop it and so forth until the end of time. Therefore, the attitude that corresponds to the scientist, especially to the Christian scientist is to question himself about the future of humanity and of the earth and, as a free and responsible being, to contribute to prepare it, to preserve it, and to eliminate the risks of the environment, be they natural or human. However, at the same time, the scientist must be moved by trust that hidden nature, in its evolving mechanisms, of potentialities that concern the intelligence and freedom, to discover and to act to arrive at development, which is in the plan of the Creator. Then, although limited, man’s action participates in the power of God and is able to build a world adapted to his twofold corporeal and spiritual life; to build a human world for all – for all human beings, and not for a group or a privileged class. This hope and trust in God, Author of nature, and in the capacity of the human spirit, are able to give the researcher new energy and profound serenity. However, it is also true that man’s action, when his liberty becomes autonomy,  — which is not liberty but autonomy —  destroys creation and man takes the place of the Creator. And this is the grave sin against God the Creator.

I encourage you to continue your works and to carry out that felicitous theoretical and practical initiatives in favor of human beings, which do them honor. I now joyfully consign the necklace that Monsignor Sanchez Sorondo will give the new Members. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

<p>[Translation by ZENIT]

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