PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The yearning for freedom and truth cannot be stamped out of the human spirit, according to Benedict XVI.
The Pope reflected on man’s longing for truth when he addressed today in Prague representatives from the world of academia and culture.
“I address you as one who has been a professor, solicitous of the right to academic freedom and the responsibility for the authentic use of reason, and is now the Pope who, in his role as Shepherd, is recognized as a voice for the ethical reasoning of humanity,” he said.
The Holy Father considered during his discourse the dynamic of reason and faith.
He said: “While some argue that the questions raised by religion, faith and ethics have no place within the purview of collective reason, that view is by no means axiomatic.
“The freedom that underlies the exercise of reason — be it in a university or in the Church — has a purpose: It is directed to the pursuit of truth. […]
“Indeed, man’s thirst for knowledge prompts every generation to broaden the concept of reason and to drink at the wellsprings of faith.”
The Pontiff noted how classical wisdom, “assimilated and placed at the service of the Gospel” was brought to central Europe by the first Christian missionaries. And, he continued, this same spirit led Pope Clement VI to establish there a university in 1347, which continues to “make an important contribution to wider European academic, religious and cultural circles.”
It is the authority of truth, Benedict XVI continued, to which universities must be accountable. And this is what gives meaning to their autonomy.
“Nevertheless,” he continued, “that autonomy can be thwarted in a variety of ways.”
The Holy Father recalled how the “great formative tradition” was “systematically subverted by the reductive ideology of materialism, the repression of religion and the suppression of the human spirit.”
“In 1989, however, the world witnessed in dramatic ways the overthrow of a failed totalitarian ideology and the triumph of the human spirit,” he said. “The yearning for freedom and truth is inalienably part of our common humanity.”
The Pontiff asserted that this yearning can “never be eliminated,” and, he said, if this longing is denied, it is “at humanity’s own peril.”
Thus, Benedict XVI explained, both faith and reason seek to respond to the human yearning for freedom and truth, “both on the level of disciplined reflection and on the level of a sound praxis.”