Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address to the members of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences. The Holy Father received the committee in audience at 11:30am this Saturday at the end of their Plenary Assembly at the Vatican.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I meet with you at the end of your Plenary Assembly in which, as the President recalled, you commemorated the 60th anniversary of the institution of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences by the Venerable Pius XII. I am grateful for the sentiments expressed in your name by Father Ardura, and I am especially thankful for the commitment with which you put your competencies and professionalism at the service of the Church and of the Holy See.

Cicero’s famous affirmation in De Oratore always remains valid, taken up partially by Blessed John XXIII, so passionate about historical studies, in the opening address of Vatican Council II: “Historia vero testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae.” The study of history represents in fact one of the ways for the passionate seeking of truth, which has always pervaded man’s spirit.

In your studies and your teaching, you are confronted in particular with the affairs of the Church which walks in time, with her glorious history of evangelization, of hope, of daily struggle, of a life consumed in service, of constancy in toilsome work (Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 96), as well as of infidelity, of denials, of sins. Your research, marked at the same time by authentic ecclesial passion and sincere love of the truth, can be of great help to those who have the task of discerning what the Holy Spirit wishes to say to today’s Church.

Moreover, the Committee of Historical Sciences has been inserted for a long time in the dialogue and cooperation with cultural centers and academic centers of numerous nations, received with respect in the global unity of historical studies. In your meeting and collaboration with researchers of every culture and religion, you can offer a specific contribution to the dialogue between the Church and the contemporary world.

Among the initiatives you have planned, I think in particular of the international congress on the occasion of the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. In it, you will review the most recent acquisitions of research, with special attention to the diplomatic initiatives of the Holy See during that tragic conflict, and of the contribution given by Catholics and other Christians to aid the wounded, refugees, orphans and widows, the search of the dispersed, as well as the reconstruction of a world lacerated by what Benedict XV described as “pointless slaughter” (Letter to Heads of the Belligerent Nations, August 1, 1917). And Pius XII’s heartbroken appeal resounds all the more timely still today: “Nothing is lost with peace. Everything can be lost with war.” (Radio-Message, August 24, 1939). When we hear those words again, we truly realize that history is “magistra vitae."

Dear friends, I wish you an ever profitable endeavor of studies, and I encourage you to continue with enthusiasm in the search and service of the truth. My heartfelt blessing and I ask you to remember me in your prayer. Thank you!

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]