ADDRESS TO THE WORLD OF CULTURE
True science builds rather than destroys!
In the morning of Sunday,17 April 1988, the Holy Father went to the Capitular
Library in Verona where leaders of the world of culture were waiting to greet
him and listen to his message of encouragement. A translation of that discourse
Reverend Canons and Priests, Distinguished Academics, and Brothers,
1. It is an honor and a pleasure for me to be in this historic center of
studies, which the Monsignor Prefect has fittingly referred to as ancient and
venerable. These same sentiments inspire the greeting that I wish to extend to
each of you as representatives of a cathedral church which holds many of the
most precious codices of the ecclesiastical and humanistic tradition of this
noble land, and also as representatives of the major cultural institutions of
Verona: the University, the Theological Institutes named alter St. Zeno and St.
Bernardino, the Ecumenical Institute and, in general, the world of science and
culture which here finds a privileged fount of nourishment and growth.
All of you, according to your respective offices and fields, are the heirs
and the first beneficiaries or the rich cultural patrimony that is contained in
this prestigious library and which you develop with your original contributions
of thought, research and activity. In this work the University and the other
institutions constitute the point of reference for the mutual comparison of data
and fruitful collaboration.
This evening's gathering gives me the pleasant opportunity to emphasize and
confirm the great attention and particular interest that the Church has shown in
culture and all its manifestations throughout the centuries.
There is no doubt that you who are involved in the world of culture and
science have a unique responsibility today, because it is from you that men and
women expect adequate and precise solutions to the many old and new problems
that assail them. If your answers are always under the "sign of the good" and
if, above all, they are always respectful of the life and dignity of the human
person, then it's easy to imagine what benefit you can give to humanity.
No less than in the past, when culture was intimately bound up with
humanity's deepest questions in an attempt to explore their mystery, and when it
constituted the summit of the meeting of reason and faith, culture is called
today to an encounter with faith. This is a continual encounter because of their
respective and clearly distinct areas of competence, but it would not be proper
(nor was it ever!) to place culture and faith in opposition and declare them
irreconcilable. It is certainly true that the concept of culture has become much
broader today, that it has become more diversified and complex than in the past;
still, faith has nothing to fear from the encounter with it. Indeed the truth is
that the Church herself seeks such an encounter in the conviction that the more
culture is open to the demands of faith, to which culture, for its part, makes a
valuable contribution, the more capable it will be of serving mankind.
The Christian faith is the constant friend of that culture which favors the
integral promotion of man, and therefore she appreciates and encourages both the
humanistic disciplines and the so-called exact sciences, as the bi-millennial
history of the Church confirms.
2. Allow me an observation regarding precisely this area of science and
scientific research. There is no doubt that the sciences must follow the laws
and methodologies proper to them; still, in order to be truly sciences and to be
always at the service of man, they must never prescind from the moral norms that
govern the dynamism of nature and of life itself. Far from conflicting with the
intrinsic norms of the particular scientific disciplines, respect for ethical
norms assures them of the inalienable human orientation that their experts
-scientists, technicians, researchers -certainly propose in their meritorious
labors. A mere glance at the most advanced sectors of atomic physics and
molecular biology suffices: science has made great strides in its knowledge of
the nucleus of the atom and the nucleus of the cell; but who can fail to
recognize that where the superior moral demands are ignored there could occur,
alongside the aforementioned marvelous benefits, consequences of the most
3. No, science, true science does not destroy, but builds! As the Second
Vatican Council authoritatively wrote, "Methodical research in all branches of
knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not
override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of
the world and the things of faith derive from the same God." (Gaudium et Spes,
36). Not only this, but the scrutiny and the knowledge of nature and of humanity
start us on the paths that lead to God, while "Once God is forgotten, the
creature is lost sight of as well" (ibid.).
Before such a qualified assembly, I wish to express once again my hope that
between faith and science there may be a growing mutual esteem, that they may
work together to realize the original and providential design that God the
Creator has pre-established for man, who is his creature and his child!
Speaking on behalf of the Church, once again I invite you, men and women of
science and culture. to reaffirm the primacy of man always bearing in mind that
his orientation to, and yearning for, God are irrepressible. To you is entrusted
the task, sometimes difficult but always possible and exciting, of combining
science and faith.
To this end I invoke upon you and upon your work the assistance of heavenly
Wisdom, while as a confirmation of my esteem I impart to you my Apostolic
Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion