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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 follows:

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 disastrous kind?

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 Blessing.

Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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