Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pope: St. Thomas Aquinas Model of Dialogue

From Asia News Italy:
The Pope made an appeal today against violence in Lebanon and Gaza, for leprosy patients on World Day of Leprosy, but above all to scientists and men and women of culture “not to be afraid” of the dialogue between faith and reason so that we can avoid the risk of “schizophrenia”, irrationality, and the conflict with cultures in the south of the world.

To talk again about the issue of “faith and reason”, which he so skilfully addressed in Regensburg, the Holy Father used as his starting point today’s saint, the philosopher and theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, “a compelling model of harmony between reason and faith, dimensions of the human spirit, that are fully realised in their meeting and dialogue.”

“The relationship between faith and reason,” the Pope stressed, “represents a great challenge to the Western world’s prevailing culture and for this reason, the beloved John Paul II devoted an encyclical to the issue titled just that: Fides et ratio – Faith and Reason. I, too, recently took up the issue in my address at Regensburg University.”

The problem is that today man often reduces himself “to think only about material and experimental objects and shuts himself off from the main questions about life, himself and God” and therefore “becomes poorer”. Benedict XVI calls this situation, “schizophrenia”.

“In reality,” he said,” modern scientific development brings innumerable positive effects and this must be acknowledged. At the same time however, we must admit that the tendency to consider true only what can be demonstrated experimentally represents a limitation of human reason and causes a terrible schizophrenia in which rationalism, materialism, hyper-technology and unrestrained instinctiveness” live side by side.

From this comes the Pope’s appeal to “rediscover in new ways human rationality that is open to the light of the divine Logos and its perfect revelation Jesus Christ, Son of God made man. When the Christian faith is true it does not mortify freedom and human reason. If so, why then should faith and reason fear each other when meeting and engaging in dialogue can enable them to express what is best in each other? Faith supposes reason and perfects it, and reason, enlightened by faith finds the strength to rise to the knowledge of God and spiritual reality. Human reason loses nothing by opening up to the contents of faith; on the contrary, the latter need its free and conscious adherence.”

Referring to Saint Thomas Aquinas, who in the 13th century was able to achieve a synthesis of Christian, Islamic and Jewish cultures, Benedict XVI noted that by rediscovering reason open to faith it is possible to engage in dialogue with non European cultures which view with concern and fear the atheistic culture of the West.

“With far-sighted wisdom,” the Pontiff explained, “Saint Thomas Aquinas was able to fruitfully relate to the Arab and Jewish ideas of his time so much so that he can always be considered a relevant teacher of dialogue between cultures and religions. He was able to achieve that admirable Christian synthesis between reason and faith which represents a precious heritage upon which Western civilization can draw and which can be used effectively to engage in dialogue the other great cultural and religious traditions of the East and the South of the world.”

The Pope ended saying: “Let us pray that Christians, especially those that operate in the world of academe and culture, can express the reasonableness of their faith and bear witness to it in a dialogue inspired by love. Let us ask the Lord for this gift by the intercession of Saint Thomas Aquinas and especially of Mary, Seat of Wisdom.”