Cardinal Paul Poupard delivered an address at a conference Monday on "Science, Faith and Culture," jointly organized by the pontifical council and Blackfriars Hall at the university.
The cardinal's address on "Hope and Anguish: The Church's Involvement with Science" left a central message: On "examining, from a historical perspective, both rationalism as well as fideism," the need is seen for "a strong alliance between reason and faith," he explained.
They are the "two wings with which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth," said the cardinal, when evaluating the meeting on Vatican Radio.
In this connection, Cardinal Poupard illustrated four historic steps that have been taken to reach this alliance.
The first was taken by the First Vatican Council, "which, surmounting fideism on one hand and rationalism on the other -- two antagonistic errors so to speak -- speaks instead of faith as a reasonable homage to truth," the cardinal said.
"The second step was, obviously, taken by the Second Vatican Council with 'Gaudium et Spes,' which for the first time dedicated a whole chapter to truth, to culture, stressing particularly the autonomy of scientific research," he continued.
The third step mentioned by the cardinal involved the commission established by John Paul II to surmount the "Galileo case."
The commission worked for 11 years, under the presidency of Cardinal Poupard, and in 1992 acknowledged "in a very loyal manner the errors that were committed in the past and clarified the epistemological question," he said.
The last step, the cardinal added, was taken with the Jubilee of Scientists, in 2000, when the Pope launched a new era of relations between faith and science, together with 2,500 scientists from all over the world.
On that occasion, the project "Science, Theology and Ontological Quest" was launched, in which pontifical universities and athenaeums of Rome participate, with the help of the Templeton Foundation.
Cardinal Poupard and university professors will discuss the project's new objectives this Friday at the Vatican press office.