Benedict XVI Calls for New Class of Intellectuals

Delivers Christmas Greeting to Rome's University Students

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Italy needs "a new class of intellectuals," according to Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this Thursday in his annual pre-Christmas gathering with Rome's university students, held in St. Peter's Basilica. Some 5,000 students and professors from the universities of Rome attended the event, which was begun by John Paul II in 1979. Also present was the Holy Father's vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Cardinal Vallini.

In his homily, Benedict XVI underscored the necessity of profound educational action and a continual discernment, which "must involve the whole academic community, promoting that synthesis between intellectual formation, moral discipline and religious commitment."

"In our times," he stressed, "one sees the need for a new class of intellectuals who are able to interpret social and cultural dynamics and offer solutions that are not abstract but concrete and realistic. The university is called to play this irreplaceable role and the Church is its convinced and active supporter."

At the beginning of the celebration, Renato Lauro, rector of the University of Rome "Tor Vergata," addressed a brief word of greeting to the Pontiff, emphasizing that "believing is not opposed to thinking and intellectual commitment, but it demands it and employs it in a new way with other motivations, as the past 2,000 years of the history of the West have demonstrated through philosophers, theologians, artists and men of science who were profound believers."

In his homily, Benedict XVI invited those presence to fix their gaze upon the stable of Bethlehem and to set out on that path to the Lord who was born to free "the heart from every ferment of intolerance and false expectation," which can always develop if one forgets "that God has already come, he is already at work in our history" and "he asks to be heard."

"Returning there, to that humble and august place, is not a merely ideal journey," he warned, "it is the journey that we are called to take experiencing today God’s nearness and his action that renews and sustains our existence."

"We too must travel to Bethlehem," he encouraged them, "with our gaze turned to God who is patient and faithful, who knows how to wait, who knows how to pause, who knows how to respect the seasons of our existence. That child who we will meet is the full manifestation of the mystery of the love of God, who loves, giving his life, who loves in a disinterested way, who teaches us to love and only asks to be loved."

At the conclusion of the prayer event, a delegation of African university students handed over the icon of Mary Sedes Sapientiae to a group of Spanish students, symbolically initiating the pilgrimage of the icon through all of Spain’s universities ahead of the 26th World Youth Day that will take place in Madrid in August 2011.