The Pope emphasized this point today when receiving officials of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, who were celebrating the 25th anniversary of his first apostolic constitution, "Sapientia Cristiana," on ecclesiastical universities and faculties.
The Church's "task of teaching" is of particular importance at the present time, "marked on one hand by impressive technical progress and, on the other, by contradictions, scissions and tensions," the Holy Father said.
"In fact," he added, "the Gospel exercises its beneficent and lasting effect only to the degree that through its proclamation, in season and out of season, it influences the ways of thinking and penetrates profoundly in the culture."
The Pope continued: "This is the lofty vocation that characterizes the ecclesiastical universities and faculties: to be dedicated with all their strength to unite again the world of science and culture with the truth of the faith, to rediscover the saving order of the divine plan in the reality of this world."
The first mission of ecclesiastical educational centers "continues to be profound reflection on and transmission of the divine mystery, which Christ has revealed to us," John Paul II said.
The Holy Father encouraged the commitment shown by ecclesiastical universities in particularly important disciplines today, "for example, in bioethics, in Islamic studies, in human mobility."
"In this connection, I continue to encourage the initiatives that tend to deepen the links that exist between divine Revelation and the ever new areas of learning in the present reality," he said.
"Today, more than ever, the ecclesiastical universities and faculties must play a part in the 'great springtime' that God is preparing for Christianity," the Pontiff said.
"Contemporary man is very attentive today to certain values: protection of the dignity of the person, the defense of the weak and marginalized, respect of nature, the rejection of violence, worldwide solidarity," he said.
"The Church's academic institutions are committed to cultivating this sensitivity in line with the Gospel, Tradition and the magisterium," the Holy Father added. "It is known that the contemporary world is threatened by ever more profound fissures, for example, between rich and poor countries. They are ruptures that have their foundation in man's distancing himself from God."
"The present snares of individualism, pragmatism, and rationalism extend even to the realms that have the task of formation," the Pope continued.
Therefore, John Paul II urged "ecclesiastical cultural institutions to make the effort to unite always the obedience of the faith with the boldness of reason, allowing themselves to be led by the zeal of charity."
"Instructors must not forget that the activity of teaching is inseparable from the commitment to reflect profoundly on truth, in particular, revealed truth," he indicated.
"Therefore," the Pope said, "they must not dissociate the rigor of their university activity from humble and ready openness to the Word of God, written or transmitted, always remembering that the authentic interpretation of Revelation has been entrusted 'only to the living magisterium of the Church,' which exercises this task in the name of Jesus Christ."