The Pope made this observation Saturday when he received students and representatives of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. The university is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its foundation.
The Holy Father noted that universities are not removed from the "great and rapid transformations" of our day. "The humanist culture seems affected by a progressive deterioration, while the accent is placed on so-called 'productive' disciplines, of a technological and economic kind," he said. "Hence, contemporary culture tends to confine religion outside the spaces of rationality: to the degree that the empirical sciences monopolize the territories of reason, there seems to be no room for reason in believing, so that the religious dimension is relegated to the sphere of opinion and the private."
But faith and culture are intrinsically united, the Pontiff reminded, noting that the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart was established for "the search for truth, for the whole truth, for the whole truth of our being."
When the faith-culture "marriage" is separated, he warned, "humanity tends to withdraw and shut itself in its own creative capacities."
Because of this, it is necessary that the university have "a genuine passion for the question of the absolute, for truth itself, and hence also for theological learning."
Passion for man
Benedict XVI said that a "genuine passion for humanity" must be the inspiration in university work.
"Only in the service of man does science develop as a real cultivation and custodian of the universe," and "to serve man is to effect truth in charity, to love life, to always respect it, beginning in situations where it is more fragile and defenseless."
"The declaration of faith and the testimony of charity are inseparable," he declared. "In fact, the profound nucleus of the truth of God is the love with which he bent down to man and, in Christ, offered him infinite gifts of grace."
"The summit of knowledge of God is reached in love; a love that is able to go to the root, which is not content with occasional philanthropic expressions, but which illumines the meaning of life with the Truth of Christ, which transforms man's heart and draws him away from the egoism that generates misery and death."
The Christian faith, the Bishop of Rome asserted, "does not make of charity a vague and pious sentiment, but a force able to illumine the paths of life in all its expressions. Without this vision, without this original and profound theological dimension, charity is content with occasional help and gives up the prophetic duty that is proper to it, to transform the life of the person and the very structures of society."
He spoke of the conviction that "the force of the Gospel is able to renew human relations and penetrate the heart of reality."
In this perspective, the Pope said, the chapel is "the beating heart and constant nourishment of university life."
Echoing John Paul II, he said the chapel is the place to "find nourishment and orientation."
"It is a gymnasium of Christian virtues, in which the life received in baptism grows and develops systematically," the Pope reflected. "It is a welcoming home open to all those who, hearing the voice of the Master in their interior, become seekers of the truth and serve men through their daily dedication to a learning that is not limited to narrow and pragmatic objectives."