Universities Need to Recall Christian Roots Too, Says John Paul II

Points to "Happy Synthesis" of the Past

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 21, 2003 (Zenit.org).- To recall the Christian past is an essential foundation "for the cultural perspective of Europe today and tomorrow," in whose construction the university has "an irreplaceable role," says John Paul II.



The Pope made that point Saturday when he received some 1,500 participants of the international symposium on the "University and Church in Europe" in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

He said the relation between the university and the Church leads "directly to the heart of Europe, there where its civilization succeeded in expressing itself in one of its most emblematic institutions."

It was during the 13th and 14th centuries, when humanism arose "as a most happy synthesis between theological and philosophical learning and the rest of the sciences," the Holy Father said.

This synthesis would have been "unthinkable without Christianity and, therefore, without the secular work of evangelization carried out by the Church in the encounter with multiple ethnic and cultural realities of the continent," he said.

The new Europe "cannot project itself without drinking from its own sources," the Pope added. "The same can be said about the university."

John Paul II added that just as "Europe cannot be reduced to the market, neither can the university, even though it must be inserted in the social and economic fabric, be subjected to its exigencies, at the price of losing its own identity, which continues to be primarily cultural."

The bonds of appreciation and trust between the Church and the university are expressed in "professors and students who know how to join competence and scientific rigor with an intense spiritual life, to animate the university environment with an evangelical spirit" as in "Catholic universities, in which the heritage of the old universities is updated."

More than 1,500 participants from 40 countries, including students, professors, rectors, chaplains and bishops responsible for university pastoral care, registered for the symposium, held from July 17-20. It was promoted by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Italian episcopal conference.

Organized in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of the University and Scientific Research, the event was held to celebrate the seventh centenary of the foundation of La Sapienza, the oldest university in Rome.