Papal Address at Bonaventure's Birthplace

"The Universe Itself Can Again Be the Voice That Speaks of God"

BAGNOREGGIO, Italy, SEPT. 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Sunday at Bagnoreggio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

This morning's solemn Eucharistic celebration in Viterbo opened my pastoral visit to your diocesan community, and this meeting here in Bagnoreggio practically closes it. I greet you all with affection: religious, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious, pastoral agents, young people and families, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I renew my gratitude first of all to your bishop for his affectionate words, which referred to my link with St. Bonaventure. And I respectfully greet the mayor of Bagnoreggio, grateful for the courteous welcome he gave me in the name of the whole city.

Giovanni Fidanza, who later became Friar Bonaventure, joins his name to that of Bagnoreggio in the well-known presentation that he makes of himself in the Divine Comedy. On saying: "I am the soul of Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio, who in exalted tasks put to one side erroneous endeavors" (Dante, Paradise XII, 127-129), which underscores how, in the important tasks that he had to undertake in the Church, he always postponed attention to temporal realities -- "erroneous endeavors" -- in favor of the spiritual good of souls. Here, in Bagnoreggio, he spent his childhood and adolescence; then he followed St. Francis, for whom he manifested special gratitude because, as he wrote, when he was a child he "snatched him from the jaws of death" (Legenda Maior, Prologus, 3,3) and predicted "bona venture," as your mayor recalled recently. He was able to establish a profound and lasting bond with the poor man of Assisi, drawing from him ascetic inspiration and ecclesial genius. You jealously guard the famous relic of the "holy arm" of this illustrious fellow-citizen, keep alive his memory and reflect deeply on his doctrine, especially through the Center of Bonaventure Studies, founded by Bonaventure Tecchi, which every year promotes special study conferences dedicated to him.

It is not easy to summarize the extensive philosophical, theological and mystical doctrine that St. Bonaventure left us. In this Year for Priests, I would like to invite priests especially to listen to this great doctor of the Church and to reflect more profoundly on his teaching of wisdom rooted in Christ. He directs every step of his speculation and mystical tension to wisdom that flowers in holiness, passing through the degrees that range from what he calls "uniform wisdom," which concerns the essential principles of knowledge, to "multiform wisdom," which consists of the mysterious language of the Bible, and then to "omni-form wisdom," which recognizes in the whole of created reality the reflection of the Creator, to "informed wisdom," that is, the experience of profound mystical contact with God, wherewith man's intellect knows the infinite Mystery in silence (cf. J. Ratzinger, St. Bonaventure and the Theology of History, Porziuncola publishers, 2006, pp. 92ff). On remembering this profound researcher and lover of wisdom, I would also like to express my encouragement and appreciation for the service that theologians are called to give, in the ecclesial community, of that faith that seeks understanding, that faith which is a "friend of intelligence" and which becomes a new life according to God's plan.

From St. Bonaventure's rich cultural and mystical patrimony I limit myself, this afternoon, to consider a "path" of reflection that might be useful for your diocesan community's pastoral journey. He was, in the first place, a tireless seeker of God, from the time of his studies in Paris until his death. He indicates in his writings the path to be followed. "Given that God is on High," he wrote, "the mind must ascend to him with all its strength" (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, No. 25).

In this way, he traces a committed path of faith, in which it is not enough "to read without unction, to speculate without devotion, to do research without admiration, to be circumspect without joy, to be expert without piety, to know without charity, to be intelligent without humility, to study without divine grace, to speak without wisdom inspired by God" (Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Prologue 4). This journey of purification involves the whole person striving, through Christ, to the transforming love of the Trinity. And, given that Christ, forever God and man forever, effects in the faithful a new creation with his grace, the exploration of the divine presence becomes contemplation of him in the soul "where he dwells with the gifts of his uncontainable love" (ibid. IV, 4), to be finally transported in him. Hence, faith is the perfection of our cognitive capacities and participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of the world; we experience hope as preparation for our encounter with the Lord, who will constitute the fulfillment of that friendship that already unites us to him. And charity introduces us to divine life, making us see all people as brothers, according to the will of our common heavenly Father.

In addition to being a seeker of God, St. Bonaventure was a seraphic singer of creation who, following St. Francis, learned to "praise God in all and through all creatures," in which "shines the omnipotence, wisdom and goodness of the Creator" (ibid. I, 10). St. Bonaventure presents a positive vision of the world, gift of God's love to men: He recognizes in it the reflection of the highest Goodness and Beauty that, following St. Augustine and St. Francis, assures us that it is God himself. God has given it all to us. From him, as original source, flow truth, goodness and beauty. To God, as on the steps of a stairway, one ascends until arriving and almost attaining the highest Good and in him we find our joy and peace. How useful it would be if also today we rediscovered the beauty and value of creation in the light of divine goodness and beauty! In Christ, observed St. Bonaventure, the universe itself can again be the voice that speaks of God and leads us to explore his presence; exhorts us to honor and glorify him in everything (Cf. Ibid. I, 15). Herein we perceive the spirit of St. Francis, with whom our saint shared love for all creatures.

St. Bonaventure was a messenger of hope. We find a beautiful image of hope in one of his Advent homilies, where he compares the movement of hope to the flight of a bird, which spreads its wings as far as possible, and employs all its energies to move them. In a certain sense, it make its whole being a movement to rise and fly. To hope is to fly, says St. Bonaventure. But hope exacts movement from all our members and our projection to the authentic stature of our being, to God's promises. He who hopes, he affirms, "must lift his head, directing his thoughts on high, to the height of our existence, that is, to God" (Sermo XVI, Dominica I Adv., Opera Omnia, IX, 40a).

In his address, the Lord Mayor posed a question: "What will Bagnoreggio be tomorrow?" In truth, we all wonder about our future and that of the world, and this question has much to do with hope, for which every human heart is thirsty. In the encyclical "Spe Salvi," I wrote that not just any hope is sufficient to address and overcome the difficulties of the present: a "certain hope" is indispensable which, giving us the certainty of attaining a "great" goal," justifies the effort of the journey" (cf. No. 1). Only this "great hope-certainty" assures us that, despite the failures of our personal life and the contradictions of history as a whole, we are always protected by the "indestructible power of Love."

When we are sustained by such hope we never run the risk of losing the courage to contribute, as the saints did, to the salvation of humanity, and "we can open ourselves and open the world so that God will enter, God, who is truth, love and goodness" (cf. No. 35). May St. Bonaventure help us to "spread the wings" of hope, which drives us to be, as he was, incessant seekers of God, singers of the beauties of creation and witnesses of that Love and Beauty that "moves everything."

Thank you, dear friends, once again, for your hospitality. While I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I impart to you, through the intercession of St. Bonaventure and especially of Mary, faithful Virgin and Star of Hope, a special apostolic blessing, which I extend with pleasure to all the inhabitants of this beautiful land, rich in saints.


Papal Address to Theology Professors
"Listen to the Answers That the Christian Faith Gives Us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2007 ( Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 21 to a delegation of the theological faculty of the University of T?bingen, Germany.

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Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Dear Bishop, esteemed Dean, distinguished Colleagues, if I may be permitted to call you such!

I thank you for this visit and I can say that it makes me deeply happy.

On the one hand, an encounter with one's past is always beautiful because there is something rejuvenating about it. On the other, however, it is something more than a nostalgic meeting.

You yourself, Your Excellency, said that it is also a sign: a sign on the one hand of how dear to me theology is -- and how could it be otherwise? -- because I had considered teaching to be my true vocation, even if the Good Lord suddenly wanted something else.

At the same time, however, it is also a sign on your part, that is, that you see the interior unity between theological research, doctrine and theological work, and pastoral service in the Church, and thus the total ecclesial commitment for the human being, for the world and for our future.

Yesterday evening, of course, I started rummaging among my memories with a view to this meeting. So it was that a memory came to mind which fits in with what you have just said, Mr Dean: in other words, the memory of the Grand Senate. I do not know today whether all the appointments still pass through the Grand Senate.

It was very interesting that when, for example, a chair of mathematics or Assyriology or the physics of solid bodies or any other subject was to be assigned, the contribution from the other faculties was minimal, and everything was resolved quite quickly because almost no one dared to speak out. The situation in the humanistic disciplines was rather different and when the chairs of theology came up in both faculties, in the end, everyone had their say.

Thus, it was evident that all the professors of the University felt in some way competent in theology; they had the feeling that they could and should participate in the decision. Theology was obviously very dear to them.

Consequently, on the one hand it could be perceived that their colleagues in the other faculties in a certain way considered that theology was the heart of the University, and on the other, that theology was precisely something that concerned everyone, in which all felt involved and somehow also knew that they were competent.

In other words, come to think of it, this means that precisely in the debate concerning the chairs of theology, the University could be experienced as a university. I am pleased to learn that these cooptations exist today, more than in the past, although Tubingen has always striven for this.

I do not know whether the Leibniz-Kolleg of which I was a member still exists; in any case, the modern University runs a considerable risk of becoming, as it were, a complex of advanced study institutes externally and institutionally united rather than being able to create the interior unity of universitas.

Theology was evidently something in which the universitas was present and in which it was demonstrated that the whole forms a unit, and that precisely at its root are a common questioning, a common task, a common purpose.

I think, moreover, that one can see in this a deep appreciation of theology. I consider this a particularly important fact.

It reveals that in our time -- at least in the Latin countries where the secularity of the State and State institutions is emphasized to the extreme and therefore the omission of all that has to do with the Church, Christianity and faith is demanded -- interconnections exist from which it is impossible to separate that complex reality which we call theology (which is also fundamentally linked with the Church, faith and Christianity).

It thus becomes evident in our collection of European situations -- however secular, in a certain perspective, they are and must be -- that Christian thought with its questions and answers is present and accompanies them.

I maintain, on the one hand, that this fact shows that theology itself continues in a certain way to make its contribution and to constitute what the University is.

But on the other, it naturally also implies an immense challenge to theology to satisfy this expectation, to be equal to it and to carry out the service entrusted to it and expected of it.

I am pleased that through the cooptations which have now become visible in a rather practical way -- far more than they used to be -- that the intra-university debate makes the University truly what it is, involving it in a collective self-questioning and responding.

However, I think that this is also a reason to reflect on how far we are able -- not only in Tubingen but also elsewhere -- to satisfy this need. The University and society, humanity, in fact, need questions, but they also need answers. And I hold that in this regard there emerges for theology -- and not only for theology -- a certain dialectic between scientific rigour and the greatest question that transcends it and constantly emerges from it: the question about truth.

I would like to make this clearer with an example. An exegete, an interpreter of Sacred Scripture, must explain it as a historical work "secundum artem", that is, with the scientific rigour that we know in accordance with all the historical elements that require it and with the necessary methodology.

This alone, however, does not suffice for him to be a theologian. If he were to limit himself to doing this, then theology, or at any rate the interpretation of the Bible, would be something similar to Egyptology or Assyriology, or any other specialization.

To be a theologian and to carry out this service for the University, and I dare to say for humanity -- hence, the service that is expected of him -- he must go further and ask: but is what is said there true? And if it is true, does it concern us? And how does it concern us? And how can we recognize that it is true and concerns us?

In my opinion, in this regard, even in the scientific context, theology is always also requested and called into question over and above the scientific perspective.

The University and humanity are in need of questions. Whenever questions are no longer asked, even those that concern the essential and go beyond any specialization, we no longer receive answers, either.

Only if we ask, and if with our questions we are radical, as radical as theology must be radical over and above any specialization, can we hope to obtain answers to these fundamental questions which concern us all.

First of all, we have to ask questions. Those who do not ask do not get a reply.

But I would add that for theology, in addition to the courage to ask, we also need the humility to listen to the answers that the Christian faith gives us; the humility to perceive in these answers their reasonableness and thus to make them newly accessible to our time and to ourselves.

Thus, not only is the University built up but also humanity is helped to live. For this task, I invoke God's Blessing upon you.


"'Catholic' Identity Is in No Way Reductive"

Papal Address at University of Sacred Heart

ROME, DEC. 24, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Nov. 25 when visiting the Rome campus of the University of the Sacred Heart.

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Rector Magnificent,
Distinguished Presidents and Professors,
Doctors and Auxiliaries,
Dear Students,

I am very pleased to visit the Rome campus of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart to officially inaugurate the Academic Year 2005-2006. My thoughts turn at this moment to the other branches of the athenaeum: to the main one in Milan, near the beautiful Basilica of St. Ambrose, and to the ones in Brescia, Piacenza-Cremona and Campobasso.

I would like the whole family of the "Catholic University" to feel united beneath God's gaze at this moment, at the beginning of the new stretch on its journey of commitment to science and training.

With us here in spirit are Father Gemelli and all the other men and women who forged the history of the athenaeum with their enlightened dedication. We also feel the Popes close to us, from Benedict XV to John Paul II, who always had special ties with this university. My visit today, in fact, is in continuity with the visit my venerable predecessor made five years ago to this seat of learning and for the same occasion.

I address a cordial greeting to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, president of the Toniolo Institute, and to the Rector Magnificent, Professor Lorenzo Ornaghi, and I thank them both for their courteous words to me on behalf of all those present.

I extend my greeting with respect to the other distinguished religious and civil figures who have gathered here, particularly Senator Emilio Colombo, who has been a member of the Permanent Committee of the Toniolo Institute for 48 years and its president from 1986 to 2003. I offer him my deep gratitude for all he has done to serve the university.

While we are gathered here, distinguished and dear friends, we cannot but think of the moments filled with anxiety and emotion that we lived through during John Paul II's last stays as a patient at this polyclinic. In those days, the thoughts of Catholics in every part of the world -- and not only Catholics -- were focused on the Gemelli hospital.

From his two hospital rooms, the Pope imparted an incomparable lesson to all on the Christian meaning of life and suffering, witnessing in the first person to the truth of the Christian message. I therefore desire to express once again my grateful appreciation, and that of countless people, for the solicitous care offered to the Holy Father. May he obtain heavenly rewards for each one.

Today, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart has about 40,000 students enrolled in its five branches and 14 faculties. The thought: "what a responsibility!" springs spontaneously to mind. Thousands and thousands of young people pass through the halls of the "Catholic University." How do they leave it? What culture did they encounter, assimilate or work out?

This is the great challenge, which concerns in the first place the group that directs the athenaeum, the teaching staff, hence, the students themselves: to give life to an authentic Catholic university that excels in the quality of its research and teaching and, at the same time, its fidelity to the Gospel and the Church's magisterium.

In this regard, it is providential that the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart is structurally linked to the Holy See through the Toniolo Institute for Advanced Studies, whose task it was and is to guarantee the attainment of the institutional goals of this athenaeum for Italian Catholics. This original definition, always confirmed by my predecessors, collegially guarantees that the university is firmly anchored to the Chair of Peter and to the patrimony of values bequeathed as a legacy by the founders. To all members of this praiseworthy Institution, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

So, let us return to the question: what culture? I am delighted that the rector, in his presentation, placed the emphasis on the original and ever up-to-date "mission" of the Catholic university, that is, to undertake scientific research and teaching activities in accordance with a consistent cultural and formative project, at the service of the young generations and the human and Christian development of society.

In this regard, the patrimony of teaching that Pope John Paul II bequeathed to us, which culminated in his apostolic constitution "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" of 1990, is of great value. He always showed that the "Catholic" identity is in no way reductive but rather exalts the university.

Indeed, if the fundamental mission of every university is "a continuous quest for the truth through its research, and the preservation and communication of knowledge for the good of society" ("Ex Corde Ecclesiae," No. 30), a Catholic academic community is distinguished by the Christian inspiration of individuals and of the university community itself, in the light of the faith that illuminates thought, for the fidelity to the Christian message as it is presented by the Church and for the institutional commitment to the service of the People of God (cf. ibid., No. 13).

The Catholic university is therefore a vast laboratory where, in accordance with the different disciplines, ever new areas of research are developed in a stimulating confrontation between faith and reason that aims to recover the harmonious synthesis achieved by Thomas Aquinas and other great Christian thinkers, a synthesis that is unfortunately challenged by important currents of modern philosophy.

The consequence of this contestation has been that, as a criterion of rationality, empirical proof by experimentation has become ever more exclusive. The fundamental human questions -- how to live and how to die -- thus appear to be excluded from the context of rationality and are left to the sphere of subjectivity.

Consequently, the issue that brought universities into being -- the question of the true and the good -- in the end disappears to be replaced by the question of feasibility.

This then is the great challenge to Catholic universities: to impart knowledge in the perspective of true rationality, different from that of today which largely prevails, in accordance with a reason open to the question of the truth and to the great values inscribed in being itself, hence, open to the transcendent, to God.

We now know that this is possible precisely in the light of the revelation of Christ, who united in himself God and man, eternity and time, spirit and matter. "In the beginning was the Word," the Logos, creative reason ... and "the Word became flesh" (John 1:1,14).

The divine Logos, eternal reason, is the origin of the universe and was united once and for all with humanity, the world and history, in Christ. In the light of this capital truth of faith and of reason at the same time, it was once again possible, in 2000, to combine faith and knowledge.

The daily work of a Catholic university, I should say, takes place on this basis. Is this not an exciting adventure? Yes, it is, because one discovers, moving within this horizon of meaning, the intrinsic unity that links the different branches of knowledge: theology, philosophy, medicine, economics, every discipline, even the most specialized technologies, since everything is connected.

Choosing a Catholic university means choosing this approach which, despite the inevitable historical limitations, characterizes the European culture, for whose formation the universities were, not for nothing, born historically "ex corde Ecclesiae" [from the heart of the Church] and have made a fundamental contribution.

Therefore, dear friends, with renewed passion for the truth and for human beings, cast your nets into the deep, into the open seas of knowledge, trusting in Christ's words, even when it happens that you experience the exhaustion and disappointment of having "caught" nothing.

In the vast ocean of culture Christ always needs "fishers of men," that is, knowledgeable and well-qualified people who put their professional skills at the service of good, ultimately at the service of the Kingdom of God.

If research work in a university is carried out in a faith perspective, it is also part of this service to the Kingdom and to humankind! I am thinking of all the research work being carried out in the many institutes of the Catholic University: It is destined to the glory of God and to the spiritual and material promotion of humanity.

At this moment, I am thinking in particular of the scientific institute that your athenaeum wished to offer to Pope John Paul II on November 9, 2000, on the occasion of his visit here to solemnly inaugurate the academic year.

I should like to state that I also have very much at heart the "Paul VI International Scientific Institute for Research on Human Fertility and Infertility" for responsible procreation (cf. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, Nov. 22, 2000, p. 7). Indeed, because of its institutional goals, it is presented as an eloquent example of that synthesis of truth and love which constitutes the vital center of Catholic culture.

The institute, which came into being in response to the appeal launched by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical "Humanae Vitae," suggested giving a stable scientific basis both to the natural regulation of human fertility and to the commitment to overcome possible infertility using natural methods.

As I make my own my venerable predecessor's grateful appreciation for this scientific initiative, I hope that it will be able to find the support it needs to carry out its important research activities.

Distinguished professors and dear students, the academic year we are inaugurating today is the 85th in the history of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. In fact, lessons began in Milan in December 1921, with 100 students enrolled in the two faculties of social sciences and philosophy.

As I thank the Lord with you for the long and fruitful journey completed, I urge you to stay faithful to the spirit of the beginnings as well as to the statutes on which this institution is founded. You will thus be able to achieve a fruitful and harmonious synthesis between Catholic identity and full insertion into the Italian university system, in accordance with the project of Giuseppe Toniolo and Father Agostino Gemelli.

This is the hope that I address to all of you today: Continue to build the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart day by day, with enthusiasm and with joy. I accompany you in this task with my prayers and with a special apostolic blessing.


"Theology Must Always Be Exercised in the Church"

Pope's Address to International Theological Commission

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Dec. 1 to members of the International Theological Commission.

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Most Reverend President,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Professors,
Dear Collaborators,

I am pleased to greet you at this family meeting which reminds me of the prolonged and deep collaboration I have had with many of you. I was appointed a member of the International Theological Commission in 1969 and became its president in 1982.

I would like first of all to express my heartfelt gratitude for the tribute addressed to me by Archbishop Levada, who is taking part in a meeting of the International Theological Commission for the first time as president. I offer him my prayerful good wishes that the light and power of the Holy Spirit may accompany him in the fulfillment of the task that has been entrusted to him.

With the plenary meeting that is taking place during these days, the work of the seventh "quinquennium" of the commission continues. It began last year when I was still president. I gladly take this opportunity to encourage each one of you to persevere in your reflection on the themes chosen for study in the coming years.

When he received the members on 7 October last year, the late Pope John Paul II pointed out the great importance of two themes that you are currently examining: "The fate of children who die without baptism in the context of the universal salvific will of God, of the one mediation of Jesus Christ and of the sacramentality of the Church," and "Natural moral law."

The latter is of special importance for understanding the basis of the rights that are rooted in the person's nature and as such, derive from the will of God the Creator.

Even before any positive law by a state, these laws are universal, inviolable and inalienable, and must therefore be recognized as such by all, and especially by the civil authorities who are called to promote them and guarantee respect for them.

Even if the concept of "human nature" seems to have been lost in contemporary culture, the fact remains that human rights cannot be understood without presupposing that values and norms, which are to be rediscovered and reaffirmed and not invented or subjectively or arbitrarily imposed, are innate in the human being.

At this point the dialogue with the secular world is of great importance: It must appear clearly that the denial of the ontological foundation of the essential values of human life inevitably ends in positivism and makes law dependent on the currents of thought that predominate in a society, thereby corrupting law and making it an instrument of power instead of subordinating power to law.

The third topic is of equal importance. It was selected at the plenary meeting last year: "The status and method of Catholic theology."

Theology can only result from obedience to the impulse of truth and from love that desires to be ever better acquainted with the one it loves, in this case God himself, whose goodness we recognized in the act of faith (cf. "Donum Veritatis," No. 7).

We know God because in his infinite goodness he made himself known, through creation but especially through his Only-begotten Son, who for us became man and died and rose for our salvation.

The revelation of Christ is consequently the fundamental normative starting point for theology.

Theology must always be exercised in the Church and for the Church, the Body of Christ, the only subject with Christ, and thus also in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition. The theologian's work, therefore, must take place in communion with the living voice of the Church, that is, with the living magisterium of the Church and under her authority.

To consider theology a private affair of the theologian is to underestimate its very nature.

It is only within the ecclesial community, in communion with the legitimate pastors of the Church, that theological work has meaning; it certainly requires scientific competence but likewise, and no less, the spirit of faith and the humility of those who know that God is alive and true, the subject of their reflection, who infinitely exceeds human capacities. Only with prayer and contemplation is it possible to acquire the sense of God and the docility to the Holy Spirit's action that will make theological research fruitful for the good of the entire Church and, I should say, of humanity.

Here one might object: But is theology thus defined still a science and in conformity with our reason and its freedom? Yes.

Not only are rationality, a scientific approach and thinking in communion with the Church not exclusive of one another but they go together. The Holy Spirit guides the Church to all truth (cf. John 16:13); the Church is at the service of truth and her guidance is an education in truth.

As I express the hope that your days of study will be enlivened by fraternal communion in the search for the Truth that the Church wants to proclaim to all men and women, I implore Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom, to guide your steps in Christian joy and hope. With these sentiments, as I renew to you all the _expression of my esteem and trust, I warmly impart to you the apostolic blessing.