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No. 36 • January - June 2003 • Page 0
 
 
 
 •  Prelate
 

At the awarding of honorary doctorates at the University of Navarre (January 17, 2003)

Most eminent Cardinal and esteemed civil authorities, illustrious professors of this university, ladies and gentlemen:

In this academic year 2002-2003, the University of Navarre will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its existence in this world. In the years before its founding, it existed only in the priestly soul of St. Josemaria Escrivá, who prepared this beautiful reality with his prayer and sacrifice. Certainly for a university institution destined to serve humanity throughout the centuries, five decades are not much time. But if looked at from the perspective of man’s allotted stay on this earth, it constitutes a period of time worthy of being celebrated.

The first way to do so is to give thanks to the Most Blessed Trinity for all the ineffable gifts granted through the mediation of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, and also to thank St. Josemaría, such a docile instrument in God’s hands by his magnanimous correspondence to divine inspiration. We owe gratitude also to all those who, with filial trust in our Father God and supported by the founder’s prayer, confronted the challenge of beginning this university without human resources. Their efforts were supported by the assistance provided by institutions in Navarre, to whom once more I extend my wholehearted recognition. Thanks also to those who came later and who brought the university forward with the same spirit. It is impossible to mention everyone here, but I can’t fail to express my gratitude to the first rector, Professor Ismael Sánchez Bella.

It is fitting that this celebration include one of the most significant acts of academic life: receiving into the ranks of the doctors of this alma mater several persons of great academic renown. By enriching the body of teachers and students, they will serve as a stimulus to pursue the task of seeking the truth with renewed zeal, with high goals of service to all mankind.

For us it is a motive of profound joy to receive these three new doctors into our university family.

Doctor Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard University, has achieved academic excellence in the juridical field, which has enabled her to confront, with undeniable competence, vital questions in the present circumstances of human life and international relationships. She has delved deeply into human rights, emphasizing the dignity of the person, through numerous publications on questions of political life, the family, divorce and abortion, which have received wide recognition. We all recall with gratitude her role, marked by great juridical acumen and a spirit of service to humanity, in heading the Holy See’s delegation at the fourth United Nations conference on women, in Beijing.

Professor Anthony Kelly of Cambridge University has attained international prestige for his research on compound materials in physics. He has authored publications of high quality and served as President of the Institute for Metals at his university. He has been visiting professor at many universities and has held managerial level positions in several companies. His academic life, marked by numerous prizes and international recognition, has been characterized by a zeal for service, which led him to carry out a self-sacrificing work of training disciples and sharing his knowledge.

Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Spanish bishops’ conference, is an example of a priest with a great university spirit. His service to the Church and his love for the truth led him to research and teaching in the theological field, especially in Fundamental Theology and Ecclesiology, and in the juridical field, at the Universities of Munich and Salamanca. In his numerous writings he stands out for the depth with which he has dealt with the subject of Church-state relationships. Our alma mater has also benefited from his teaching talents, both through his participation in academic activities and through articles published here in Pamplona. Following a long tradition of the great teachers of divine revelation, his university experience and mentality has enriched the Church and made his pastoral activity more fruitful, first in Santiago de Compostela and later in Madrid. Our Holy Father John Paul II has appointed him to numerous dicasteries in the Roman Curia and entrusted him with important responsibilities in the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the formation of priests.

The example of these illustrious teachers encourages us to reflect on some aspects of the role of the university in the context of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of this university, which is occurring at a moment of great social changes. The institution of the university must never remain at the periphery of the historic developments of human culture. One of its missions is to study and evaluate the main currents that arise, and thus contribute incisively to personal and social progress. St. Josemaría encouraged this university to be “at the very origin of the upright changes that occur in the life of society.”

Many of today’s trends and the advanced techniques of communication spur us to seek greater contact between the various fields of knowledge, seeking to overcome the fragmentation and isolation found there. In his encyclical Fides et Ratio, John Paul II writes: “Taking up what has been taught repeatedly by the Popes for several generations and reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council itself, I wish to reaffirm strongly the conviction that the human being can come to a unified and organic vision of knowledge. This is one of the tasks which Christian thought will have to take up through the next millennium of the Christian era. The segmentation of knowledge, with its splintered approach to truth and consequent fragmentation of meaning, keeps people today from coming to an interior unity.”

The challenges that today’s society places before the man of science demand strong interdisciplinary collaboration and a growing spirit of teamwork. Following the teachings of St. Josemaría and those of my predecessor Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, I have always tried, as Chancellor, to encourage the exercise of an interdisciplinary approach, conscious that this requires a continual effort to overcome divisions that are deeply rooted in more than a few university institutions.

This unity of knowledge will be attained, not by reducing everything to a material dimension, but rather by fostering the humanistic spirit of the university as the highest enterprise at the service of the human person. The founder and first chancellor of this university affirmed: “The university has as its highest mission to serve mankind, to be a leaven in the society in which it exists. Therefore it should investigate the truth in all fields, from theology, the science of the faith, called to consider truths that are always timely, to all the other sciences of the human spirit and of nature.”

Every true university is characterized by universality in the search for truth. It is for this reason that all branches of knowledge are important and that each fulfills an indispensable role. It is this too that, from its origins, has made it essential for the university to cultivate the humanities, and especially the study of philosophy and theology. The light that emanates from Christ does not violate the created order. On the contrary, just as grace is not opposed to the natural order but rather heals and elevates it, so to, in the intellectual realm, the light of faith and its application in theological science illumines and strengthens human nature, and indeed all creation, preserving it from the degrading menace of sin.

Pope John Paul II wrote: “This sapiential dimension is all the more necessary today, because the immense expansion of humanity's technical capability demands a renewed and sharpened sense of ultimate values. If this technology is not ordered to something greater than a merely utilitarian end, then it could soon prove inhuman and even become potential destroyer of the human race.”

A renewed interdisciplinary effort will enable one to confront timely questions of great importance that affect the dignity of man: the protection and care of human life from its beginning, marriage and the family, ecology, ethical questions arising from technological development, problems of justice, peace and human rights.
In his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, Pope John Paul II encourages us to strive to clarify in our work that these questions entail values rooted in the very nature of the human person: “For Christian witness to be effective, especially in these delicate and controversial areas, it is important that special efforts be made to explain properly the reasons for the Church's position, stressing that it is not a case of imposing on non-believers a vision based on faith, but of interpreting and defending the values rooted in the very nature of the human person. In this way charity will necessarily become service to culture, politics, the economy and the family, so that the fundamental principles upon which depend the destiny of human beings and the future of civilization will be everywhere respected.”

It is well known that in some countries the university is subject to legislative, economic and cultural pressures that seek to reduce the university’s role to that of preparing professionals for the immediate needs of society. In line with this logic, often research and teaching are pursued separately, and the humanities are set aside. The spread of this trend would mean depriving society of one of the most important instruments of human progress.

The university is a place of freedom in solidarity, of fraternal service to all men and women, where a fuller knowledge of reality is sought for the common good, with the necessary autonomy so as not to be converted into a mere cog of economic or political power.

“The university does not live with its back turned to any uncertainty, to any worry, to any need of mankind. Its mission is not to offer immediate solutions. Rather, by studying problems with scientific depth, it also moves hearts, spurs the passive, awakens sleeping powers, forming citizens disposed to build a more just society.”

The fifty years of this university’s life evoke the memory of its beginnings and the foundational spirit bequeathed to it by St. Josemaría Escrivá. Under his guidance, those who began the university did not have many material means at their disposal, but they did have a clear idea of their mission: to begin a university where teaching would be grounded on research. And this has been true right from the beginning. In addition, little by little, with the generous aid of so many people and institutions that understood the great importance of the apostolate of the intellect, you have set for yourself ever higher goals in your research. Without a facile conformity to the spirit of the age, you have to advance in all fields of knowledge, both in the sciences of the human spirit and those of nature, convinced that it is impossible to make progress without an accurate knowledge of our own past and of the present in which we live.

Interdisciplinary research projects by scholars in the humanities, science and technology will result in a greater service to society, and a richer human preparation for the students. Providing students with professional competence is not enough, since they also have to grow humanly and as Christians, in order to serve all men and women in accord with human dignity. This is one of the great challenges of our day and age: creating a new humanistic culture strengthened by Christ’s Cross and Resurrection. My predecessor, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, said here in 1994: “With a mind open to every facet of human knowledge and with the generosity of spending time attending to each student, the professors will transmit to their students, through the example of their life and the force of their words, the convictions necessary to fight joyfully against their own selfishness and to embark on the adventure of giving renewed enthusiasm to a tired world.”

Now that a number of years have gone by since its founding, I am happy to see that the University of Navarre is constantly renewing itself and confronting the changes that are taking place, keeping present the always timely priority of training new professors. Here also one can see the importance of teamwork, which should go hand in hand with the creativity proper to an intellectual. By combining efforts, the personality of each one is enriched and higher goals can be reached. The still brief history of this center of learning strengthens our conviction that, without overlooking the required material means, the greatest treasure are the people who make up the university, the professors, the students, the administrators, the workers who take care of the material upkeep, alll united by the spirit that animates everyone.

The new doctors present us with a marvelous example of how to live these university ideals in today’s world. We thank them for their example and stimulus in striving for goals that are ever more in accord with the needs of our time.

At this crossroads of history, full of hope in the midst of shadow, we feel the responsibility of keeping strong the university spirit that has come down to us from St. Josemaría Escrivá. Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom and Mother of Fair Love, will obtain for us from the Blessed Trinity the light and strength needed to undertake this new stage in the life of the University of Navarre.


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