Address at the opening of the academic year at the Pontifical University of Holy Cross, Rome (October 14, 2003)
Each new academic year is an occasion to examine the path we have followed in the preceding months, giving thanks to God for his gifts, and setting out again on the right path, with renewed determination in our search for the truth. The university, indeed, is marked by an intrinsic vocation to renewal, to originality, but it does not reject the course mapped out by tradition.
Looking at the year that has just gone by, we discover so many reasons to give thanks to God, as grateful children of his. The twenty-fifth anniversary of John Paul II’s pontificate, which is being celebrated during these days with events all over the world, has been a testimony to the responsibility and personal dedication with which the Holy Father has responded to God’s call, even in moments of obvious and serious physical disability. This year has also seen a renewed call to unity through prayers for peace and for the family, intentions that the Holy Father recommended in his apostolic letter on the Rosary. This call to unity culminates around the Eucharistic table, in adoration of our Lord who offers himself for us in the sacramental renewal of his sacrifice.
For us, in this Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, which owes its existence to the inspiration of St. Josemaría Escrivá, and for so many other people throughout the world, this has also been a year of special thanksgiving for the canonization of the founder of Opus Dei, the first anniversary of which we celebrated a few days ago. The teachings of St. Josemaría urge us to always seek union with God in all our activities and to give a co-redemptive meaning to every day. We are thankful to God for his gift to the Church in holding St. Josemaría up as a model for following Christ “in the middle of the street,” as this holy priest used to say, and for our work in the university.
Other events, both academic and non-academic, have added to our reasons for gratitude and strengthened our university community: the granting of three honorary doctorates; the beginning of new programs in the various schools and in the institute of religious studies; numerous publications; and the expansion and reconstruction of the library and classrooms.
All these realities, and so many others that each of us could personally add to the list, are evidence of the abundant grace poured out upon us during these past months and encourage us to continue on the path opening before us in the new academic year.
The challenge of building up a university is the challenge of never tiring in our joint search for the truth. The very life of this institution depends on striving to attain this objective. How often we have reflected on this reality. Today, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new academic year, I only want to remind you of one requirement in this endeavor: research in the university, the search for the truth, has to be carried out as a joint effort by the universitas personarum who make up the university. Certainly university work requires hours and hours of individual research and study, and of administrative work and fund-raising, but this would never constitute true university work if it was not marked by a common effort to uncover the truth.
The search for truth within the university requires making one’s own discoveries available to everyone else; the mutual criticism of ideas; generosity in placing research material at the disposition of others even before having reached definitive conclusions; frequent contact with colleagues from other university institutions; allowing one’s personal work to be interrupted when the common interest requires it, including being present on the premises of the university when needed. This is how the search for truth should be carried out in a university. Only in a climate like this are each one’s capacities valued and optimized. Thanks to the united efforts of many persons, culture is advanced; something new is contributed to the community of which the university is a part.
University work thus will offer a real service to the truth; it will help build a living community, one that will lead to renewal and be a catalyst of originality. And it will help bring about a more noble society, with customs that are more worthy of human dignity, more in accord with the Truth.
In the pontifical universities, university work is also a direct service to the Church’s mission and unity, as the Pope noted in his Mass inaugurating the past academic year. The pontifical universities, John Paul II said, “are specially called to put themselves, in a constantly renewed way, at the service of the unity of the Church. This unity, open by its very nature to the Catholic truth, finds here in Rome the ideal environment for its study and service.” May Mary our Mother, Seat of divine Wisdom, obtain for us from heaven the grace of knowing how to make our university life conform to these ideals of deepening in the truth and in the search for unity, which can help so many souls to find the full Truth, the Word of God Himself.