Rome -- December 13, 2005
At the opening of the academic year of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
As we begin a new year in the life of this University, we are especially thankful to our Lord for the year that has just ended. We find in our heart the need to exclaim, with the Apostles Peter and John: We cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard. Indeed, the year just ended has been rich in expressions of God’s love for us. We have known the sorrow and the joy of seeing the passing of our beloved John Paul II and the abundant graces that God has poured out upon the Church and the world. With great hope we have lived through the days of the Conclave and have been filled with gratitude at the gift of the new Pope, Benedict XVI.
On the day following his election, the Holy Father said: “John Paul II’s funeral was a truly extraordinary experience in which, in a certain way, we glimpsed the power of God who, through his Church, wants to make a great family of all the peoples by means of the unifying power of Truth and Love.” Yes, we have experienced this unifying force, and we find in it the nucleus of our task as a university: to unify in truth and in love.
We live in an age that experiences in a special way the desire for unity among peoples, at times as a reaction to the fact of deep divisions. The evidence of war and the multiple attacks against human life, both on the individual and social level, have brought about in men of good will a profound aspiration towards peace and concord. Nevertheless, a Christian is spurred to foster unity not only for negative reasons. Each of us feels spurred on by the charity of Christ, of which the Church is the sign and instrument. Our Lord, who prayed to the Father ut omnes unum sint, that we all might be one, has also left us the source and definitive manifestation of unity: the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.
We know how deeply John Paul II was concerned for the unity of Christians, and how strongly our Holy Father Benedict XVI shares this concern. Their pontificates have been symbolically united by the year of the Eucharist, concluded two months ago with the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This connection is not just a coincidence, because, as John Paul II wrote, “in the sacrament of the Eucharistic bread, the unity of the faithful, who form one body in Christ, is both expressed and brought about.” Throughout this year we have found in the Eucharist inspiration and strength, and now it must continue guiding our efforts to “unite in truth and in love.”
All Christians are responsible for this unity, but the university institution has a specific mission in this regard. Traditionally its task has been to foster the interchange of experiences and cultural openness. This effort is assisted by bringing together people from different geographical areas, and, above all, by the encouragement of a spirit of universality. The “universitas studiorum” does not simply involve offering a wide range of studies; it requires in first place seeking to imbue all the students’ endeavors with a universal outlook. This openness is easier to attain when one’s place of study is Rome, rightfully called caput mundi. To study in the Eternal City means, as our beloved John Paul II put it, “to learn Rome,” that is, to impregnate oneself with Catholicity, to cultivate a universal spirit rooted in the faith.
A cultural openness is characteristic of the Catholic spirit and finds its basis in faith and charity. One cannot be open towards other cultures if one is not faithful to the truth, if one does not love the truth. In this respect, Benedict XVI has warned us against the “dictatorship of relativism,” because when a person does not want to recognize the truth, he necessarily falls into arbitrariness and, in the end, the path to violence opens up. Therefore, we too want to place at the center of our daily work the motto chosen by the Pope for his episcopal ordination: “co-workers of the Truth.”
If we want to unite all men with one another and bring them to God, we need to undertake a deep study of revealed truth and of human culture, while striving each day to be faithful to the truth. To unite in truth and in love requires that we be united to the Truth, who is Christ. It is friendship with Christ—as the Holy Father said shortly before his election—that “opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.”
Therefore, our effort to unify in truth and in love requires a strong unity in our personal life, founded on the Eucharist. St. Josemaría Escrivá, untiring preacher of unity of life, was convinced that heaven and earth are united in the human heart, when we strive for holiness in our ordinary life. He often said that “the Mass is the center and source of Christian life,” and that we should struggle to put this truth into practice in our own life, “so your whole day will turn into an act of worship—an extension of the Mass you have attended and a preparation for the next. Your whole day will then be an act of worship that overflows in aspirations, visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the offering up of your professional work and your family life.”
When opening the sessions for the recent Synod of Bishops, Benedict XVI asked the participants to study how they could intensify the connection between the Holy Mass and the daily life of the faithful. This is a call that we should see as especially addressed to ourselves, as university men and women. The Eucharist should be the foundation of our work, in the common struggle to unify in truth and in love. Allow me to say, therefore, with the Holy Father: “We should all begin again from the Eucharist.”
May Mary, the woman of the Eucharist, help us in our effort, and lead us by the hand to Jesus. Let us ask this of her in a special way during Advent, so that we will reach Christmas better prepared. Let us approach the Holy Eucharist, therefore, with greater love, where our Lord is awaiting us more helpless and defenseless than in the stable at Bethlehem. The tabernacle must be the permanent “Bethlehem” in our churches, towards which our Lady draws us with the strength of her love.
With Mary’s maternal intercession and the help of St. Josemaría, I declare the Academic Year 2005–2006 inaugurated.