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At the Inauguration of the Academic Year, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 3, 2016)

Your Eminences, Most Reverend Bishops,


Your Excellencies, Professors, Collaborators, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:


In the academic year that we are inaugurating we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of a magisterial document of particular interest, especially if it is read from the historical perspective of the present time. I refer to the Encyclical Populorum Progressio of Blessed Paul VI, published on March 26, 1967. The Pope’s voice invited the Church and the world to an authentic conversion, grounded on a new appreciation for the social dimension of the Christian faith, and therefore of the human being.


The encyclical ends with an urgent series of calls. Among them one is of special interest for us to consider now. The Supreme Pontiff directs himself to men and women thinkers in the following terms: “men very often find themselves in a sad state because they do not give enough thought and consideration to these things. So We call upon men of deep thought and wisdom—Catholics and other Christians, believers in God and devotees of truth and justice, all men of good will—to take as their own Christ’s injunction, ‘Seek and you shall find’ (Lk 11:9). Blaze the trails to mutual cooperation among men, to deeper knowledge and more widespread charity, to a way of life marked by true brotherhood, to a human society based on mutual harmony.” [1]


Fifty years later, we can see in these words the foundation for St. John Paul II’s plea at the beginning of his pontificate: “Open the doors wide to Christ.” The timeliness and the urgency of this citation from Blessed Paul VI also appears in Caritas in Veritate. Commenting on Paul VI’s statement that the world is suffering because of a lack of thought, Benedict XVI writes: “A new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity rather than marginalization. Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation.” [2]


From Populorum Progressio to Pope Francis, passing through the words of Caritas in Veritate, one can see in the Magisterium a connecting thread encouraging men and women of science and culture to develop relationships with one another to jointly reflect on the social dimension of the human beings and human perfection, that is to say, on the path to happiness.


In academic work, this challenge requires a triple openness, in function of the three levels on which relationships are developed within the University and from the University.


Openness to reciprocal communication of the studies and research that each professor carries out within the university;


Openness to external relationships with other scientific spheres of civil disciplines in general, and particularly with those that study the human and social sciences;


Openness to the concrete reality of the human being today and to the needs of the societies and nations to which each of us belongs.


Carrying out that work requires a close collaboration between the various faculties, especially in those milieus where the Magisterium invites us to develop a metaphysical vision of human relationships. It also requires the wisdom needed to recognize that true human communion never violates the dignity of the person, but rather ennobles men and women and frees them.


The family is a privileged place for this concern. Therefore it should always be the perspective for undertaking academic work. As a doctor undertakes research with the desire to cure patients—although perhaps only a few can be treated directly—so a professor who wants to take seriously the invitation of the Magisterium, starting with Pope Paul VI, should always take into account the needs of the family, both in the marriage union and in its universal repercussions.


The University of Santa Croce seeks to respond to this invitation, with people from a wide variety of  disciplines striving to put into practice, with the help of the Holy Spirit, this invitation—more timely than ever—of the Second Vatican Council: “With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors and theologians, to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word, so that revealed Truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set forth to greater advantage.” [3]


The triple openness to which I referred earlier, can then lead to research and teaching that helps to bring the faith integrally to the man of today, who lives immersed in the world, “in the public square.” It is a matter of listening and being listened to, so that the faith can illuminate the questions and aspirations of the hearts of people today, and of the various peoples who here are really meeting one another, given the diversity of the places from which students and professors come.


To make this openness more practical, each professor needs to be interested in the efforts of the research and teaching of the other professors. This is the foundation for ensuring that academic activity is imbued with an authentic spirit of service to the truth and to society.


This attitude can also extend to the collaboration among teachers, both in their research and teaching work. But even more, this disposition of listening and collaboration should animate the life of the whole University, with a dialogue that embraces all who work here. All of us—the administrative personnel, the teachers and students, the technical employees, and those who occupy the organs of government—together carry out this wonderful enterprise. As St. Josemaría taught, no task is superior to another; rather the value of each activity depends on the care and the love with which it is carried out.


This is foundation for truly grasping the world’s needs and bringing the light of the faith to all the peoples of the world. As Pope Francis said: “The present crisis is centered on the inability of people to believe in anything beyond themselves. The individual conscience has become the measure of all things. This causes a crack in personal and social identities. This new situation provokes a whole process of alienation due to the lack of a past and therefore a future.” [4]


There will be no answer to this crisis if our work does not start with the treasure of the Church’s Tradition, the memory of our Christian identity, which everyone is yearning for, although perhaps unconsciously. God is our Father, and in Christ we are brothers and sisters of all mankind. Therefore all the activity of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross should be at the service of the proclamation and study of what it means to be children of God.


Let us consider the foundation of the relational openness that I alluded to before: the capacity to think about the world in the light of our conversation with God, with the risen Christ, present among us. With words of St. Josemaría, I assure you: “it is not difficult to convert work into a prayerful dialogue. As soon as you offer it up and then set to work, God is already listening and giving encouragement. We acquire the style of contemplative souls, in the midst of our daily work! Because we become certain that he is watching us, while he asks us to conquer ourselves anew: a little sacrifice here, a smile there for someone who bothers us, beginning the least pleasant but most urgent job first, carefulness in little details of order, perseverance in the fulfillment of our duty when it would be so easy to abandon it, not leaving for tomorrow what should be finished today: and all this, to please him, Our Father God!” [5]


I would like this University to be a home for all who want to bring Christ to every member of the human family in the world, in the middle of the world: so that those who believe can follow Him with greater gratitude, and those who do not believe can find an answer to their questions and the deepest desires of their heart.


With this hope, we entrust to our Lady, Queen of the Church and the world, the academic year 2016-2017, which I hereby declare inaugurated.




[1] Blessed Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (March 26, 1967), no. 85.


[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 53.


[3] Vatican II, Constitution Gaudium et Spes, (December 7, 1965), no. 44.


[4] Pope Francis, Video-message to the International Theology Congress at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, sent on September 3, 2015.


[5] St. Josemaría, Friends of God, no. 67.

Romana, No. 63, July-December 2016, pag. 331-334.