Saturday, November 18, 2017

Greetings for the members of the Pontifical Council for Culture

At 11:10 this morning, in the Consistory Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture which is dedicated this year to the theme: The future of humanity: new challenges to anthropology.  The meeting is taking place at the Vatican from 15 to 18 November 2017.

Greetings of His Holiness, Pope Francis
 addressed to members of the
Pontifical Council for Culture

Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you and I thank Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi for his greetings and introduction.  Your Plenary Assembly has chosen an anthropological issue for its theme, proposing to understand the future lines of development of both science and technology.  Among the many possible topics of discussion, your attention has been focused on three subjects.

In the first place, medicine and genetics, which allow us to look into the intimate structure of the human being and even to intervene in order to modify it.  These give us the ability to eradicate illnesses that have, until recently, been believed to be incurable; but they also open up the possibility for determining human beings by programming - so to speak - some qualities.

Second, neuroscience offers more and more information about the functioning of the human brain.  Through them, fundamental realities of Christian anthropology such as the soul, self-consciousness and freedom are now placed under an unprecedented light, and may even be seriously disputed by some.

Finally, the incredible progress of autonomous and thinking machines which have already become part of our daily lives, leading us to reflect on what is specifically human and what makes us different from machines.

All these scientific and technical developments urge some people to think that we are now in a particular moment of history, almost at the dawn of a new era and the birth of a new human being, superior to those who we have known so far.

In fact, the questions and issues we are facing are great and serious.  They have been partly anticipated in literature and in science fiction films, echoed by fears and expectations of mankind.  For this reason, the Church, who is attentively following the joys and hopes, the anguishes and the fears of mankind in our time, wishes to place the human person and the issues that concern us at the centre of her reflections.

The question about the human being: What is man that you should care for him? (Ps 8:5) resounds throughout the Bible from its very first pages and has accompanied the entire journey of Israel and of the Church.  To this question, the Bible itself offers an anthropological response that is outlined in Genesis and that runs through to Revelation, developing around the fundamental elements of relationships and freedom.  Relationships draw on a three-fold dimension: toward materialism, the earth and animals; toward divine transcendence; and toward other human beings.  Freedom expresses itself in self-reliance - and naturally in relative reliance - and in moral choices.  This fundamental being has ruled for centuries over the majority of humanity's thought and even now maintains its validity.  But at the same time, today we realize that the fundamental principles and concepts of anthropology are rarely questioned even on the basis of a major awareness of the complexity of the human condition and requiring further deepening.

Anthropology is the horizon of self-understanding in which we all move, and it determines our own concept of the world and our existential and ethical choices. In our times, it has often become a fluid, changing landscape as a result of socio-economic changes, population shifts, and intercultural exchange, but also due to the spread of a global culture and, above all, the incredible discoveries of science and technology.

How should we react to these challenges? First of all, we must express our gratitude to the men and women of science for their efforts and for their commitment to humanity. This appreciation of the sciences, which we have not always known how to manifest, finds its ultimate foundation in the plan of God Who chose us in Him before the foundation of the world … and predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons (Eph 1: 3-5), and Who entrusted us with the care of creation, working and taking care of the earth (cf Gen 2.15). Precisely because man is the image and likeness of a God Who created the world for love, the care of all of creation must follow the logic of gratuity and love, of service, and not of domination and bullying.

Science and technology have helped us further the boundaries of knowledge of nature and, in particular, of the human being. But they alone are not enough to provide all the answers. Today, we increasingly realize that it is necessary to draw on the treasures of wisdom preserved in religious traditions, popular wisdom, literature and the arts, which touch the depths of the mystery of human existence, not forgetting, but rather rediscovering those contained in philosophy and in theology.

As I wished to affirm in the Encyclical Laudato si’, we urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge … in the service of a more integral and integrating vision (LS,141), so as to be able to overcome the tragic division between the two cultures, the humanistic-literary-theological and the scientific, which leads to a mutual impoverishment, and to encourage a greater dialogue between the Church, community of believers, and the scientific community.

The Church, for her part, offers some great principles to sustain this dialogue. The first is the centrality of the human person, which must be considered an end and not a means. This must be placed in harmonious relation to creation, not as a despot guarding God’s legacy but rather as a loving custodian of the work of the Creator.

The second principle it is necessary to remember is that of the universal destination of goods, which also regards those of knowledge and technology. Scientific and technological progress serve the good of all humanity, and their benefits cannot be of advantage only to a few. In this way, one avoids that the future will add new inequalities based on knowledge, and increase the gap between rich and poor. The great decisions on the direction of scientific research and investments in the latter must be taken by society as a whole and not dictated solely by the rules of the market or the interest of the few.

Finally, the principle remains that not all that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable. Science, like any other human activity, knows that there are limits to be observed for the good of humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility. The true measure of progress, as Blessed Paul VI recalled, is that which aims at the good of every man and man.

I thank you all, Members, Consultors, and Collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Culture, as you carry out a valuable service. I invoke upon you the abundance of the Lord’s blessings, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.  Thank you.

© Libreria Editrice Vaticano

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