Some Considerations

What is the meaning of religion in our meeting? I am thinking of the great challenges that we are facing, which were indicated by Pope Francis in his address to the Academy yesterday, in particular climate change but also the nuclear menace. I think that we need to go back to the basic questions and basic values of science, as President Joachim von Braun says in his programme.

We can say that in the Christian religion – for there are only representatives of the Christian religion here today – we follow St Paul and St John, the most intellectual of the Apostles. The reasons we follow them are to be found in one of the most important Encyclicals of St John Paul II’s pontificate, Faith and Reason. We need to follow faith and reason, because, like faith, reason too is a gift of God. Inspired by St Paul, it is traditional in the Church to follow philosophical reason. However, today this philosophical and humanistic reason also extends to scientific reason, and this is very clear in Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, where he, of course, mentions the conclusions of theology while also adopting the conclusions of science. For example, in his theological vision he speaks about evolution in a central way, and this is a new thing. In order to assume the scientific notion of evolution he quotes St Thomas Aquinas but also Teilhard de Chardin, in line with St John Paul II during his famous address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences when he spoke about evolution as a concept that could be accepted without denying the notion of creation. But Pope Francis goes beyond that and assumes the description of the situation of our planet from science.

Therefore, I think that the force of religion today is also to give a motivation to follow the conclusions of reason, not only philosophical reason, but also scientific reason and this is very important to the challenge of climate change but also to the problem of nuclear war and other questions, although these are maybe the most important ones.

In this sense, I think that the attitude of Pope Francis is a little different from the previous Magisterium. It is in line with the attitude of the Second Vatican Council, which created two new councils in the Church. One for dialogue among Christians, which we call Ecumenism, on the things that we have in common with the other Christian religions, and one for Interreligious Dialogue, which was created especially to dialogue on the contents of other religions. Both have as their focus a dialogue on the contents of religion. Today, however, the most important question is to work together to defend human dignity, the planet, peace, justice and all the values that we need to include in our society to create that civilization of love that St Paul VI speaks about. Even though it is not always easy to pray together with the other religions, saving human dignity, our planet and peace we are obliged to overcome our religious differences and work and act together, because our ideas for saving human dignity and the planet do not differ.

For this reason I am very happy that, maybe for the first time, our President Joachim von Braun has invited some very important representatives of the humanistic and scientific questions but also some religious representatives to improve our understanding of the problem and to give new motivations to this programme that comes from the sciences. And the sciences also need to be clearer in their solutions, as Pope Francis said in the speech he gave us the other day.