At the Inauguration of the Academic Year of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy (October 4, 2021)

I am glad that we are able to meet face-to-face at the beginning of this academic year.

The moment we are living through, impacted by the pandemic in countries around the world, marks some of my reflections. We are undoubtedly going through a time of global crisis, which significantly impacts the way of thinking and living of many people. Our University pays special attention to understanding the world, history and each person, grounded on the mystery of Christ (as point 2 of its Statutes states). Hence the study and concern for the needs of our society, of the women and men who live at this particular moment in history, cannot fail to reflect on how the pandemic affects us personally, how it affects our environment and its consequences at a global level.

The term “crisis,” in its Greek origin, means to distinguish, to discern, to differentiate. It highlights the ability to focus on what is essential. Thus a crisis is an opportunity to learn, to pause, to ponder on events and their impact on our own lives and the lives of others. Our minds and hearts will then be open to the new needs that arise, and to new ways of living, working and relating.

The university is a privileged place to learn how to shape the new development that is taking place, by listening attentively to people and events, and relating this listening to study and academic life. Also in the context of intellectual life, we can put into practice the principle that Pope Francis stresses in Evangelii Gaudium (no. 231): “Realities are greater than ideas.”

The reality of women and men as children of God in Christ is and must be a constant point of reference for all study and research in our University. The health crisis and its consequences lead humanity to confront fundamental questions of existence: the meaning of suffering, loneliness, relational interdependence, the common good, freedom, law. Academic study and research in the faculties of Theology, Philosophy, Canon Law and Institutional Communication will be able to shed light on the complex reality and experience of the women and men of our time. Before the pandemic, many people seemed to be conditioned by the self-referential thinking of post-humanism, which believes in the possibility of founding itself, convinced of its own omnipotence. Reality, in this case, has revealed the falsity of this idea. In a way, the experience of the pandemic has brought humanity closer to reality, and therefore to the truth.

A greater awareness of our condition as creatures, of the limits imposed by the pandemic, of the fears stemming from a situation of constant uncertainty, can foster the spirit of listening and learning from reality, which is the cornerstone of any educational effort. Developing this attitude towards reality also implies, in our university environment, learning from each person.

I would like to conclude with a phrase that St. Josemaría, who inspired this university, wrote in another context: “These world crises are crises of saints. (The Way, 301) The spiritual life of each of us, our union with Christ, being closely related to human activity and therefore to the problems of society, has an impact on the destiny of the world. And the humility needed to learn from everyone can provide a solid foundation on the path to holiness.

I wish everyone, faculty, students and staff of the University, all the best for the new academic year 2021-2022, which I declare inaugurated.

Romana, n. 73, July-December 2021, p. 55-57.

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