Prayer, openness essential for theologians, philosophers, pope says
Catholic News Service photo
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead an audience with members of Jesuit higher education institutions in Rome in Paul VI hall at the Vatican April 10. The pope met with 5,000 students, professors and staff members of the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University, Pontifical Biblical Institute and Pontifical Oriental Institute.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — A good theologian or philosopher knows that his or her learning and thinking are always incomplete and that prayer and encounters with other people and cultures will bring deeper understanding, Pope Francis said.
"The theologian satisfied that his thought is complete and conclusive is mediocre," he said. "The theologian who does not pray and does not adore God ends up drowning in the most disgusting narcissism."
"This is an ecclesiastical sickness," he said. "The narcissism of theologians and thinkers does such harm; it's disgusting."
Meeting April 10 with 5,000 students, professors and staff members of the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University, Pontifical Biblical Institute and Pontifical Oriental Institute, Pope Francis said theologians must have "an open mind" and a deep life of prayer.
"This isn't something old-fashioned," the pope said. Study "will be more fruitful and effective to the extent that it is animated by love for Christ and his church."
The church does not need professors who hand out an accumulation of facts, he said, but professors who can help their students understand how their learning is connected to living the Gospel today and can help them respond with the Gospel to the needs and problems of others.
Tradition and history must be safeguarded, the pope said, while at the same time acknowledging the present and "looking toward the future with creativity and imagination, trying to have a global vision of the current situation and challenges, and a shared way of facing them by following new paths without fear."
Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, presented the communities of the three institutions to the pope and noted how the students and professors -- priests, religious and laity -- come from all over the world. "We are in contact with the frontiers of humanity and the world. We want to assure you that as part of our service to the church, we also want to be on the frontiers of theology, ready to risk and to be farsighted. We promise to let the reality of our peoples and cultures into our classrooms in order to bring back to our people the profound nature of the Gospel and the kingdom of God."
Pope Francis encouraged the students to recognize, value and learn from the experience of studying in Rome, "this church which presides in charity (and) in the service of unity and universality."
At the same time, he said, the international character of the pontifical universities is "a priceless treasure," offering "a precious occasion of growth in faith and of opening one's mind and heart to the horizon of catholicity."
The relationship between the "center" of the church and its "periphery," the pope said, should take on "an evangelical form, in accordance with the logic of a God who reaches the center by starting from the periphery and in order to return to the periphery."
Pope Francis also told the professors, students and staff that Catholic universities must strive to create a family atmosphere, one where the students learn their subject matter from professors and learn hard work and humanity from the support staff.
"Your institutions are not machines for producing theologians and philosophers," he said. "They are communities in which one grows, and growth happens in a family."
While some have the task of leading, others have the task of service, the pope said, and the service of the support staff is "indispensable for creating an attitude of humanity and concrete wisdom" that will help the students realize that "without the goodness and beauty of belonging to a work family, one ends up being an intellectual without talent, an ethicist without goodness (and) a thinker lacking the splendor of beauty."