Address to UNESCO
Mr. President of the General Conference,
Mr. President of the Executive Council,
Mr. Director General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I wish in the first place to express my very cordial thanks for the invitation that Mr. Amadou Mahtar-M'Bow, Director General of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, extended to me several times, even at the first of the visits he has done me the honour of paying me. There are many reasons for which I am happy to be able to accept today this invitation, which I highly appreciated immediately.
For the kind words of welcome they have just addressed to me, I thank Mr. Napoléon Leblanc, President of the General Conference, Mr. Chams Eldine El-Wakil, President of the Executive Council, and Mr. Amadou Mahtan-M'Bow, Director General of the Organization. I also wish to greet all those who are gathered here for the 109 th session of UNESCO's Executive Council I cannot conceal my joy at seeing gathered on this occasion so many illustrious representatives of the world of culture and science.
Through my intervention, I will try to bring my modest stone to the edifice you are constructing with assiduity and perseverance, Ladies and Gentlemen through your reflections and your resolutions in all the fields that are in UNESCO's sphere of competence.
2. Allow me to begin by referring to the origins of your Organization . The events that marked the foundation of UNESCO inspire me with joy and gratitude to Divine Providence: the signature of its constitution and the establishment on 16 November 1945; the coming into force of this constitution and the establishment of the Organization on 4 November 1946; the agreement between UNESCO and the United Nations Organization approved by the General Assembly of the U.N. in the same year. Your Organization is, in fact, the work of nations, which after the end of the terrible second world war, were impelled by what could be called a spontaneous desire for peace, union and reconciliation. These nations looked for the means and the forms of a collaboration capable of establishing this new understanding and deepening it and ensuring it in a lasting way. So UNESCO came into being, like the United Nations Organization, because the peoples knew that at the basis of the great enterprises intended to serve peace and the progress of humanity over the whole globe, there was the necessity of the union of nations, mutual respect and international cooperation.
3. Prolonging the action, thought and message of my great predecessor Pope Paul VI, I had the honour of speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, in the month of October last, on the invitation of Mr. Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General of U.N. Shortly afterwards, on 12 November 1979, I was invited by Mr. Edouard Snouma, Director General of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome. On these occasions I had the honour of dealing with questions deeply linked with all the problems connected with man's peaceful future on earth. In fact, all these problems are closely linked. We are in the presence so to speak, of a vast system of communicating vessels; the problems of culture, science and education do not arise, in the life of nations and in international relations. Independently of the other problems of human existence, such as those of peace or hunger. The problems of culture are conditioned by other dimensions of human existence, just as the latter, in their turn condition them.
4. All the same there is—and I stressed it in my address to the U.N., referring to the Universal Declaration of human rights—one fundamental dimension, which is capable of shaking to their very foundations the systems that structure mankind as a whole and of freeing human existence, individual and collective, from threats that weigh on it. The fundamental dimension is man, man in his integrality, man who lives at the same time in the sphere of material values and in that of spiritual values. Respect for the inalterable rights of the human person is at the basis of everything (cf. Address to the U.N. nos. 7 and 13).
Any threat to human rights whether in the framework of man's spiritual goods or in that of his material goods, does violence to this fundamental dimension. That is why, in my address to FAO, I emphasized that no man no country, no system in the world can remain indifferent to the “geography of hunger” and the gigantic threats that will ensue if the whole direction of economic policy, and in particular the hierarchy of investments, do not change in an essential and radical way. That is also why, referring to the origins of your Organization, I stress the necessity of mobilizing all forces which direct the spiritual dimension of human existence, and which bear witness to the primacy of the spiritual in man—and of what corresponds to the dignity of his intelligence, his will and his heart—in order not to succumb again to the monstrous alienation of collective evil, which is always ready to use material powers in the exterminating struggle of men against men, of nations against nations.
5. At the origin of UNESCO, as also at the basis of the Universal Declaration on human rights, there are therefore, these first noble impulses of human conscience, intelligence and will. I appeal to this origin: to this beginning to these premises and to these first principles. It is in their name that I come today to Paris, to the headquarters of your Organization, with an entreaty: that at the end of a stage of over thirty years of your activities, you will unite even more around these ideals and principles on which the beginning was based. It is in their name also that I shall now take the liberty of proposing to you some really fundamental considerations, for it is only by their light that there shines forth fully the meaning of this institution, which has its name UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
6. G enus humanum arte et ratione vivit, (cf. St. Thomas, commenting on Aristotle, in Post. Analyt. n. 1). These words of one of the greatest geniuses of Christianity, who was at the same time a fruitful continuer of the thought of antiquity, take us beyond the circle and contemporary meaning of Western culture, whether it is Mediterranean or Atlantic. They have a meaning that applies to humanity as a whole, where the different traditions that constitute its spiritual heritage and the different periods of its culture, meet. The essential meaning of culture consists, according to the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, in the fact that it is a characteristic of human life as such. Man lives a really human life thanks to culture. Human life is culture in this sense too that, through it, man is distinguished and differentiated from everything that exists elsewhere in the visible world: man cannot do without culture.
Culture is specific way of man's “existing and “being”. Man always lives according to a culture which is specifically his, and which, in its turn, creates among men a tie which is also specifically theirs, determining the inter-human and social character of human existence. In the unity of culture as the specific way of human existence, there is rooted at the same time the plurality of cultures in the midst of which man lives. In this plurality, man develops without losing, however, the essential contact with the unity of culture as the fundamental and essential dimension of his existence and his being.
7. Man who, in the visible world, is the only ontic subject of culture , is also its only object and its term. Culture is that through which man as man, becomes more man, “is” more, has more access to “being”. The fundamental distinction between what man is and what he has, between being and having, has its foundation there too. Culture is always in an essential and necessary relationship to what man is, whereas its relationship to what he has, to his “having”, is not secondary, but entirely relative. All man's “having” is important for culture, is a factor creative of culture, only to the extent to which man, through his “having”, can at the same time “be” more fully as a man, become more fully a man in all the dimensions of his existence, in everything that characterizes his humanity. The experience of the various eras, without excluding the present one, proves that people think of culture and speak about it in the first place in relation to man then only in a secondary and indirect way in relation to the world of his products. That in no way detracts from the fact that we judge the phenomenon of culture on the basis of what man produces, or that we draw from that, at the same time, conclusions about man. Such an approach—a typical way of the “a posteriori” process of knowledge—contains in itself the possibility of going back, in the opposite direction, to ontic-causal dependencies. Man, and only man, is the “protagonist”, or “architect” of culture: man, and only man, expresses himself in it and finds his own balance in it.
8. All of us present here meet on the ground of culture, the fundamental reality which unites us and which is at the basis of the establishment and purposes of UNESCO. We thereby meet around man and, in a certain sense, in him, in man. This man who expresses himself and objectivizes himself in and through culture, is unique, complete, and indivisible. He is at once subject and architect of culture. Consequently, he cannot be envisaged solely as the resultant—to give only one example—of the production relations that prevail at a given period. Is this criterion of production relations not at all, then, a key to the understanding of man's historicity, to the understanding of his culture and of the multiple forms of his development? Certainly, this criterion is a key, and even a precious key, but it is not the fundamental, constitutive one. Human cultures reflect, there is no doubt, the various systems of production relations, however, it is not such and such a system that is at the origin of culture, but man, man who lives in the system, who accepts it or tries to change it. A culture without human subjectivity and without human causality is inconceivable: in the cultural field, man is always the first fact: man is the prime and fundamental fact of culture.
And he is so, always, in his totality: in his spiritual and material subjectivity as a complete whole. If the distinction between spiritual culture and material culture is correct with respect to the character and content of the products in which the culture is manifested, it is necessary to note at the same time that, on the one hand, the works of material culture always show a “s piritualization of matter”, a submission of the material element to man's spiritual forces, that is, his intelligence and will—and that, on the other hand the works of spiritual culture manifest, specifically, a “ materialization ” of the spirit, an incarnation of what is spiritual. In cultural works, this double characteristic seems to be equally of prime importance and equally permanent.
Here is, therefore, by way of theoretical conclusion, a sufficient basis to understand culture through the complete man, through the whole reality of his subjectivity. Here is also—in the field of action—a sufficient basis to seek always in culture the complete man, the whole man, in the whole truth of his spiritual and corporeal subjectivity, the basis which is sufficient in order not to superimpose on culture—a truly human system, a splendid synthesis of spirit and body— preconceived divisions and oppositions. In fact, whether it is a question of an absolutization of matter in the structure of the human subject, or, inversely, of an absolutization of the spirit in this same structure, neither expresses the truth about man or serves his culture.
9. I would like to stop here at another essential consideration, a reality of a quite different order. We can approach it by noting the fact that the Holy See is represented at UNESCO by its permanent Observer, whose presence is set in the perspective of the very nature of the Apostolic See. This presence, is even more widely, in harmony with the nature and mission of the Catholic Church and indirectly, with that of the whole of Christianity. I take the opportunity which offered to me today to express a deep personal conviction. The presence of the Apostolic See in your Organization—though motivated also by the specific sovereignty of the Holy See—has as its justification above all in the organic and constitutive link which exists between religion in general and Christianity in particular, on the one hand, and culture, on the other hand. This relationship extends to the multiple realities which must be defined as concrete expressions of culture in the different periods of history and all over the world. It will certainly not be an exaggeration to state in particular that, through a multitude of facts, the whole of Europe—from the Atlantic to the Urals—bears witness, in the history of each nation as in that of the whole community, to the link between culture and Christianity.
Recalling this, it is not at all my intention to belittle the heritage of the other continents, or the specific character and value of this same heritage which is derived from the other sources of religious, humanistic and ethical inspiration. What is more, I wish to pay the deepest and most sincere tribute to all the cultures of the human family as a whole, from the most ancient to the contemporary. It is in thinking of all cultures that I wish to say in a loud voice, here in Paris, at the headquarters of UNESCO, with respect and admiration: “Here is man!” I wish to proclaim my admiration before the creative riches of the human spirit, before its incessant efforts to know and strengthen the identity of man, this man who is always present in all the particular forms of culture.
10. Speaking, on the contrary, of the place of the Church , and of the Apostolic See in your Organization, I am thinking not only of all the works of culture in which, in the course of the last two millennia, the man who had accepted Christ and the Gospel expressed himself, or of the institutions of different kinds that came into being from the same inspiration in the fields of education, instruction, charity, social work and in so many others. I am thinking above all, Ladies and Gentlemen, of the fundamental link between the Gospel, that is, the message of Christ and the Church, and man in his very humanity. This link is in fact a creator of culture in its very foundation. To create culture, it is necessary to consider, to its last consequences and entirely, man as a particular and autonomous value, as the subject bearing the transcendency of the person. Man must be affirmed for himself, and not for any other motive or reason: solely for himself! What is more, man must be loved because he is man. Love must be claimed for man by reason of the particular dignity he possesses. The whole of the affirmations concerning man belongs to the very substance of Christ's message and of the mission of the Church, in spite of all that critics may have declared about this matter, and all that the different movements opposed to religion in general and to Christianity in particular may have done.
In the course of history, we have already been more than once, and we still are, witnesses of a process of a very significant phenomenon. Where religious institutions have been suppressed, where ideas and works born of religions inspiration, and in particular of Christian inspiration, have been deprived of their citizenship, men find again these same elements outside institutional ways, through the confrontation operated, in truth and interior effort, between what constitutes their humanity and what is contained in the Christian message.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you will kindly forgive my making this statement. Proposing it, I did not want to offend anyone at all. I beg you to understand that, in the name of what I am, I could not abstain from giving this testimony . It also bears within it this truth—which cannot be passed over in silence—on culture, if we seek in it everything that is human, the elements in which man expresses himself or through which he wants to be the subject of his existence. And in so speaking, I wanted at the same time to manifest all the more my gratitude for the ties that unite UNESCO with the Apostolic See, these ties of which my presence today is intended as a particular expression.
11. A certain number of fundamental conclusions can be drawn from all that. In fact, the considerations I have just made show clearly that the primacy and essential task of culture in general, and also of all culture, is education . Education consists in fact in enabling man to become more man, to “be” more and not just to “have” more and consequently, through everything he “has”, everything he “possesses”, to “be” man more fully. For this purpose man must be able to “be more” not only “with others”, but also “for others”. Education is of fundamental importance for the formation of inter-human and social relations. Here too, I touch upon a set of axioms on the basis of which the traditions of Christianity that have sprung from the Gospel meet the educative experience of so many well-disposed and deeply wise men, so numerous in all centuries of history. In our age, too, there is no lack of them, of these men who reveal themselves as great, simply through their humanity which they are able to share with others, in particular with the young. At the same time, the symptoms of crises of all kinds to which there succumb environments and societies which are among those best-off in other ways,—crises which affect above all young generations—vie with each other in bearing witness that the work of man's education is not carried out only with the help of institutions, with the help of organized and material means, however, excellent they may be. They also show that the most important thing is always man, man and his moral authority which comes from the truth of his principles and from the conformity of his actions with these principles.
12. As the world Organization most competent in all problems of culture, UNESCO cannot neglect this other question which is absolutely fundamental: what can be done in order that man's education may be carried out above all in the family?
What is the state of public morality which will ensure the family, and above all the parent, the moral authority necessary for this purpose? What type of instruction? What forms of legislation sustain this authority or, on the contrary, weaken it or destroy it? The causes of success and failure in the formation of man by his family always lie both within the fundamental creative environment of culture which the family is, and also at a higher level, that of the competence of the State and the organs, on which these causes depend. These problems cannot but cause reflection and solicitude in the forum where the qualified representatives of the State meet.
There is no doubt that the first and fundamental cultural fact is the spiritually mature man, that is, a dully educated man, a man capable of educating himself and educating others. Nor is there any doubt that the first and fundamental dimension of culture is healthy morality: moral culture.
13. Certainly, there are many particular questions in this field, but experience shows that everything is connected, and that these questions are set in systems that plainly depend upon one another. For example, in the process of education as a whole, and of scholastic education in particular, has there not been a unilateral shift towards instruction in the narrow sense of the word? If we consider the proportions assumed by this phenomenon, as well as the systematic increase of instruction which refers solely to what man possesses, is not man himself put more and more in the shade? That leads, then, to a real alienation of education instead of working in favour of what man must “be”, it works solely in favour of what man can take advantage of in the field of “having”, of “possession”. The further stage of this alienation is to accustom man, by depriving him of his own subjectivity, to being the object of multiple manipulations: ideological or political manipulations which are carried out through public opinion; those that are operated through monopoly or control, through economic forces or political powers, and the media of social communication; finally, the manipulation which consists of teaching life as a specific manipulation of oneself.
These dangers in the field of education seem to threaten above all societies with a more developed technological civilization. These societies are confronted with man's specific crisis which consist of a growing lack of confidence with regard to his own humanity, to the meaning of the fact of being a man, and to the affirmation and joy derived from it, which are a source of creation. Modern civilization tried to impose on man a series of apparent imperatives, which its spokesmen justify by recourse to the principle of development and progress. Thus, for example, instead of respect for life, “the imperative” of getting rid of life and destroying it, instead of love which is the responsible communion of persons, “the imperative” of the maximum sexual enjoyment apart from any sense of responsibility; instead of the primacy of truth in actions, the “primacy” of behaviour that is fashionable, of the subjective, and of immediate success.
In all that there is indirectly expressed a great systematic renunciation of the healthy ambition of being a man. Let us be under no illusions: the system that is constructed on the basis of these false imperatives, these fundamental renunciations, may determine the future of man and the future of culture.
14. If in the name of the future of culture, it must be proclaimed that man has the right to “be” more, and if for the same reason it is necessary to demand a healthy primacy of the family in the overall work of educating man to real humanity, the law of the Nation must be set along the same line: it, too, must be placed at the basis of culture and education .
The Nation is, in fact, the great community of men who are united by various ties, but above all, precisely by culture. The Nation exists “through” culture and “for” culture, and it is therefore the great educator of men in order that they may “be more” in the community. It is this community which possesses a history that goes beyond the history of the individual and the family. It is also in this community, with respect to which every family educates, that the family begins its work of education with what is the most simple thing, language, thus enabling man who is at the very beginning to learn to speak in order to become a member of the community of his family and of his Nation.
In all that I am now proclaiming, which I will develop still further, my words express a particular experience, a particular testimony in its kind. I am the son of a Nation which has lived the greatest experience of history, which its neighbours have condemned to death several times, but which has survived and remained itself. It has kept its identity, and it has kept, in spite of partitions and foreign occupations, its national sovereignty, not by relying on the resources of physical power, but solely by relying on its culture . This culture turned out in the circumstances to be more powerful than all other forces.
What I say here concerning the right of the Nation to the foundation of its culture and its future is not, therefore, the echo of any “nationalism”, but it is always a question of a stable element of human experience and of the humanistic perspective of man's development. There exists a fundamental sovereignty of society which is manifested in the culture of the Nation. It is a question of the sovereignty through which, at the same time, man is supremely sovereign. When I express myself in this way, I am also thinking, with deep interior emotion, of the cultures of so many ancient peoples which did not give way when confronted with the civilizations of the invaders: and they still remain for man the source of his “being” as a man in the interior truth of his humanity. I am also thinking with admiration of the cultures of new societies, those that are awakening to life in the community of their own Nation—just as my Nation awakened to life ten centuries ago—and that are struggling to maintain their own identity and their own values against the influences and pressure of models proposed from outside.
15. Addressing you, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have been meeting in this place for over thirty years now in the name of the primacy of the cultural realities of man, human communities, peoples and Nations, I say to you: with all the means at your disposal, watch over the fundamental sovereignty that every Nation possesses by virtue of its own culture. Cherish it like the apple of your eye for the future of the great human family. Protect it! Do not allow this fundamental sovereignty to become the prey of some political or economic interest. Do not allow it to become a victim of totalitarian and imperialistic systems or hegemonies, for which man counts only as an object of domination and not as the subject of his own human existence. For them, too, the Nation—their own Nation or others—counts only as an object of domination and a bait for various interests, and not as a subject: the subject of sovereignty coming from the true culture which belongs to it as its own. Are there not, on the map of Europe and the world, Nations which have a marvellous historic sovereignty derived from their culture, and which are, nevertheless, deprived of their full sovereignty at the same time? Is this not an important point for the future of human culture, important above all in our age, when it is so urgent to eliminate the vestiges of colonialism?
16. This sovereignty which exists and which draws its origin from the specific culture of the Nation and society, from the primacy of the family in the work of education, and finally from the personal dignity of every man, must remain the fundamental criterion of the manner of dealing with the problem, an important one for humanity today, namely, that of the media of social communication (of the information which is bound up with them, and also of what is called “mass culture”). Since these media are “social” media of communication, they cannot be means of domination over others, on the part of agents of political power as well as of financial powers which impose their programme and their model. They must become the means—and what an important means!—of expression of this society which uses them, and which also ensures their existence. They must take into account the real needs of this society. They must take into account the culture of the Nation and its history. They must respect the responsibility of the family in the field of education. They must take into consideration the good of man, his dignity. They cannot be subjected to the criterion of interest, of the sensational and of immediate success but, taking into account ethical requirements, they must serve the construction of a “more human” life.
17. Genus humanum arte et ratione vivit. Fundamentally, it is affirmed that man is himself through truth, and becomes more himself through increasingly perfect knowledge of truth . I would like to pay tribute here, Ladies and Gentlemen, to all the merits of your Organization and at the same time to the commitment and to all the efforts of the States and Institutions which you represent, in regard to the popularization of instruction at all grades and all levels, as regards the elimination of illiteracy, which signifies the lack of all instruction, event the most elementary, a lack which is painful not only from the point of view of the elementary culture of individuals and environments, but also from the point of view of socio-economic progress. There are distressing indications of delay in this field, bound up with a distribution of goods that is often radically unequal, and unjust, think of the situations in which there exist, alongside the plutocratic oligarchy limited in numbers, multitudes of starving citizens living in want. This delay can be eliminated not by way of bloody struggles for power, but above all, by means of systematic alphabetization through the spread and popularization of instruction. An effort in this direction is necessary if it is then desired to carry out the necessary changes in the socio-economic field. Man, who “is more”, thanks also to what he “has”, and to what he “possesses”, must know how to possess, that is, to order and administer the means he possesses, for his own good and for the common good. For this purpose, instruction is indispensable.
18. The problem of instruction has always been closely linked with the mission of the Church. In the course of the centuries, she founded schools at all levels; she gave birth to the mediaeval Universities in Europe: in Paris and in Bologna, in Salamanca, and in Heidelberg, in Krakow and in Louvain. In our age, too, she offers the same contribution wherever her activity in this field is requested and respected. Allow me to claim in this place for Catholic families the right which belongs to all families to educate their children in schools which correspond to their own view of the world, and in particular the strict right of Christian parents not to see their children subjected, in schools, to programmes inspired by atheism. That is, indeed, one of the fundamental rights of man and of the family.
19. The system of education is organically connected with the system of the different orientations given to the way of practising and popularizing science, a purpose which is served by high-level educational establishments, Universities and also, in view of the present development of specialization and scientific methods, specialized institutes. These are institutions of which it would be difficult to speak without deep emotion. These methods are the work benches at which man's vocation to knowledge, as well as the constitutive link of humanity with truth as the aim of knowledge, become a daily reality, become, in a sense, the daily bread of so many teachers, venerated leaders of science, and around them, of young researchers dedicated to science and its applications, as also of the multitudes of students who frequent these centres of science and knowledge.
We find ourselves here, as it were, at the highest rungs of the ladder which man has been climbing, since the beginning, towards knowledge of the reality of the world around him, and towards knowledge of the mysteries of his humanity. This historical process has reached in our age possibilities previously unknown; it has opened to human intelligence horizons hitherto unsuspected. It would be difficult to go into detail here for, on the way to knowledge the orientations of specializations are as numerous as the development of science is rich.
20. Your Organization is a place of meeting, a meeting which embraces, in its widest sense, the whole field, so essential, of human culture. This audience is therefore the very place to greet all men of science, and to pay tribute particularly to those who are present here and who have obtained for their work the highest recognitions and the most eminent world distinctions. Allow me, consequently, to express also certain wishes which, I do not doubt, will reach the thought and the hearts of the members of this august assembly.
Just as we are edified in scientific work—edified and made deeply happy—by this march of the disinterested knowledge of truth which the scholar serves with the greatest dedication and sometimes at the risk of his health and even his life, we must be equally concerned by everything that is in contradiction with these principles of disinterestedness and objectivity, everything that would make science an instrument to teach aims that have nothing to do with it. Yes, we must be concerned about everything that proposes and presupposes only these non-scientific aims, demanding of men of science that they should put themselves in their service without permitting them to judge and decide, in all independence of mind, the human and ethical honesty of these purposes, or threatening them with bearing the consequences when they refuse to contribute to them.
Do these non-scientific aims of which I am speaking, this problem that I am raising, need proofs or comments? You know what I am referring to, let it suffice to mention the fact that among those who were brought before the international courts, at the end of the last world war, there were also men of science. Ladies and Gentlemen, I beg you to forgive me these words, but I would not be faithful to the duties of my office if I did not utter them not in order to return to the past, but to defend the future of science and human culture , even more, to defend the future of man and the world! I think that Socrates who, in his uncommon integrity, was able to sustain that knowledge is at the same time moral virtue, would have to climb down from his certainty if he could consider the experience of our time.
21. We realize it, Ladies and Gentlemen, the future of man and of the world is threatened , radically threatened, in spite of the intentions, certainly noble ones, of men of learning, men of science. It is threatened because the marvellous results of their researches and their discoveries, especially in the field of the sciences of nature, have been and continue to be exploited—to the detriment of the ethical imperative—for purposes that have nothing to do with the requirements of science, and even for purposes of destruction and death, and that to a degree never known hitherto causing really unimaginable damage. Whereas science is called to be in the service of man's life, it is too often a fact that it is subjected to purposes that destroy the real dignity of man and of human life. That is the case when scientific research itself is directed towards these purposes or when its results are applied to purposes contrary to the good of mankind. That happens in the field of genetic manipulations and biological experimentations as well as in that of chemical, bacteriological or nuclear armaments.
Two considerations lead me to submit particularly to your reflection the nuclear threat which is weighting upon the world today and which, if it is not staved off, could lead to the destruction of the fruits of culture, the products of civilization elaborated throughout the centuries by successive generations of men who believed in the primacy of the spirit and who did not spare either their efforts or their fatigue. The first consideration is the following. Geopolitical reasons, economic problems of world dimension, terrible incomprehension, wounded national pride, the materialism of our age and the decadence of moral values have led our world to a situation of instability, to a frail balance which runs the risk of being destroyed any moment as a result of errors of judgment, information and interpretation.
Another consideration is added to this disquieting perspective. Can we be sure, nowadays, that the upsetting of the balance would not lead to war, and to a war that would not hesitate to have recourse to nuclear arms? Up to now it has been said that nuclear arms have constituted a force of dissuasion which has prevented a major war from breaking out, and it is probably true. But we may wonder at the same time if it will always be so. Nuclear arms, of whatever order of magnitude or of whatever type they may be, are being perfected more and more every year, and they are being added to the arsenal of a growing number of countries. How can we be sure that the use of nuclear arms, even for purposes of national defence or in limited conflicts, will not lead to an inevitable escalation , leading to a destruction that mankind can never envisage or accept? But it is not you, men of science and culture, that I must ask not to close your eyes to what a nuclear war can represent for the whole of humanity (cf. Homily for the World Day of Peace 1 January 1980).
22. Ladies and Gentlemen, the world will not be able to continue for long along this way. A conviction, which is at the same time a moral imperative , forces itself upon anyone who has become aware of the situation at stake, and who is also inspired by the elementary sense of responsibilities that are incumbent on everyone: consciences must be mobilized! The efforts of human consciences must be increased in proportion to the tension between good and evil to which men at the end of the twentieth century are subjected. We must convince ourselves of the priority of ethics over technology, of the primacy of the person over things, of the superiority of spirit over matter (cf. Redemptor Hominis, n. 16). The cause of man will be served if science forms an alliance with conscience. The man of science will really help humanity if he keeps “the sense of man's transcendence over the world and of God's over man” ( Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences 10 November 1979, n. 4).
Thus, seizing the opportunity of my presence at the headquarters of UNESCO today, I, a son of humanity and Bishop of Rome, directly address you, men of science, you who are gathered here, you the highest authorities in all fields of modern science. And through you I address your colleagues and friends of all countries and all continents.
I address you in the name of this terrible threat which weighs over mankind, and, at the same time, in the name of the future and the good of humanity all over the world, I beseech you: let us make every effort to establish and respect the primacy of ethics, in all fields of science. Let us do our utmost particularly to preserve the human family from the horrible perspective of nuclear war!
I tackled this subject before the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, in New York, on 2 October of last year. I am speaking about it today to you. I appeal to your intelligence and your heart, above passions, ideologies and frontiers. I appeal to all those whom, through their political or economic power, would be and are often led to impose on scientists the conditions of their work and its orientation. Above all I appeal to every scientist individually and to the whole international scientific community.
All together you are an enormous power: the power of intelligences and consciences! Show yourselves to be more powerful than the most powerful in our modern world! Make up your mind to give proof of the most noble solidarity with mankind: founded on the dignity of the human person. Construct peace, beginning with the foundation: respect for all the rights of man, those which are connected with his material and economic dimension as well as those which are connected with the spiritual and interior dimension of his existence in this world. May wisdom inspire you! May love guide you, this love which will suffocate the growing threat of hatred and destruction! Men of science, commit all your moral authority to save mankind from nuclear destruction.
23. Today I have been given the possibility of realizing one of the deepest desires of my heart. I have been given the possibility of penetrating, here, within the Areopagus which is that of the whole world. I have been given the possibility of saying to all, to you, members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, to you who are working for the good and for the reconciliation of men and people through all fields of culture, science and information, to say to you and to cry to you from the inmost depths of my soul: Yes! The future of man depends on culture. Yes! The peace of the world depends on the primacy of the Spirit! Yes! The peaceful future of mankind depends on love!
Your personal contribution Ladies and Gentlemen, is important, it is vital. It lies in the correct approach to the problems, to the solution of which you dedicate your service.
My final word is the following. Do not stop. Continue. Continue always.
Source of the English text: L'Osservatore Romano , English Weekly Edition, 1980, June 23, pp. 9-12.