By Sarah Mac Donald - 15 April, 2014
Receiving members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences at the weekend, the Pontiff said history and historians can help the Church discern what the Holy Spirit wants to say to it today.
Citing Blessed John XXIII, who cited Cicero, Pope Francis said that “history is truly the witness of the times, the light of truth, the life of memory, the teacher of life.”
The Pope praised initiatives, including an international conference, marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I.
Historical analysis of the Great War would “pay special attention to the Holy See’s diplomatic efforts during the tragic conflict and the contribution made by Catholics and other Christians to rescue the wounded, refugees, orphans and widows, to search for the missing, as well as in the reconstruction of a world torn apart by what Benedict XV called ‘useless slaughter’,” Pope Francis said.
Referring to Pope Pius XII’s appeal for peace just before the beginning of World War II, Pope Francis said his appeal resonated today and was as timely as ever.
He recalled that Benedict XV warned that “Nothing is lost by peace; everything may be lost by war” in his Letter to the rulers of the belligerent powers of 1 August 1917.
“When we listen again to those prophetic words, really, we realise that history is “magistra vitae” or a life teacher,” Pope Francis stated.
He told the historians gathered in the Vatican “In your studies and in your teaching, you are particularly faced with the vicissitudes of the Churches’ journeys through time, with its glorious history of evangelisation, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work, as well as infidelity, of denials, of sins.”
“Your research, marked by both a genuine passion for the Church and sincere love for the truth, can be of great help to those who have the task of discerning what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the Church today”.
He noted: “In your encounter and collaboration with researchers of every culture and religion, you can offer a specific contribution to the dialogue between the Church and the modern world”.