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World Nov. 12, 2018

Science should serve humanity, Pope Francis says

By Hannah Brockhaus

Pope Francis at a Nov. 12 meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Credit: Vatican Media/CNA.

VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News)—Pope Francis told a group of scientists Monday to use their knowledge for the benefit of all humanity, especially at the service of those people who are most often disregarded by most of society.

It is not enough to merely follow the principles of ethics, the Church expects from science “a positive service that we can call with Saint Paul VI the ‘charity of knowledge,’” the Pope said Nov. 12.

“I would like to stand before you as the advocate of the peoples that receive only rarely and from afar the benefits of vast human knowledge and its achievements,” he continued, “especially in the areas of nutrition, health, education, connectivity, well-being and peace.”

Pope Francis spoke in an audience with participants in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences’ plenary meeting, taking place at the Vatican Nov. 12-14 on the theme “Transformative roles of science in society: From emerging basic science toward solutions for people’s wellbeing.”

Referencing the theme of the academy’s plenary meeting, he praised the academy’s focus on using knowledge to confront the challenges facing modern society, stressing that “the universal rights we proclaim must become reality for all.”

“Science can contribute decisively to this process and to breaking down the barriers that stand in its way,” he said, encouraging scientists to conduct research which benefits all people, “so that the peoples of the earth will be fed, given to drink, healed and educated.”

He also encouraged them to give sound advice to the political and economic spheres “on how to advance with greater certainty towards the common good, for the benefit especially of the poor and those in need, and towards respect for our planet.”

In his speech, Francis outlined a few of the possible fruits of a scientific community focused on a “mission of service.”

One of these fruits is “commitment to a world without nuclear arms,” he said, echoing sentiments of St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, “that scientists actively cooperate to convince government leaders of the ethical unacceptability of such weaponry, because of the irreparable harm that it causes to humanity and to the planet.”

He urged “the need for disarmament,” which he argued is a topic raised less and less frequently by those in positions of power. “May I be able to thank God, as did Saint John Paul II in his Testament, that in my Pontificate the world was spared the immense tragedy of an atomic war,” he stated.

Pope Francis also noted what he said is a “lack of will and political determination” to end the arms race and wars. More monetary resources could then be put toward renewable energy and programs to ensure water, food, and health for all, he said.

On climate change, he pointed out the influence of human actions and said there is a need for responses aimed at protecting “the health of the planet and its inhabitants,” which is risked by use of fossil fuels and deforestation.

In his address, he also praised the Academy of Sciences’ work combating human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, and organ trafficking and said he stands at their side “in this battle for humanity.”

“This is the immense panorama that opens up before men and women of science when they take stock of the expectations of peoples,” he said: “expectations animated by trusting hope, but also by anxiety and unrest.”