Latin America

The Peruvian Road to Knowledge

The Catholic University of Lima is a place for seeking truth, as universities were in the Middle Ages. A passion for educating young people toward growth as “free men,” protagonists of the world

After the inauguration of the newly founded Sedes Sapientiae Catholic University in Lima, Peru, last February 12th, the academic year’s initiation ceremony was officially held on April 25th. Joining the Rector, Rev. Prof. Joaquin Martinez Valls, were the Apostolic Nuncio in Peru, Msgr. Rino Passigato; Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora; President of the Bishops Conference, Bishop Luis Bambaren; and Bishop Juan Ramon Gurruchaga, Bishop of the Diocese of Lurin. Later in the day, a show was held in El Buen Pastor Boarding School, followed by a party attended by numerous students.
During the ceremony, Most Reverend Lino Panizza, Bishop of Carabayllo, read the message from Father Giussani that was sent to him for this occasion. Its text follows.

His Excellency
Most Reverend Lino Panizza
Bishop of Carabayllo

Your Excellency,
Thanking you for the opportunity to offer my small testimony on such a lofty occasion. With you I greet the religious and civic authorities present, and the teachers, students, and staff of this new university.
Please allow me to express my great joy at the commencement of the activity of the Sedes Sapientiae Catholic University in Lima, which you so greatly desired and have created, not without sacrifice. I remember our meeting in Milan during which you told me of your intention to found a university for the training of young people in your diocese, as a response to an educational void that was a source of concern for you. Your words excited me immediately. I relived vividly my encounter almost fifty years ago, on a train, with a group of high school students, whom I found terribly ignorant about Christianity and the reasons of faith, so much so that I asked my superiors for permission to devote myself to the education of young people in a school in Milan. I have seen in you, Excellency, our shared passion for educating youth, those who represent the future and hope of a people. And we well know how serious the problem is today of introducing young people to reality following a positive hypothesis, which makes them encounter, judge, and give value to all of human experience in a limitless embrace. This is even more urgent today when the self, the “I,” seems to me to be violently shaken about and made more fragile by the rough storms of a desperate world.
You have decided to call yourselves Sedes Sapientiae, I believe, so as to emphasize that the new university intends to be, just as in the Middle Ages, a place for seeking truth. As Cardinal Ratzinger said last February during a lecture (organized by the San Damaso Faculty of Theology in Madrid) on the encyclical Fides et ratio
: “The question about the truth is properly the essential question of the Christian faith. If I were briefly to trace the determinant objective of the encyclical, I would say: it means to rehabilitate the question about the truth in a world marked by relativism; it means to bring it to the fore as a rational and scientific task…. The encyclical means simply to give back courage to the adventure of truth.” (February 16, 2000) This adventure involves teachers and students in a common task, so that the former can transmit an intriguing human experience to the latter, as they set out at a new pace on their path into reality. And they could not do so safely unless strengthened by a relationship with those who have already traversed a section of that path.
The birth of a Catholic university represents a wonderful and exciting challenge to those who have faith in Christ: to show the world, through their teaching and study, the reasonableness of faith, a faith that has to do with life and that places the individual in the best condition to face every circumstance and the problems that emerge from the human struggle. In this sense it does not seem coincidental to me that your activity begins with the two departments of Educational Science and Economics and Administration. You yourself recalled during the inauguration: “Our country needs free men, who are able to educate the new generations to the fascinating task of forming persons and introducing them responsibly to reality. Moreover, it is necessary for them to be creative professionals, capable of promoting new opportunities for work so that all will have the chance to grow.”
And too, as John Paul II teaches us, “the cultural commitment of a believer would be substantially lacking if the humanization of man were not consciously oriented and directed toward his fulfillment in the faith. A faith that does not become culture is a faith that is not fully accepted, not completely thought out, not faithfully lived.” (1982) This statement is illuminated by another one, for us a crucial one, by St. Paul: “Put all things to the test and keep what is good.” (1 Thes
5:21) This is our culture.
What can I wish for you but that your new university be a factor for the growth of adults educated as Christians, and thus capable of judging reality and of intervening to make it more human? This work will thus bring forth other works, concrete signs of that humanization of man which today is so absent and yet so deeply desired.
In this way, Sedes Sapientiae can also be an example for others in Latin America, a continent that is so promising for the Church’s presence. May the road you open today leave traces on the path of all in an epoch when what convinces are not speeches and theories, but the testimonies of men and women for whom faith in Jesus of Nazareth, present here and now through those chosen in the Church, is the only reason for their hope. Then the tragic words of the French writer André Malraux concerning our time may not have to be repeated: “There is no ideal to which we can sacrifice ourselves, because we know the falsity of everything, we who do not know what is the truth.” We, instead, do know what is the truth and we say it to all without presumptuousness, but with humble certainty, certain that as much as we have seen, heard, and touched it, it does not belong to us. Thus we commit ourselves with certainty, albeit among limits and difficulties, to a passionate search for truth, beauty, goodness, and justice.
For all of this, we are very grateful to you for having chosen friends of ours to collaborate with the Sedes Sapientiae Catholic University. May you know, Excellency, that my friends are your friends, ready to make themselves totally available to giving their lives for the working of an Other, of another.
Luigi Giussani
Milan, April 12, 2000