News & Features

Pope's Visit Sparks Hope, Encouragement

Fresh off his return from Washington, D.C., Fontbonne University President Dennis Golden took time to reflect on Pope Benedict XVI’s address April 19 to some 400 Catholic educators. The Pope’s address to these educational leaders took place at the Catholic University of America during a papal visit that also included stops at the White House, New York’s 9/11 “ground zero,” as well as Mass at both Yankee Stadium and the new Nationals Park in Washington.

Prior to the papal visit, some speculated on what the tone and content of the Pope’s address might be. Perhaps the most telling description of how the talk was received, according to Dr. Golden, can be summed up in the Pope’s closing comments: “To all of you I say: bear witness to hope.”

“The Holy Father’s talk was, indeed, one of sincerity, substance, encouragement and, yes, hope,” Dr. Golden said. “Interestingly, the title of Pope John Paul II’s biography is ‘Witness to Hope.’ And this synergy of message, I believe, is not accidental.”

Following are additional selected excerpts from the Pope’s address followed by Dr. Golden’s reflections:

“How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news” (Rom 10:15-17). With these words of Isaiah quoted by Saint Paul, I warmly greet each of you … ”

“From the outset it was very clear that the Pope was being inclusive, addressing our Judaeo-Christian roots,” Dr. Golden said. “It was heartening to hear this, and it was a strong affirmation of the positive energy we have received from our ‘dedicated semester’ that focused on Judaism and Its Cultures.”

“Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News.”

“If you are a Catholic college or university, it is not enough to be a good academic institution,” Dr. Golden said. “To be a great Catholic institution of higher education requires a balance — an integration — of faith and reason. I believe that is the ‘good news’ of which the Pontiff speaks.”

“It (Catholic education) is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured.”

“Our university community is a spiritual destination as well as an intellectual one. True to our current motto, Fontbonne is a community where we can all ‘learn more and be more,’” Dr. Golden commented. “The Pope is recognizing the importance of Catholic education and calling for the faithful to support and enhance our mission. To paraphrase an insightful comment made recently by Sister Mary Ann Eckhoff, SSND, at the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation Choirs of Angels Dinner, our Catholic institutions must be available, accessible and affordable. But we cannot do that alone. It is only with the commitment of many who share our vision to ‘educate leaders to serve a world in need’ that we can continue to benefit our community.”

“ … one can recognize that the contemporary ‘crisis of truth’ is rooted in a ‘crisis of faith.’ … It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradicted one another. … Truth means more than knowledge; knowing the truth leads us to discover the good.”

“The Holy Father made it clear that the church’s primary mission is evangelization. The university mission is one of education, which has an important connection to the church’s mission,” Dr. Golden said. “Catholic educational institutions are excellent examples of settings wherein both faith and reason can thrive and flourish in a mutually supportive and respectful environment.”

“It comes as no surprise, then, that not just our own ecclesial communities, but society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators. This places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity. … Your selfless contributions — from outstanding research to the dedication of those working in inner-city schools — serves both your country and the Church.”

“We have an obligation to do our very best with the students who come to Fontbonne to enrich their lives. It is not ‘business as usual’ for those of us dedicated to Catholic higher education,” Dr. Golden reflected. “We live our mission every day through our commitment to a values-based learning environment, through our service to the community, through our Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Endowed Chair in Catholic Thought and through many other academic and spiritual endeavors.”

“In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission … ”

“This is obviously a topic of great interest to all of us in academia,” Dr. Golden shared. “I believe many in attendance felt that the Pope’s thoughts regarding academic freedom were consistent with his prior convictions. As a former distinguished university professor, the Pope undoubtedly values academic freedom with a responsible and reasonable appreciation for our Catholic educational mission. I believe the tenor of his remarks were supportive and encouraging.”

NOTE: If you would like to read Pope Benedict’s address in its entirety, visit the official Web site of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities at