Pope: Study of history can offer valuable way to foster peace
By Thaddeus Jones
Pope Francis met on Saturday morning with Members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences gathered in Rome for their Plenary Session. Pope Pius XII established the Committee in 1954 with the purpose of promoting the study of history, especially regarding the Church, as a service to the Pope, the Holy See and the local churches. Members hail from 14 countries and three continents, expressing a multicultural, international and multidisciplinary dynamic.
In his meeting with them, the Pope paid tribute to the valuable contribution they provide, especially through dialoguing and collaborating with historians and academic institutions studying the history of the Church, and how Christianity and world history are intertwined.
Encounter and dialogue
The Pope underscored the necessity for historians to give importance to firmly documented realities, without idealistic escapes into a "supposedly" consoling past. The historian of Christianity in particular, he noted, should be attentive to grasping the richness of the different historical realities down through the centuries where the Gospel has been lived and experienced, offering great instances that reveal the fruitful action of the Holy Spirit in history. And the history of the Church is a place of encounter and deliberation in which the dialogue between God and humanity develops.
Study of history promoting peace
The Pope noted how the Committee aims to promote the study of history, as an indispensable laboratory of peace offering a a way to dialogue in searching for concrete and peaceful solutions to resolve disagreements, as well as to know people and societies more deeply. The Pope underscored, that he hopes historians will contribute with their research, with their analysis of the dynamics that mark human affairs, to give courageous impetus to study and sharing of the concrete history of peoples and States.
He acknowledged that the situation in Eastern Europe has halted temporarily the possibility to meet with fellow historians as done in recent decades and involving collaboration with both the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and historians of the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate. He expressed hopes that they might be able to find the right opportunity to resume this joint work and collaboration, which offers a valuable contribution aimed at fostering peace.
While history is often marked by wars and conlicts, the study of history could also be considered like bridge engineering, said the Pope, if one focuses on the elements and events that make possible fruitful relationships between people, between believers and non-believers, and between Christians of different denominations. The research and discoveries of historians are rich in lessons that can be shared, he added, saying we need to know about them because they can offer the historical memory necessary to grasp what is at stake in the making of Church and human history. For example, this is true especially when on considers that of offering an opening toward the reconciliation of brothers and sisters, the healing of wounds, the reintegration of yesterday's enemies into the concert of nations, as the Founding Fathers of a united Europe were able to do after World War II.
With a view to salvation history
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged Members to always be open to the horizon of salvation history within the scope and methodology of their work, whether in university teaching, research, publishing and participation in academic conferences. He said this horizion is like the atmosphere in which human affairs "breathe," catching the light, revealing a broader meaning: that which comes from Christ, "who is Lord of the Church and Lord of man's history on account of the mystery of the Redemption" (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor hominis, March 4, 1979, 22).