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Cardinal Parolin: Explore and discover what makes us truly human

In a video message to a Vatican conference, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin encourages participants “to discover and remain fascinated by what makes us truly human”.

By Vatican News staff writer

On the final day of the 5th International Conference on "Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul - How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health" (May 6 to 8), Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent his own reflections in a video message in Italian shared during the virtual proceedings.

The meeting was organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, the Cura Foundation, and the Science and Faith (STOQ) Foundation.

In his remarks, Cardinal Parolin noted the interdisciplinary nature of the meeting addressing themes on ecology, economics, technologies used in health care, and philanthropy. He said the uniting thread was the impact on the human person and understanding better our identity as human beings.


Today, said Cardinal Parolin, “humanity is called to look at itself without presuming absolute superiority”, since we are not the only living beings that share the same planet, and our lives depend on many other living organisms that are part of a delicately balanced ecosystem.

He observed that, while we have shared characteristics with the animal world, human beings are unique given our rationality, moral conscience, aesthetic sense and openness to the transcendent.

Concerning rationality, he noted that humans have a high degree of self-understanding, since “we reflect not only on ourselves, but also on others and on the universe around us”.

We have developed technology to improve our living conditions and health, as well as systems and structures affecting how we live, think and act.

Moral conscience

He went on to note how our moral conscience helps us distinguish between good and evil, making us think about ethical questions regarding our actions, indivdiually and comunally.

“A strong moral sense pushes us to denounce and take actions that put an end to injustice” through humanitarian outreach and solidarity, he said. 

The aesthetic sense, he added, also marks a unique characteristic of human beings, since we are able “to contemplate beauty” and “express it in the many forms of art”, from painting, sculpture, music or dance to the most modern forms. 

Openness to transcendence

Finally, the most sublime dimension of human existence, he underscored, is our “openness to the transcendent horizon that in the lives of many of us results in religious experience”, which drive us to question ourselves “on the ultimate questions and the horizon that goes beyond the mere earthly dimension”.

He recalled that ancient thinkers summed up this specificity and uniqueness of human being as “humanitas”.

In conclusion, he encouraged the meeting participants, philosophers and people of culture of today to “continue to deepen the mystery of our existence with enthusiasm and determination, to discover and remain fascinated by what makes us truly human.”

08 May 2021, 16:30