Vatíkan-málþing um Krist, menningu og menntun - enska

Opening remarks "Ressourcement":
Family and Education. School and University.
Second Pre-Synodal Symposium,
The Vatican, 11th to 14th January 1999.

Opening remarks "Ressourcement": Family and Education. School and University.
It is an honour for me to chair this afternoon session. I am grateful to the organizers of the Second Pre-Synodal Symposium for inviting me from Iceland to take part in this historic event, with the aim of confirming Christ as the source of a new culture for Europe on the threshold of a new millennium.

We Icelanders are a small and homogenous nation, living on our own island in the North Atlantic. It was through the literary activity of Catholic monks in our country about 800 years ago that the Icelandic Sagas were recorded. The sagas tell not only about the exploits of the Vikings, with their fights, quarrels and discoveries of unknown lands in the Western Hemisphere, including North America, a thousand years ago, but also about how Christianity was introduced to the peoples of the North and what effect it had on them to get to know Christ. It is also a historic fact that our language, Icelandic, has undergone very few changes from the early period partly because the Bible was translated into Icelandic in the 16th century.

When we talk about "ressourcement" in order to confirm our position in the community of nations, it is therefore quite natural for us to look at our Christian cultural heritage. In the year 2000 we will be celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of the conversion of Iceland to Christianity and recording our debt to this source of our culture, old and new.

The family is recognized as the cornerstone of society. The rapid changes in our societies have brought about great changes in family life. The early childhood years have a formative influence on the life of the individual, and the foundation of the future is laid down within the family. The individual's freedom of choice, and the opportunities he has to undertake responsibility, are the basis of the well-being of the family. Unfortunately, developments during this century have tended to weaken the position of the family. There are many reasons why this has happened, for example long working hours, high taxes and limited leisure time. When legislation is passed, things must not be arranged in such a way as to make it more attractive, from an economic point of view, for people to cohabit than to marry. It is a serious fact that many parents have very little time to spend with their families, and that those teenagers who lack parental supervision are the most vulnerable to the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. When we speak of the inner strength of the family, we must remember not only to look at material values, but to have Christ's teachings on charity as our guiding principle.

The content of our education should take account of Christian values. We in Europe can not cultivate our cultural and historical tradition without the message of the Christian faith exerting a strong influence on our education. In addition, most school systems are rooted in our Christian heritage. These roots must not be broken, even though we now cultivate them in a different way. Trust in our schools must be based on the belief that they are not rootless at times of great changes, but will make a living response when new challenges arise, without sacrificing the central values that have proved their worth over the centuries, including standards regarding discipline and results.

For the individual to thrive in modern society, he must not only acquire a sound basic education when young, but also follow this up with lifelong learning. He must have broad horizons and realize that moral values are no less important than new advances in science and technology.

We must now come to terms with new branches of scientific enquiry which are for instance concentrating more and more on genetic factors and how genetic data can be exploited in new ways with the aid of new information technology.

While protecting the right to personal human privacy, care must be taken not to obstruct those who wish to use new methods in the fight against disease by gathering data about large groups of people, or even whole nations. In Iceland, for example, it has been revealed that the vast majority of the people are willing to make their medical records available to science in a centralized database which will be used for genetic research. New legislation that was passed on such database in Iceland recently is regarded as marking a new chapter in the history of medical research. with the new technology.

In all this turmoil of new developments, we must not forget the fundamental truth of the Christian faith, which is our most important source of inner strength.

I want to conclude those short remarks with a quotation from the Encyclical letter Fides et Ratio by John Paul II where he writes:

"From all that I have said to this point it emerges that men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable - a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves. Christian faith comes to meet them, offering the concrete possibility of reaching the goal which they seek. Moving beyond the stage of simple believing, Christian faith immerses human beings in the order of grace, which enables them to share in the mystery of Christ, which in turn offers them a true and coherent knowledge of the Triune God. In Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, faith recognizes the ultimate appeal to humanity, an appeal made in order that what we experience as desire and nostalgia may come to its fulfilment."