Pope Francis explains "The historian of Christianity should be careful to grasp the richness of the different realities in which, over the centuries, the Gospel has incarnated..." to Historians

Hall of the Consistory
Saturday, May 28, 2022
Dear Members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences!
I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of your plenary session. I thank the President, Father Ardura, for his kind words and I greet each of you, grateful for your generous service to the Holy See. It is a precious contribution also for the way you carry it out: by dialoguing and collaborating with historians and academic institutions, who wish to study not only the history of the Church, but more broadly the history of humanity in its long relationship with Christianity. two millennia.
One hundred years ago, on February 6, 1922, Pius XI, Pope librarian and diplomat, gave the Church and civil society a decisive orientation through a sign that was certainly surprising at the time. Immediately after the election, Pope Ratti wanted to inaugurate his pontificate by looking out over the external loggia of the Vatican Basilica, rather than the internal one, as his three predecessors had done. They say it took almost 40 minutes to open that window, which time had rusty because it was never used. With that gesture, Pius XII invited us to look out over the world and to listen to and serve the society of our time.
Adherence to firmly documented reality remains indispensable to the historian, without idealistic escapes into a supposedly consoling past. The historian of Christianity should be careful to grasp the richness of the different realities in which, over the centuries, the Gospel has incarnated and continues to be incarnated, giving away masterpieces that reveal the fruitful action of the Holy Spirit in history. The history of the Church is a place of encounter and comparison in which dialogue between God and humanity develops; and those who know how to combine thought with concreteness are predisposed to it. The great historian Cesare Baronio comes to mind: on the front of the chimney hood he left this inscription: Baronius coquus perpetuus. A scholar of admirable doctrine as well as a man of great virtue, he continued to consider himself the cook of the community, the task that in his youth had been given to him by Saint Philip Neri. Not infrequently illustrious personalities, who went to him to receive advice, found him with a work apron, busy washing the bowls (cf A. Capecelatro, Life of S. Philip Neri, Naples 1879, vol. I, p. 416 ). Therefore, theory and practice - united - lead to the truth.
Your Committee, wanted by Venerable Pius XII to be at the service of the Pope, the Holy See and the local Churches, is certainly bound to promote the study of history, indispensable for the laboratory of peace, as a way of dialogue and the search for concrete solutions. and peaceful to resolve disputes, and to get to know people and societies better. I hope that historians will contribute with their research, with their analysis of the dynamics that mark human events, to the courageous start of processes of confrontation in the concrete history of peoples and states.
The current situation in Eastern Europe does not allow you, for the moment, to meet some of your usual interlocutors at the conferences which, for decades, have seen you collaborate both with the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and with historians. of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. But I am sure that you will be able to seize the right opportunities to resume and intensify this common work, which will be a precious contribution aimed at promoting peace.
If history is often pervaded by war events, by conflicts, the study of history makes me think of the engineering of bridges, which makes fruitful relationships possible between people, between believers and non-believers, between Christians of different confessions. Your experience is full of lessons. We need it, because it is the bearer of the historical memory necessary to grasp the stakes in making history of the Church and of humanity: that of offering an opening towards the reconciliation of brothers, the healing of wounds, the reintegration of yesterday's enemies. in the concert of nations, as the founding fathers of united Europe were able to do after the Second World War.
Currently, your Committee consists of Members from 14 countries and three continents. I am delighted that this diversity expresses a multicultural, international and multidisciplinary dynamic. Your participation, next August, in the XXIII Congress of the International Committee of Historical Sciences in Poznan, with a round table on the theme "The Holy See and the Revolutions of the XIX and XX centuries", will be a further opportunity to realize the mission that is entrusted to you, as a service to the search for truth through the methodology proper to the historical sciences.
Your conference and publishing program, your historical and historiographical studies, as well as, for most of you, university teaching, constitute the field of activity in which you carry out your work. I encourage you to carry it forward, albeit in the context and with the methodology that are your part, always open to the horizon of the history of salvation. This horizon is like the atmosphere in which human affairs, so to speak, "breathe", take light, revealing a broader meaning: that which comes from Christ, "who is Lord of his Church and Lord of human history by virtue of the mystery of the Redemption "(John Paul II, Enc. Redemptor hominis, March 4, 1979, 22).
To you and your loved ones I cordially impart my Blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.