How Necessary Is Christianity to European Identity?

26 January 2011

The question if and how Christianity is necessary to Europe has an official answer. During summer 2010, three million calendars of the new year have been distributed, with all the festivities, except the Christian ones, in it. Meanwhile, the European Commission of Justice had decided that crucifixes should not be hung up in schools. And not long before, the European Convention had famously established that Christianity should not be mentioned as one of the roots of European civilization.
History repeats itself. In 1793 the French revolutionaries acted the same way: they reformed the calendar and transformed the cathedral of Notre Dame into the Temple of Reason. Contemporary reports tell us that, during the celebrations, a certain madame Thèrèse Maillard, a very attractive actress, was placed in lieu of the statue of the Virgin Mary and worshipped as the Goddess of Reason. A question arises: are we going to relive the same catastrophic consequences of this blasphemous ceremony? My personal answer is: in Europe, some of these consequences can already be seen.
I will try to make two points, the first of a more political nature and the second more philosophical. I will be deliberately schematic so as to allow for a better discussion. My concerns are about Europe but I have America in mind, because I fear that the European malady might be contagious. In the Old World the influence of Islam on European culture has been debated by scholars for centuries and is increasingly a topic of political discussion, in the New World the contribution of Islam to the American Revolution has just began to be mentioned. Is the God of the "city upon a hill" (God forbid!) fading away? Is He in the train of being joined by another God? This seems to be unconceivable. But in case Americans were to believe that one God, two gods, no god is the same, Europe can teach them that what is unconceivable today turns out to be real tomorrow. Consider just a few examples.
In Europe, Christian symbols are more and more taken as archaeological troves that paying tourists may view (provided no strikes are underway), but, if they are exhibited as true testimonies of faith, they are considered offensive to other religions and possibly concealed.
In Europe, all blasphemous expressions against Christianity are permitted, and yet satirical cartoons about Islam are not allowed. In the former case, the freedom of expression is invoked and one may be celebrated as an artist or a hero, in the latter, the criminal code is appealed to and one's life is at stake.
In Europe, the Pope may be invited to give a speech at a university for the inauguration of an academic year, only to prevent him ultimately from going because so it was asserted by the professors who protested universities are "secular institutions."
In Europe, the issue of Basque or Northern Irish terrorism may be brought up and mentioned with its proper name, but the expression "Islamic terrorism" is banned, and fundamentalism may be criticised but only by using the formula "Islamic, Catholic or other".
In Europe, a deceitful Newspeak is adopted: when political authorities and cultural elites try to convince the people that Christianity is a parochial religion and the Christian faith an obstacle to progress, the universal language of human rights is used, but, when Islamic communities are addressed, the multicultural language is resorted to.
As a last example but the list could be much longer in Europe, the principle of dialogue is professed and continuously invoked, but the basis of all dialogue reciprocity is scrupulously unmentioned. The outcome is that, if Muslims request permission to build a mosque alongside a Roman or Medieval basilica, they have their right to be respected, but if Christians are denied the permission to erect even a small chapel in a neighbouring Arab or Islamic country with which we maintain normal relations, then is their culture. The game for Christians amounts to: heads I lose, tails you win. And if by any chance Christians believers are attacked by fanatics in a friendly country, then this event may be deplored, but only once and under one's breath.
What exactly is happening? My short answer is that Europe is paying the price of its secularism.
This is the first point I wish to make. Secularism is no harmless philosophy, it has at least three serious consequences.
The first consequence is that it deprives Europe of its religious history, its identity and even its boundaries. It transforms Europe into a sort of container which can be filled with any ingredient whatsoever but with no real amalgamation. Not a "melting pot", because once identity is lost the energy fusion is lacking as well. Will the peoples of Europe ever be able to say "this is our motherland"? No, they may say at the most "this is the shared land in which we happen to live". A similar land, with no roots or sense of belonging, is like a supermarket, bank, restaurant or: one enters, is served or serves himself, and then leaves as he entered, with no further obligations. In absence of an European identity no political unification is then possible, let alone an European Constitution.
The second consequence of European secularism is that, depriving Europeans from an essential part of their identity, it does not allow the integration of immigrants, which is one of the major challenges Europe is facing today. The reason is simple. Integration does not mean merely adding up or setting side by side or putting together different people. It means absorbing them within a common and shared framework, transforming them from a collective unity into a moral unity. But if secularism denies the main element for creating a common European framework, i.e. the Europeans' historical religion, then it hinders integration. It produces, at the most, a rainbow' society continually at risk of ethnic and religious conflicts.
There is an objection to this conclusion: the elements for the creation of a common European framework secularists maintain do not stem from religion but are, rather, provided by certain principles and values. My reply is: were these elements possibly born in a vacuum? To what tradition do they belong? And if indeed they are part of a tradition, are they not therefore also attached to the Christian tradition? A second objection is usually raised: not at all secularists say the elements for the creation of an European identity come from the Enlightenment tradition of the Goddess of Reason. Again, my reply is: have the concepts of libertè, egalitè, fraternitè by any chance been invented by madame Maillard? Or is it rather the case that the pretty French actress recited, in her own way, lines read, for example, in the Gospels? Does not this old fashioned booklet teach that men are son of God, created in his image, and therefore free, equal and united by the same destiny? True, it took long time and many troubles and tragedies to understand this message. But that means that Enlightenment was late, not that it was new. Actually, it was just one of the many ways with which the inhabitants of the heavenly city have tried to reach the City of God.
The third and last consequence of secularism I briefly consider deals with the favourite intellectual and political entertainment of European elites, that is, dialogue. What is dialogue? It is a dispute between people with different views. When does a dialogue take place and why is it resorted to? When disputants are not certain about their views, are prepared to look for a better one and are ready to admit that their original positions might be corrected, amended, even rejected. As Karl Popper wrote, the principle of dialogue is: "I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort we may get nearer to the truth" (The Open Society and Its Enemies, II, p. 238). But if dialogue goes like this, then religious views cannot be the subject of dialogue, because believers cannot correct them. They are true by faith. As a consequence, no inter-religious or inter-faith dialogue in the technical sense can ever be possible.
Of course, dialogue can take place about principles such as tolerance, equality, parity, personal dignity, etc. But, again, these are our principles, the principles of our Christian tradition. If secularism denies the value of this tradition, how can such principles be discussed and defended? If a person comes to us and says: "I am a Muslim and believe that women have fewer rights than men", can we really reply: "ok, let us dialogue, I am a secularist, I do not believe in anything or I believe that anything goes"?
This brings me to my second point. The main philosophical argument for secularism amounts to this: there is no need for Christianity or any other religion, because reason is enough to provide us with those fundamental, universal, non-negotiable values and ideals that are indispensable to give sense to our lives and to arrange our societies. But how?
Immanuel Kant claimed that, to establish a liberal State, there is no need to believe in God or in man created in His image. He then replaced divine commandments by the categorical imperatives of practical reason and tried to connect them to individual liberty and the liberal state. But, in his later years, when he realized that man is no angel because he is affected by "radical evil" (his translation of original sin), he admitted that a liberal state may be established only as a community of believers, precisely like a Church, as he wrote in his Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (1794). Thus the deepest secular philosopher, the most ingenious champion of the principle of man's autonomy, ended up with God. About twenty years earlier, in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), Thomas Jefferson had held the same opinion: "can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?" (Query XVIII).
John Rawls (as well as J╝rgen Habermas) tried to take a further step. He distinguished "comprehensive doctrines", that are private, from public "conceptions of justice", imposing on the former the duty of being translatable into, or replaced by, the language of the latter. If this is the case, they are welcome because they reinforce public reason with a strong religious feeling; if this is not the case, then comprehensive doctrines are unreasonable and should be set aside. It is apparently like the story of Columbus's egg: the liberal State is "free-standing", sustained as it is by the mere force of gravity or attraction of public reason. But things are not this way. Firstly, public reason is not as universal and impersonal and neutral as it seems: the deeper we dig into it, the more we find that it is our reason, holding in our countries, within our tradition. Secondly, just as Columbus's egg stands up by itself only if we flatten its base, to allow the citizens of Rawls' liberal state to peacefully coexist it is necessary to compress their religions. In Political Liberalism (1993) Rawls called "overlapping consensus" the tool needed to provide the foundations to the stability of our societies. From the point of view of those who disagree, this looks like imposing a view in a gentle, soft way. Of course, impositions can be done, but, quite apart from the consideration that they appear scarcely democratic, when fundamental principles are at stake they result in the egg leaking on all sides. It is a good recipe for cooking an omelette, not for growing an open society.
To conclude, you may perhaps be curious to know what finally happened with the Goddess of Reason. Madame Maillard became famous as a Hollywood star, but ended up in prison and her husband was put to death by Robespierre. Mindless as she was, she certainly did not realize that, with her tragicomic play, she had inaugurated that long series of disasters Europeans were doomed to face any time they mocked and fought Christianity in the name now of scientific reason now of race superiority now of class struggle now of other pagan idols. After the guillotine season, Europe has had even gulags and concentration camps. Thanks God, that story is over, but if I were a secularist in Europe (I leave it up to Americans to consider their own situation), I would be concerned.


Lecture before the Library of Congress, Washington DC

21 October 2010

the Founding Fathers, and the Culture of Human Rights

1. Filangieri and Franklin, Europe and America
It is a well known fact that Gaetano Filangieri was an admirer of the American Revolution. In his view as he wrote in his Science of Legislation of 1780 Pennsylvania was "a nation of heroes, the asylum of liberty, and the admiration of the universe." (The Science of Legislation, Engl. transl., printed for Thomas Ostell by Emery and Adams 1806, I, xi, 150). Of the several posthumous editions of this great work, one was dedicated to George Washington and another to Thomas Jefferson. He corresponded with Benjamin Franklin to whom he asked to be invited "to participate in the great Constitution being prepared in the United Provinces of America, the laws of which are to determine not only their fate, but also the destiny of the whole of this new emisphere." (Quoted in A. Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia 1958, p.151).
Although Franklin never made the invitation (sadly but, I must admit, quite reasonably), he sent Filangieri a collection of the Constitutions of the American States in 1783. Filangieri commented on them, and Franklin wrote back to him with fresh observations. Unfortunately, the comments have never been found, in spite of many efforts by historians. This material would be a valuable source of information for understanding the relationship between the American and the Italian Enlightenment especially on issues such as the regime of division of powers, criminal law, death penalty, the role of the Judiciary, about which Filangieri proved to have far-seeing views. At present, the only thing we know is that a nephew of Filangieri had a chance to see it, and commented on it by observing "the curious fact developed in it by one of the commentators, that all the leading statesman in America seemed chiefly to be concerned in placing restrictions upon the popular will, while the European philosophers or democrats were equally zealous in abolishing all restriction." (A. Pace, op. cit., p.153)
I believe this is one of the main reasons for reflecting on Filangieri and Franklin today. Their destinies couldn't be more different. Franklin and the Founding Fathers promoted a liberal revolution whose effects are still felt today in the United States and elsewhere; Filangieri and his circle of Neapolitan intellectuals sparked off a Jacobin revolution that terminated in a blood bath. At that time, the two shores of the Atlantic took different paths. Why did this split occur? And is it still underway? If this is the case, who is most in the right, a democratic-oriented Europe or a liberal-leaning America? Or rather, as I fear, are we all in the same boat, running the same risks?
2. Filangieri's "absolute goodness" and human rights
The point of departure of Filangieri's Science of Legislation is easy to formulate: when is a law a good law? Filangieri's answer to this question is: there are two kinds of goodness, "absolute" and "relative."
A law is absolutely good if it is in "agreement with the universal principles of morality, common to all nations and all governments, and adapted to all climates." (I, iv, p.23) A law is relatively good if it agrees with the historical, environmental, cultural, religious, social, et cetera circumstances of the people whom it addresses. In short, a law is relatively good if it reflects "the state of the nation which receives it." (I, v, p.49) Since Filangieri maintains that the principle of absolute goodness is "the first rule of law" (I, iv, p.24), we can say that absolute goodness is the criterion of legitimacy of laws, while relative goodness is a criterion of their utility. This is why Filangieri maintains that two opposite laws may both be relatively good, because they are useful to two different nations or to the same nation but in different historical periods, but no law in any nation or era is acceptable if it goes against the absolute principles of morality.
Filangieri was not a mere political scientist. Like Machiavelli before him, but without his moral unscrupulousness, Filangieri intended to advance "a philosophy in aid of governments." And precisely like Franklin, he aimed to tear off the sceptre from tyrants. But if philosophy is to aid governments it has to solve two preliminary questions. What are the principles of absolute goodness rulers should abide by? And how can these principles be known?
Filangieri's answer to the first question is the same as that of the natural right tradition as passed down by John Locke and the United States Declaration of Independence. In brief, Filangieri makes the two following statements.
First, there are universal moral principles: "natural right contains the immutable principles of eternal justice in every case." (I, iv, p.23)
Second, these principles have a divine origin: as he remarks, "they are neither the result of the ambiguous maxims of the moralist, nor the useless and unproductive meditations of the philosopher. They are the dictates of universal reason, and of that moral code, which the Author of Nature has imprinted on the heart of every individual of the human race." (ibid.)
Filangieri's answer to the second question is also indebted to the same tradition stemming from Locke. He makes two farther statements.
Fourth, the universal moral principles of absolute goodness are understandable by everyone according to his own reason. "The savage of Nova Zembla he writes is aware, as well as Locke, that he has no right to the beast killed at a distance in the chase by one of his tribe." (I, iv, p.24)
Fifth, the universal moral principles are knowable by revelation. Besides reason Filangieri writes "the next object of absolute goodness is revelation The laws should neither endeavour to oppose its progress nor weaken its effect. An attempt at either would be an attempt to shake the foundations of an edifice raised by the Great Being, who has the first rights to our obedience." (I, iv, pp.36-37)
Two consequences worthy of great attention may be drawn from the latter statement.
The first one is historical: if the universal moral principles of absolute goodness are directly or indirectly bound to revelation, i.e. to the Christian Revelation, it can be safely affirmed that, without Christianity, there would be no Europe. Like Franklin, Filangieri was more of a Mason than of a Christian; nonetheless, he wrote:
"If indeed any brilliant instances of benevolence appear amidst the errors and obscurity of the European codes of law, they owe their lustre to a religion, which in the recommendation from the altar of the offices of mutual affection and the tenets of equality, hath strengthened the liberties of man by the prohibition of domestic slavery The triumph of reason and humanity is certainly our due, and neither the legislative code of Egypt, Greece, nor Rome, can stand a comparison with that of the present times." (I, iv, pp.37-38)
The second consequence concerns religion's civil, juridical and political function. If, according to Filangieri, religion is an "expansion and modification of the universal principles of morality," (I, iv, p.37) it can be said that, without religion, in particular without Christianity, human rights have no moral grounding. Filangieri writes:
"Revelation should be the legislator's guide. The Decalogue alone contains within a few precepts everything to be collected from an hundred volumes of morality The private peace of individuals and families, conjugal virtue, and public tranquillity, are the necessary consequences. Of what inestimable advantage to legislators is not such a perfect model!" (I, iv, p.37)
This is not to say that for Filangieri the State must be confessional. There is a clear distinction between the public and the private sphere. The State attends to the former: personal thoughts, intentions, and what we now call lifestyles, must not be the legislator's concern. On the other hand, the State can not reach its goal of ensuring the serenity and security of its citizens, if their private lives are not inspired by virtue. Filangieri writes:
"The citizen's public order and security require that authority stop before his doorstep, that it respect the citizen's peace and liberty that it allow due course to his desires. At the same time, they require a further restraint, another tribunal, judge, code of conduct regulating the citizen's hidden actions, curbing his secret abandons, encouraging his undisclosed virtues, binding him to justice honesty and virtue Here is religion's true action." (Piano ragionato, not printed in the English translation, pp. 57-58 of the original Italian edition)
And here is another point of contact between Filangieri and the Founding Fathers of America. More or less in the same years, in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1784), Jefferson raised the following question:
"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?" (Query XVIII)
Franklin and all the Founding Fathers were of the same opinion. For example, John Adams famously wrote:
"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in all combinations of human society".
This is my concern. My question is the following. Today a growing number of intellectuals, as well as politicians (and judges), believe that religion is an obstacle to the peaceful coexistence of people of different nations, that it ought to be kept separate from political life, and that it can not belong to the public sphere. While the Founders thought that our free institutions need a moral and religious basis, philosophers like John Rawls and many others claim instead today that liberalism is "free-standing", i.e. that it is simply and exclusively political. Franklin and Filangieri would have rejected this idea, and I personally fear its consequences. Let me briefly pay homage to both men by explaining why I do harbour such feelings.
3. "Detachment" and the crisis of human rights
Human rights, according to Filangieri, are "innate," (I, 298) "universal," (I, 76) "sacred," (I, 84) "imprescriptible." (I, 82. As such, they come before the State and are independent from it: people enjoy these rights qua persons, not qua citizens. As Locke argued, they exist even in the state of nature. The question is then: if people are "endowed" with human rights and if they, in virtue of these rights, are free to pursue their own lifestyles, and if consequently the State is not allowed to interfere with these styles, how can such a State, a quintessential, liberal State in Locke's sense, preserve a sufficient cohesion among its citizens, retain their loyalty to the institutions, and avoid its own disgregation?
The answer of Filangieri and of the Founding Fathers, as we saw, is: by education to virtue, including the virtue of law abidance, and by religion, the best guide to such an education.
This naturally implies that the State is not entirely neutral with respect to the different life visions, nor entirely independent in regard to the different religions. More precisely, this means that the liberal State is indebted to the morality and religion that engenders and nurtures the culture of human rights. More exactly still, this means that the liberal State is indebted to Christianity and to every "comprehensive doctrine" (to borrow another expression by Rawls) that takes inspiration from Christianity.
But Filangeri's solution raises a paradox. On one side, the liberal State is a secular State: it requires the separation between Church and State and between politics and
religion; on the other side, the liberal State, precisely because it is based on human rights, requires a religious grounding. Is there a way out of this conundrum?
I do not intend here to enter such a complex philosophical question. But I can say how it has been solved de facto. Since the Enlightenment, modern political culture has operated what may be termed a process of "detachment" or "emancipation." It has detached the liberal State and human rights from religion, and has emancipated political reason from all religious morality.
The goal may seem reasonable, because the detachment of free institutions from moral codes and religious tradition promises to bring more tolerance and more hospitality. Nevertheless, the result is not satisfactory, nor can it be. Not only has tolerance not increased in our countries and the issue of citizenship very often become controversial, the quantity and quality of claims considered as human rights has also exploded, especially in the social and ethical or bioethical fields. Once insurmountable limits to the action of the State, human rights are now becoming the State concessions.
On such a dramatic turning point we ought particularly to reflect upon. We have certainly become more secular, we have probably become more democratic, and our societies are probably becoming more and more open; but if human rights effectively depend on the State, can we claim we are becoming more free? Our forefathers fought to be free from the tyranny of absolutist and theocratic regimes. Are we not plunging into another absolute regime and another theocracy, a "democratic absolutism" and a "secular theocracy," if we may call them so?
I leave my audience the burden of comforting me. I conclude by mentioning another phenomenon that worries me in addition to that of detachment. Nowadays the explosion of human rights claims increasingly depends on courts of justice and supreme courts rather than on parliaments. The Judiciary, once a passive body, as in Filangieri's conception, is now turning creative. And this gives rise to a serious problem, because the highest virtue of the judicial system, i.e. its independence, is in danger of becoming its greatest weakness, that is to say, its assimilation to a political body. We expected for a long time the question "who controls the controllers?", but are so little prepared for the question "who controls the judges?" that we can not even imagine it being raised.
To conclude, human rights require free institutions and these require deep moral virtues and strong religious commitment. I am afraid that if we do not take the latter both seriously, as seems to be the case today, Franklin and Filangieri's efforts to build a regime of liberty might be destined to fail. It was then their obligation to speak, it is now ours to listen.


An Attack on the Pope and on Democracy

17 March 2010

(Corriere della Sera)

The recent uproar in Germany about paedophile and homosexual priests is an attack on the Pope. It would be a serious mistake to think that it is too monstrously daring to harm him. And it would be an even worse mistake to think that the whole affair will be quickly brought to an end like so many others. This is not the case.
There is a war on. It is not openly against the Pope in person as that would be impossibile on this ground. Benedict XVI is proof against any such thing, his serene calm, transparence, firmness and doctrine make him unassailable. His gentle smile is enough to scatter a whole host of adversaries. No, the war is between anticlericalism and Christianity. The anticlericals know that a spot of mud on that white robe would mean that the Church was sullied, and if the Curch were sullied so the Christian religion likewise. So they accompany their campaign with such refrains as who will take the children to Church?" or "who would send their children to Catholic schools ?" or "who would have our little ones cared for in a Catholic hospital or clinic?".
A few days ago an anticlerical casually revealed their real thinking: "The extent of the problem of child abuse by priests undermines the right of the Catholic Church to educate the very young". No matter that this sentence contains no evidente as "the extent of the problem..." is carefully concealed. Are the paedophiles one per cent of the priesthood ? Ten per cent ? All of them ? No matter that the sentence lacks logic: it would be enough to substitute the word "priests" with "teachers" or "politicians" or "journalists" to undermine the legitimacy of state schools, of parliaments and of the press. What matters is the insinuation that, regardless of the coarseness of the subject matter, priests are paedophile, therefore the Church has no moral authority, therefore Catholic education is dangerous, therefore Christianity itself is a fraud and a danger.
This war against Christianity is a total war. One has to look back to nazi rule or communism to find anything like it. The means change but the end is the same: today as yesterday the aim is the destruction of religion. Then the price paid by Europe was the loss of her freedom. It is incredibile that Germany once again a democratic country still beating her breast in memory of the sacrifice she inflicted on the rest of Europe, should forget and not understand that her democracy would be lost if Christianity were vanquished again. The destruction of religion then brought about the destruction of reason. Today it would not lead to the triumph of secular reason but to another barbarity.
From an ethical angle it is the barbarity of those who kill the foetus because its life might endanger the mother's phsychic health; those who consider an emhryo a "cluster of cells" useful for experimentation; those who would kill an old person because he has no family to look after him; those who would hasten the death of a son because he is unconscious and incurable; those who think that "parent A" and "parent B" are the same as "father" and "mother"; those who believe that faith is like the coccyx, that part which no longer has any place in evolution because man no longer needs a tail and can stand up by himsel. And so on.
Or looking at the political side of the anticlerical war against Christianity, barbarity will mean the destruction of Europe. Because, once Christianity is vanquished, we would be left with multiculturalism which claims that each group has a right to its own culture; with relativism which claims that every culture is as good as any other, and pacifism which denies the existence of evil.
This war on Christianity would not be so dangerous if the Christians understood what was at stake, but a large number of them join in the general incomprehension.
They are those theologians who are frustrated by the Pope's intellectual superiority. Those hesitant bishops who believe that the best way to update the Christian message is to compromise with modernity. Those cardinals with a faith crisis who begin to insinuate that celibacy for priests is not a dogma and that it might be better to rethink the issue.Those stealthy catholic intellectuals who think that there is a feminine problem within the church and an unresolved problem between Christianity and sexuality. These episcopal conferences where mistakes are made with the agenda and, while they wish for an open frontier policy, haven't the courage to denounce the attacks against Christians and the humiliation suffered when they are all indiscriminately brought to the bench of the accused. Or even those chancellors from the East who put on show a handsome homosexual foreign minister whilst attacking the Pope on every ethical question or those born in the West who believe that the West must be anticlerical, that is anti-Christian.
This anticlerical war will continue, if only because a Pope like Benedict XVI who smiles but doesn't give an inch, fuels their fire. But if we understand why he is immovable, then the situation can be in hand and there is no need to just wait for the next blow. Those who are content with merely agreeing with him are either like a man who goes to the Garden of Olives at night under the cloak of darkness or one who doesn't realise why he is there anyway.


Pontifical Lateran University, Vatican City

30 November 2009

1609-2009 From Galilei's Telescope to Evolutionary Cosmology. Science, Philosophy and Theology in Dialogue


Sunday November 29th Afternoon
(reserved to Invited Guests)
18:00 Galilei's Historical Exhibit Inauguration
20:00 Reception at the Hall of the Pontifical Lateran University (PUL)

Monday November 30th Morning
Plenary Session - Aula Magna
9:30 Welcome Introduction

10:15 OWEN J. GINGERICH, University of Harvard, USA (History of Astronomy and Astrophysics)
11:00 GEORGE F. SMOOT, University of California at Berkeley, USA, Nobel Laureate (Observational Cosmology)
11:45 GIANFRANCO RAVASI, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (Biblical Cosmology)
12:30 STEPHEN HAWKING, Cambridge University, UK (Invited)
General Discussion
13:30 End of Session

Monday November 30th Afternoon
Physics Session: Cosmology, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and GUT's
Aula Pio XI
Chairperson: MARCELLO PERA
14:30 CARLO RUBBIA, CERN, Switzerland, Nobel Laureate, Member of PAS (Cosmology, GUT's and Quantum Mechanics: LHC Physics)
15:15 ROGER PENROSE, Oxford University, UK (Cosmology, GUT's, and Relativity Theory)
16:00 NICOLA CABIBBO, University of Rome "La Sapienza", President of PAS (The state of art of GUT's in Physical Cosmology)

17:15 LEE SMOLIN, University of Ontario at Waterloo, Canada (Current Thinking on the Reality of Time and the Nature of Law at the Cosmological Scale)
18:00 MARCO BERSANELLI, University of Milan, Italy (Presentation on the ESA Planck Space Mission devoted to the study of the early universe)
18:45 General Discussion with all the Speakers
19:15 End of the Session

Tuesday December 1st Morning
An Audience with the Holy Father has been requested

Tuesday December 1st Afternoon
Philosophy Session: From Physical to Metaphysical Cosmology
Aula Pio XI
14:30 MARCELLO PERA, University of Pisa, Italy and Pontifical Lateran University, Vatican City, Senator of the Italian Republic (Epistemological and Cultural Relevance of the Current Debate)
15:15 ENRICO BERTI, University of Padua, Member of PAS (From Physical to Metaphysical Cosmology)
16:00 WILLIAM CARROLL, University of Oxford, UK (Time and Creation: Thomas Aquinas and Contemporary Cosmology)

Chairperson: ENRICO BERTI
17:15 GIANFRANCO BASTI, Pontifical Lateran University, Vatican City (Divine Causality vs. Physical Causality. The Formal Ontology Approach)
18:00 MARCELO SANCHEZ SORONDO, Chancellor of PAS (The Common Being of Nature and the Human Subsistent Being)
18:45 General Discussion
19:00 End of the Session

Wednesday December 2nd Morning
Theology Session: From Physics and Metaphysics to Theological Cosmology
Aula Pio XI
09:00 GIUSEPPE TANZELLA NITTI, University of the Holy Cross, Rome (Physical Cosmology and Christian Theology of Creation)
09:45 CHARLES MOREROD, St. Thomas Aquinas University, Rome (From Physical Cosmology to Theological Cosmology: The Analogy Path)

11:00 GEORGES COTTIER, Former Theologian of the Pontifical Household (Causa Prima et Causae Secundae)
11:45 RINO FISICHELLA, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University (Science, Philosophy and Theology in Dialogue on Cosmology: Is a Synthesis Possible?)
12:30 Final Discussion
13:00 End of the Conference

Conference Organizing Committee
GIANFRANCO RAVASI, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
CARLO RUBBIA, CERN, Switzerland, Nobel Laureate, Member of PAS
NICOLA CABIBBO, University of Rome "La Sapienza", President of PAS
MARCELLO PERA, University of Pisa, Italy and Pontifical Lateran University, Vatican City
GIANFRANCO BASTI, Pontifical Lateran University, Vatican City
ANTONIO LUIGI PERRONE, Secretary of IRAFS, Pontifical Lateran University, Vatican City



  • A conference at the Vatican City State
  • 13 February 2009

    Vatican City State, in occasion of the 80th anniversary of the city-state's founding, promotes the three days conference: "A small territory with a great mission". Senator Pera will preside over the February 13th morning session.


  • In the White House
  • 17 November 2008

    The Sen. Marcello Pera in the White House for National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals



The Crisis of Western Liberalism
6 May 2010

Vienna Forum 2010
Eicee - Hudson Institute Kairos Journal
"The Future of Europe and the Question of Islam"

Two different stories may be told about the origin and destiny of Western liberalism. One goes like this: at the start of the modern era, the liberal State came into being. Later came the democratic or liberal-democratic State. Finally, the welfare State made its appearance. Each step led to increased opportunities and freedom. The other story goes in quite the opposite direction. It reads: at the beginning, the modern State was liberal. It then turned paternalistic. Finally, it became totalitarian. Each step reduced individual responsibility and freedom...

Newspaper Articles

Israel: A Normal Country
10 July 2010

Article il Wall Street Journal

Hostility to the Jews has been a stain on the Western world's honor for centuries.

The following statement has been signed by Jose Maria Aznar, David Trimble, John R. Bolton, Alejandro Toledo, Marcello Pera, Andrew Roberts, Fiamma Nirenstein, George Weigel, Robert F. Agostinelli and Carlos Bustelo.
Israel is a Western democracy and a normal country. Nonetheless, Israel has faced abnormal circumstances since its inception. In fact, Israel is the only Western democracy whose existence has been questioned by force, and whose legitimacy is still being questioned independently of its actions...

Foreign Press

Financial Times
14 June 2008

Bush receives papal blessing in garden tour

Statements to the Press

Conference in Rome - Italy: United States - Italy Transatlantic Cooperation and Challenges
18 June 2008

(Rome, Italy June 18, 2008) Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli, National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) chairman, and Ambassador Ronald P. Spogli, United States ambassador to Italy, will join Honorable Antonio Martino, former minister of defense, and Senator Marcello Pera, former president of the Italian Senate, at the Roman Roundtable International Relations Conference: United States - Italy Transatlantic Cooperation and Challenges. The NIAF-sponsored conference will be held on Friday morning, June 20 from 10 a.m. to noon at Villa Taverna, the residence of the United States Ambassador to Italy, located at Viale Rossini, 3 in Rome, Italy. Participants will discuss the challenges faced by the United States and Italy and cooperation strategies for today's world. This year's Roman Roundtable International Relations Conference is held in cooperation with the United States Embassy in Rome and the Fulbright Commission's 60th Anniversary distinguished lecture series. Conference participants will be available for interviews immediately following the roundtable.