Leading New Testament scholar

Cardinal Says Faith Grows With Questions

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, SJ, the archbishop of Milan and a leading New Testament scholar, urged an audience of 80 guests in Burns Library on Feb. 27 to understand their faith by constantly questioning it.

Cardinal Martini, formerly a professor at the Biblical Institute of Rome and rector of Rome's Gregorian University, has long been regarded as one of the world's most distinguished authorities on the New Testament. He is one of five members on an ecumenical board of scholars that maintains the Greek texts from which translations of the New Testament are drawn, and is one of only seven Jesuit cardinals world-wide.

Cardinal Martini (right) discusses a point with Monan Professor of Theology Lisa Cahill and University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
Inquiry is central to understanding one's faith, said Cardinal Martini, who sees it as his role "not to impose anything, but to put the question."

He urged a constant inquiry into faith, going so far as to offer what he calls "a chair to the non-believer" - the opportunity to state the case for non-belief, against which the case for faith can be measured.

"There is, within each of us, two people - one a believer, one a non-believer," he said. "They quarrel and fight with each other. Why not help people discern between the two voices, not only by giving space to the believer, but to the non-believer?

"I don't distinguish between believers and non-believers," he continued. "I distinguish between people who think and who do not think. I ask all of you to be people who think."

Within each human being is a spiritual yearning, said Cardinal Martini, who hypothesized that "prayer is something deeper than a thematic understanding of God. Even people who do not believe in God feel an interior invocation [to prayer]."

Cardinal Martini told listeners - mostly Jesuits and Theology faculty and students - that his training as a Jesuit has profoundly influenced his work both as a scholar and a pastor.

When instructing young people on how to pray and read the Bible, he said, he prescribes the silent contemplation and immersion in text he learned in the Spiritual Exercises set down by Jesuit founder St. Ignatius Loyola.

University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, in introductory remarks, noted the last visit by a Jesuit cardinal to Boston College had been made in 1963 by Cardinal Augustin Bea, a leading voice for ecumenical change at the Second Vatican Council and Cardinal Martini's mentor.

"It is a very rare occasion to not only have a cardinal, but a Jesuit cardinal, address us," said Fr. Monan, noting the congenial setting of the British Catholic Authors Room, with its rare Jesuit books and stained-glass windows bearing seals of the world's Jesuit universities. "It could not be a greater honor to Boston College than to have you make a presentation in this room."

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