Rorate Caeli

A previously unpublished talk by Paul VI on St. Thomas Aquinas

The website of L'Osservatore Romano recently posted a "previously unpublished" talk that Pope Paul VI gave during his visit to Aquino, Italy on September 14, 1974. (On that same day, Paul VI also delivered an allocution on St. Thomas Aquinas in the Basilica of Fossanova, which can be found in pp. 539 - 541 of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis for 1974.)

Posted below is the section of that talk dealing with the honor due to St. Thomas Aquinas and his teaching. Emphases mine.

To you, the inhabitants of Aquino, what shall we say? It is certainly unnecessary to urge you to be always happy and proud to be the descendants and fellow-citizens of such a great man, a Saint, a Doctor of the Church, who expounded her doctrine as no one else, perhaps, has succeeded in doing in her history. A great glory for you, a great fortune! Let us hope, nay more let us urge you to be worthy of it!

How can a people like yourselves, (and here comes the most pressing and important question) seven centuries after St. Thomas' death and caught up in a historical and social context very different from that in which that Saint lived and worked, be in some way in the line of his tradition? How can you call yourselves children, relatives and fellow citizens of St. Thomas?)

You do not claim to vie with him in wisdom or to follow in the steps of his vocation, either religious or intellectual. No one can claim to keep step with such a Master! But all of us who are faithful sons of the Church can and must be his disciples, at least to some extent! We will do this if we give to our religious instruction and formation the importance it deserves to have. Where, if not at Aquino, should the study of our religion, even in its elementary but necessary and wise form, be held in honor and be carried out by everyone with particular commitment? If you are not faithful to the teaching and wise inheritance of study and understanding of the Revelation of God which the Master Thomas witnessed and spread, who can be? If you are not the first disciples of St. Thomas Aquinas, what can the others say?.... “In Aquino, they do not even think about him, so…”

This, then, is the lesson that still comes to us from your Holy Master, Thomas Aquinas: let us endeavor to study assiduously and lovingly the Christian doctrine, that taught to you by your Bishop, your parish priest, your priests and teachers of religion, men and women, both in Church and in the schools. Just this morning we received in audience a large group of young students, from many parts of Italy, who were the winners of the "Veritas" Competition, namely, that free Competition for the young who have made a special study of religion. You should know that I thought, “Who knows if there is not a student from Aquino among them!” I don’t know because we did not verify it. But if the Lord gives us life, if the Lord gives us life, may the coming year give us at least one, two, ten or one-hundred of your children from Aquino, where the study of religion is loved! It would be very good.
So we take the liberty of stressing this recommendation of ours: if you are really aware of the honor of belonging to Aquino, which gives its name to the greatest theologian in our schools, not only in medieval but also in modern times, try to make a diligent effort in regular and persevering study of religion. It comes to mind that a man of the State and University professor, who is present here today, just a few days ago explained how the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas is the load-bearing structure of our culture!

We make this recommendation especially to those students who have chosen the ecclesiastical or religious life as their vocation: honor St. Thomas by studying his thought!

The Church, while admitting as legitimate and necessary the knowledge of the new and various forms of religious culture, has not ceased to recommend, also in the recent Council, a preference for the study of the Works of St. Thomas. He is such a Master that he is still considered relevant today and, in the diffusion of so many false or questionable opinions, providential! Let this exhortation of ours go to our seminaries. our religious houses, and even our Universities!

And now speaking from Aquino, we address also the teachers of philosophy and theology, who in Christ's Church carry out the great mission of transmitting the genuine doctrine of the Church.

We look to them with great confidence, with great hope! We beseech them, in Christ's name, to be faithful to the magisterium that Christ has entrusted to his Church, to be, like St. Thomas, passionate defenders of religious truth in its authentic expression; and let our fatherly exhortation, our encouraging gratitude, our Apostolic Blessing go to them, on this occasion and from this blessed place!


  1. Anonymous5:09 PM

    ...and then we had the eclipse of Thomistic philosophy by the embrace of that mind-numbing mess known as 'phenomenology.'

    A priest once explained the difference of the two to me thusly. If your dog went poo in the middle of your living room carpet, the 'phenomenologist' would say "there appears to be canine offal on the rug...what does this mean?" The Thomist, on the other hand, would say "hey, who's dog went to the bathroom on the rug!?!?!"

  2. Well, the text itself explains why it was not published until now. :)

  3. "Let this exhortation of ours go to our seminaries. our religious houses, and even our Universities!"

    It certainly went to Econe but it did not go very much further than that as the graveyard of closed seminaries attests.

    Furthermore, Anonymous Said, I have ststed many times here and elsewhere that under the last papacy phenomenology of he anthropological genre became the distinguishing hallmark of papal thinking - hence the overabundance of ambiguous prose that remains problematic to interpret.

    Husserl and Heidegger meant more to papal philosophy than anything Thomistic.

  4. Has phenomenology been beatified?

  5. Regarding Thomism versus phenomenology, Pope John Paul II wrote this:

    "My personal philosophical outlook moves, so to speak, between two poles: Aristotelian Thomism and phenomenology. ...
    "So there were two stages in my intellectual journey: In the first I moved from literature to metaphysics, while the second led me from metaphysics to phenomenology.

    "When Schema 13 was being studied--later to become the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World--and I spoke on personalism, Father de Lubac came to me and said, encouragingly: 'Yes, yes, yes, that's the way forward,' and this meant a great deal to me, as I was relatively still young."

    --Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

    "If we wish to speak rationally about good and evil, we have to return to St. Thomas Aquinas, that is, to the philosophy of being. With the phenomenological method, for example, we can study experiences of morality, religion, or simply what it is to be human, and draw from them a significant enrichment of our knowledge. Yet we must not forget that all these analyses implicitly presuppose the reality of the Absolute Being and also the reality of being human, that is, being a creature. If we do not set out from such 'realist' presuppositions, we end up in a vacuum."

    --Memory and Identity

    I think Pope John Paul II realized the limitations of, e.g., his presentation of Humanæ Vitæ through his personalist/phenomologist Theology of the Body catechesis, but he seemed to think St. Thomas was too unreachable for most Catholics to be "pastoral" (cf. this talk: Aquinas & TotB). Pope Benedict XV thought every Catholic should read Fr. Thomas Pègues's Summa theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas : for the use of the faithful (1922), and that was pastoral. Anonymous here is right; Pope John Paul II might reiterate that "If we do not set out from such 'realist' presuppositions, we end up in a vacuum," but he seemed to act and write as more of a phenomenologist.

    Also, there are other articles in L'Osservatore Romano on St. Thomas Aquinas, too.

  6. How many people here know about Pope Paul VI's Lumen Ecclesiæ (1974)? He addressed it to the master general of the Dominicans on the 700th anniversary of St. Thomas's death. The English translation linked above was hard to find.

    Also, that site has a good address by Pope John Paul II in 1980 on St. Thomas, too.


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!