3 talks of interest today.
The first is a talk to schoolchildren where the Pope encourages them to strive for well-rounded lives which are oriented around the highest things. In short, he calls on them to be saints.
The second talk was to teachers (same link, just scroll further down). His reminder and call: “As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom.”
The third talk, given to representatives of various religions, was the most interesting. Benedict emphasized two different sense of inter-religious dialogue, a “side to side” and a “face to face”. The “side to side” focused on cultural, social and political concerns where there is agreement across religious traditions and an important role for those traditions in the public square. In particular he identified “concrete forms of collaboration” including “promoting integral human development and working for peace, justice and the stewardship of creation.”
By the “face to face” Benedict seems to mean community and sharing, and learning from each other, (“simply living alongside one another and learning from one another in such a way as to grow in mutual knowledge and respect”). But given some of Benedict’s past remarks, I think he also has in mind engaging in theological disputation and doctrinal arguments. After all, truth is the end of dialogue.
There were some subtle jabs. He emphasized the "freedom to practice one’s religion and to engage in acts of public worship, and the freedom to follow one’s conscience without suffering ostracism or persecution, even after conversion from one religion to another." Reading between the lines a bit, the subtle reference to conversion here might well have been a reference to the reality that in some Muslim states conversion from Islam is a crime.
Benedict also took the occasion to discuss the value and limits of science, as well as a defense of the compatibility of faith and reason. This is worth quoting at length:
“Within their own spheres of competence, the human and natural sciences provide us with an invaluable understanding of aspects of our existence and they deepen our grasp of the workings of the physical universe, which can then be harnessed in order to bring great benefit to the human family. Yet these disciplines do not and cannot answer the fundamental question, because they operate on another level altogether. They cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”” […]
“The quest for the sacred does not devalue other fields of human enquiry. On the contrary, it places them in a context which magnifies their importance, as ways of responsibly exercising our stewardship over creation.” […]
“So it is that genuine religious belief points us beyond present utility towards the transcendent. It reminds us of the possibility and the imperative of moral conversion, of the duty to live peaceably with our neighbour, of the importance of living a life of integrity. Properly understood, it brings enlightenment, it purifies our hearts and it inspires noble and generous action, to the benefit of the entire human family. It motivates us to cultivate the practice of virtue and to reach out towards one another in love, with the greatest respect for religious traditions different from our own.”