War of words: Smriti Irani, ToI battle it out on Twitter | Business Standard News

See what has become of this government which we elected with so much of zeal, hoping that the disillusionment suffered under UPA-II would pave the way for “acche din anewale hain” (good days ahead). But Modi’s acche din are bigger bluff than his hollow promises.
The Hindutva brigade simply refuses to learn a lesson in harmony, equality, and freedom.

Now one of their ministers (Human Resource Minister Ms Smriti Irani of the fake PhD fame) wants to cancel the holiday on Christmas in the name of Good Governance Day on 25th December! A circular has already been sent to schools (since education comes under this HRD Ministry) to this effect. When the Times of India leaked this secret letter, Smriti Irani forgot all decency and started attacking The Times of India! Will she declare Good Governance Day on Diwali or Ramzan? May be she will gradually, after attacking the miniscule minority Christians! That is the BJP’s agenda.
This BJP government led by Narendra Modi has been a huge disappointment, big risk to the country’s unity. Ever since Modi came to power, Hindu extremists outfits have been attacking Muslims and Christians all over the country. And Modi simply behaves worse than his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh – pretend silence! In any other case not involving saffron right wing, Modi simply can’t stop talking! What a shame! God save our country!

War of words: Smriti Irani, ToI battle it out on Twitter | Business Standard News.

Of Seventh BIFFes, Seven Days and 33 Films

11 Dec. It is over! The seventh Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) is over. Now one more year’s wait is all that remains!

We, the students and the staff from Communication Department of St Joseph’s College Autonomous, made the best use of it, methought. Or at least, our near best. That is 48 students from the Department of Communication as volunteers actively engaged in conducting/executing the various aspects of the BIFFes plans; eight teaching/technical faculty attending the fest, and one of them (YT) almost pitching his tent at the Festival theatres!

And I overhead a few people commenting on our student-volunteers appreciatively. It was twice in the elevator: people neither knew me or nor my students! Two senior delegates discussing how good the volunteers were! And then, once in the cinema hall some ladies complimenting my student-volunteers (once again, neither they knew me nor I them)! Felt very good for my students. Not just did the students benefit from first-hand involvement and exposure, facing on-the-spot challenge, and helping one and all in enjoying movies, but also bearing good witness to St Joseph’s! I am proud of you my students!

And then, of course, my movies! Doesn’t that magic figure 33 look significant in many ways!? Full stop!

Seven days full of world class movies! And that is enjoying and learning full-time from international films! A rare privilege! Initially four films a day, then five a day, and on the last day, six! Worth every bit of it! Window to the physical, psychological, spiritual, material-immaterial world, especially to a film-studies teacher!

On the last day, today, I could watch the maximum six possible films: Reunion (Ryoichi Kimizuka, Japan, 2013), Of Horses and Men (Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland, 2013), Illiterate (Moises Sepulveda, Chile, 2013), With Others (Nasser Zamiri, Iran, 2013), and Test (Aleksandr Kott, Russia, 2014).

Reunion is about a retired arranger, who volunteers to clean up and prepare dead bodies in the context of the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The immense respect and love with which he arranges the dead bodies in overwhelming. Cinematically just above average, this is a human drama.

Iceland’s Of Horses and Men was surrealistic! The film is about how men (and sometimes women, too) become horses while horses become humane! The film is replete with magical, stunning images. Some of them are simply surrealistic images. The only issue is does the director do it once too often!?

One of those rare films to watch – from Chile: Illiterate is about an illiterate woman who is to herself without any literacy. But enter a young teacher, who wants her to learn reading and writing. Now the only incentive she has is a letter written by her late father; to read it! In the meantime, there is a bond developing between the two women. How do they deal with it? A good character study.

When I almost decided not to watch Iranian films this BIFFes, some good thoughts prevailed; Ms Parinitha and Sumaiya only cemented that desire. One more try! With Others from Iran was a different film compared to the others in this BIFFes. A moving drama about a barren couple, who want to have a child of their own, and as a final resort, through surrogacy. The film is overwhelmingly symbolic and poetic. While characters are dissected and ground, not too many words are required.

The closing film, of course, was Test by the Russian Aleksandr Kott. Not a single word is spoken. Only moving images. Pure cinema! One better than Lumiere and Melies and all those Russian and Eastern European directors! It is a blizzard of pure, creative, speaking images without words! The beautiful she fills the screen and life. Her father. Her serious love and her knotty lover. All speak only through gazes and looks and smiles; no words! As every image flows spontaneously, freely, creatively, and lovingly freeing the audiences from the hegemony of the enslaving words, we witness the first nuclear bomb blast test! And with that everything is done; everything is gone; everything is no more! And we return speechless! Without a doubt, the best film of the seventh BIFFes.

Seventh BIFFes: Day Sixth Day

10 Dec. There comes the penultimate day at the Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes), and it ends! Five more films, mostly good films and a happy day. It all started with the Iranian The Paternal House (Kianoush Ayary, 2012), went on to Behaviour (Ernesto Daranas, 2014, Cuba), 3X3D (Jean Luc Godard, Greenaway, & Edgar Pera, 2013, Portugal), Fly Dakota Fly (Seiji Aburatani, 2013, Japan), and Dukhtar (Afia Nathaniel, 2014, Pakistan).

Iranian cinema, one of my all-time favourite, has been a let down, this BIFFes. I expected much from Ayary; but a disappointing show. Save for the opening sequence where you see the house from clouse up to long shot to extreme long shot, and then a young woman crying and running for her life, and the father ordering her to complete the carpet before the owner comes, there is nothing cinematic about this film. Gross and insensitive, this film fails to rise to artistic demands. Picturising gory and crude violence (honour killing) of the daughter will never make it to aesthetic realms, no matter how cruel and true-to-reality it is. The guilt of this honour killing is supposed to haunt the family for three generations across 70 years, but it touches not even first-hand culprits!

Ernesto Daranas’ Cuban film is a portrayal of a teacher-student relationship. The poor Chala is a difficult boy, both at home to his single mother Sophia and at the orthodox school. The film has many witty moments even in the dark saga between the little girl and Chala, and affectionate ones between Caramen his teacher and him. The teacher’s religious-spiritual conviction to keep the picture of the Virgin of Charity, which guides and strengthens her in her commitment also gives her the strength to deal patiently with her “difficult” students. So also, she a tough teacher with the management; she can challenge them! When someone asks her why she still keeps typing making so much of noise, in stead not use a computer, she replies, words must make sound! She makes sounds, and ultimately she is the winner.

Then comes the triptych 3X3D by Jean Luc Godard, Peter Greenaway, and Edgar Pera. This film I thought was a brilliantly carved masterpiece, erring only occasionally. While Greenaway’s In Time “guided tour through the monastery” with tremendous superimpositions, split-screens, text, characters/letter floating through the vacuum, multiple exposure, images and photographs, the viewer is simply transported to a fairy, imaginary world. I guess the city of Portugal is at the centre? Anyway, an avalanches of images in 3D!
Godard is brilliant; in fact, his capsule -called 3 Disasters- could stand on its own! The audience engagement with 3D as against 2D and its future is a concern for the future of cinema.
I enjoyed Pera’s Cinesapiens too, though not as much as I enjoyed Greenaway and Godard. His is a travel through the history of cinema: realism vs fantasy. A virus has attacked humanity – called Filmitis. Quite a curious, humorous bit, but not to the quality of Godard and Greenaway, anyway! I loved this triptych, nevertheless.

Seiji Aburatani’s Japanese film Fly Dakota Fly was sort of a poetry in motion! The world war-II defeated Japanese meet their European conquerors. But this time with all humility and affection, whereas the European flyers the same arrogance. In the bargain you see the massive landscape of Japanese seacoasts, water and beautiful sea as never photographed before! The post-War saga has a Dakota making an emergency landing on a Japanese coast due to the engine failure; the Japanese are a worried lot especially because they are British; planes frighten them. Nevertheless, they take the risk of welcoming them, and showing them (and us!) their culture and hospitality. It is the love story not just of a British soldier and Japanese beauty Chiyoko (which hardly is visible), but more about the war ever present (‘he has left the war, but the war has not left him!’) in the society.

And the last for the day was the Pakistani Dukhtar by Nathaniel. According to the synopsis and also associate/producers who attended the screening with us, it is supposed to be the saga of mother-daughter relationship. But I thought, the saga was the relationship between the mother and the truck driver who saves them, and that calls the shots in stead of the mother-daughter bond. The rivalry between two tribes demands that the child Zabuina (?) be given in marriage to the old rival tribal leader. But mother won’t have it; she escapes with her little daughter to save her from this child marriage. And the rest is history, as they say! Wait, there is much more: the beautiful landscapes of Karachi and Lahore! Some of the shots of the arid deserts are surrealistic. I sure commend the film for its cinematography and landscape, to learn what the other side of Pakistan is as against the representation in our Indian media! The story, per se, is a bit melodramatic (though surely much better than bollywood/ Bangla films!)
All in all, a great day!

Engrossing Day Five at Seventh BIFFes

09 Dec. First the joke, and then the serious stuff:
While introducing the film Mr Nergis, the Kannada compere said that the protagonist suffers from Ajmir (Alzheimers)!

Mr Kaplan (Alvaro Brechner, Uruguay, 2014) set the ball rolling to, what would be, an engrossing day at the seventh BIFFes. That was followed by Violet (Martin Provost, France, 2013), Mrs Nergis (Gorkem Sarkan, Turkey, 2014), In Between Worlds (Feo Aladag, Germany, 2014), and Bad Hair (Mariano Randon, Venezuela, 2013).

Mr Kaplan is a very interesting narrative about Mr Kaplan from Uruguay, who has suffered at the hands of Nazis, and now wants to kidnaps a Nazi and take him to Israel. He has an ex-police official for his taxi driver. They do succeed in kidnapping. But there are other twists and turns! A gripping drama.

Violette is a biopic about the celebrated feminist writer Violette Leduc. Simone de Beauvoir grew intimate with their convictions for literature, expression, and feminist perspectives. Then there are other big writers like Jean Paul Sartre and
Albert Camus, and their relationships.

Mrs Nergis is a special film. Sheerly for its persistence and perseverance. She suffers from Alzheimers, and doesn’t remember quite a few things. Her son looks after her, though he often says he does not have the patience to look after an Alzheimer’s. The film employs long to extreme long takes with hand-held camera conveying that sense of unsteadiness.

In Between Worlds is the European story in the war-torn Afghanistan. Germans to be precise! Do the occupiers care for those who work for them? That is the question. They have an interpreter to translate for them. He has risked his life and his sister’s. But when the interpreter is threatened out of existence, what is his value? Do the Germans care? Or, at least those who take decisions on vital matters without visiting the battle fields?

Bad Hair tries to capture the dilemma of a young boy who wants to straighten his curly hair and look like a singer. The boy from poor home and his “almost drunkard” worldly, young mother can’t afford it. Her lover (or is he the boy’s father? The lover himself does not know) has this fascination for dog fights, and his company is a bad influence on the boy. The Afrikan woman would like to buy one of her children and help her; she also could help the boy. But does that solve the problem?

Seventh BIFFes: Day Four

08 Dec. On the fourth day, it looks the BIFFes is coming to an end too soon! So, every effort to make the best of it is on!

On day four, I could catch up with five films (well, actually a little more than four-and-a-half!): i) The River of Colours (Shahneoyaj Cacoly, Bangladesh, 2014), Coming Home (Zhang Yimou, China, 2014), Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming Liang, Taiwan, 2013), Tales (Rakhshan Bani-E’temad, Iran, 2014), and Natural Sciences (Matias Lucches, Argentina, 2014).

I was keen to watch a Bangla film; but was thoroughly disappointed to see the bollywood influence and melodrama throughout the film. So, that is the ‘a little more than half’ film, which I could not complete! It is about a girl, who with her lousy brother save an unconscious fisherman (young man!) from the river. And then there is that overacting, melodrama and sentimental acting, which is acting!

Coming Home (Zhang Yimou, China, 2014), was probably the best of the Seventh BIFFes, for me. Zhang Yimou is a master, no doubt; he is no new director to me, either. He plays with his visuals like a child; not just that, he romances with his sounds, too! And when the two come together (as in the under-the-railway-footbridge sequence), it is poetry of the highest kind in motion! It’s beyond comparison. During the Cultural Revolution, a Chinese father is targeted; he flees China, when his daughter is still too young to recognise him. His daughter is in Red Detachment of Women; she wants to be the lead dancer, but she is assigned only soldier’s part since her father has ‘committed a crime’ against the country. And this haunts the girl; she would do anything for her country; father is not bigger than the country! Only the wife is caught between the devil and the deep sea. And he returns home after the cultural revolution (1966-67), his wife can’t recognise him. The rest is pure visual poetry! Another lovely cinematic poetry in motion is the sequence in which the girls strain (aerobics) with guns for the Red Detachment. When the camera catches the dancers’ legs in motion, you are elevated in song! I loved the film.

Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming Liang, Taiwan, 2013), is the much admired Taiwanese film maker Tsai Ming Liang. I did not count every shot; but I am sure the 138-minutes long film does not have more than 30-40 shots! When the first shot (which lasts only a meagre 4 four minutes, one of our student-comperes (was told to announced by somebody else) so concerned about the film, he came and apologised to the audience for the ‘technical glitch!
The film is replete with long-very-long-extremely-long-takes! And still camera shots! When I started timing, one shot-length I estimated at 824 seconds! But there was another (the last) shot longer still! The shortest shot I timed (I did not time every shot, please!) was at 42 seconds! But that is what we have come to
expect of Tsai Min Liang! These shots are “conscious and self-reflective shots” of the poor Tipei family, whose father struggles to feed the family. But the film is surrealistic in many of those sequences: he almost “abuses” and strangles his daughters cabbage which she uses as a doll. The cabbage has two eyes and a nose! Or take the longest single-shot last sequence! When you still wonder what is happening, there is ‘imagin’ary magic going on!

Another film by another of my admired Iranian woman film-makers Rakhshan Bani-E’temad: Tales. A good film about a women with taxis. In fact, taxi ride is a metaphor where much of the action takes place, and there is CCTV recording, too! But the film disappointed me because I expected too much from the Iranian film: extreme simplicity and deep profundity.

The last for the day was Natural Sciences (Matias Lucches, Argentina, 2014). There is science class going on about reproduction in plants and vegetation. And the little Lila is in her world: she wants to meet her father four hundred miles away, a man whom she has never met. And then goes to meet him with her teacher. But not before that mischievous sequences of attempting to drive a car even without knowing which is the break and which is the gear! As the start on their decisive journey, I could guess the title of the film! Good movie.

Seventh BIFFes: Day Three

07 Dec. Day three at the Seventh Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) brought in conflicting views and experiences regarding films.
First, soon after watching the first film, I sighted Mr Girish Kasaravalli with his daughter also at the same screen. And then, there was Prof. Manu Chakravarthy. After exchanging a few opinions on the festival (as varied as we are!), we shared a coffee/tea and then watched the second film (The Lesson) together. Interestingly, all of us had watched the same first film of the day, too, though separately! And all of had some very good things to share about the film.

On my part, I could watch four films: i) The Longest Distance (Claudia Pinto, 2013, Venezuela), ii) The Lesson (Kristinagrozeva & Peter Valchanov, 2014, Bulgaria & Greece), iii) 13 / Sizda (Hooman Seyadi, 2014, Iran), and iv) The Ballad of Poor Jean (Fellipe Barbosa, 2014, Brazil).

The Longest Distance is all about a little one’s journey to join his grand mother Martina before she dies on the other side of the country. His mother wanted to join her; she died before that – and the boy’s suspicion is pointed towards his father. Once the boy reaches, there is visual treat, the emotional surge between the ailing granny who does not want the boy to know about her health condition, and the innocence and effervescence of the boy!

The poignant struggles of a bankrupt school-teacher Nade to save herself and her dignity from the unscruplous world around. But she has a heart for one of her students who has indulged in stealth. Finally, pushed to the corner from every side, you wait for her to make her next move; and that is the most interesting part of it; you hardly expect it. A journey directly into her heart.

There was this Iranian film 13 or Sizda. I have high expectations from Iranian cinema. But this one disappointed me. A neglected 13-year old gets into wrong company of older boys & a girl, and goes on the rampage. You see raw, unbridled violence. Most violent and cruel of all is Sami, a young girl. I could not find the film rising beyond raw violence; art was forgotten.

And the last film before I left for the day was The Ballad of Poor Jean. When the society goes through socio-economic turmoil, how do family and emotional lives of people get affected and the turmoil that follows -especially in the life of a young boy who does not know the poor condition of his parents- is moving. Subtle issues are brought to the fore by using the social-peer life of a boy Jean. I loved the film.

Seventh BIFFes: Day Two

06 Dec. On day two of the Bangalore International Film Festival (BIFFes), a good treat of three films. Due to my Byatha visit (a special day!) I had to cut short my BIFFes experience.
First of all, I was a quiet witness to a few cinefans arguing with my students since they did not get film summary catalogues. It’s not their fault; organisers have not learnt their lessons. They should have printed sufficient number of books and made arrangements to distribute. And then on, the students would have done a good job of it!
But one thing: my students managed the impatient, disappointed cinefans quite deftly! But politely! They are learning the tricks of crisis management!

Started my filmy day with Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall (2014, UK). Ken Loach is a Brit. You also must know that he is an Anglican. So this Anglican vs Catholic saga has been designed as a politico-religious propaganda.Situated during the Irish freedom struggle (1919-21). So, when a film-maker provides “facts & figures” and dates and years, you tend to believe! So, it works with Jimmy’s Hall. But I wonder if those without the first-hand experience of (the UK and) Ireland will ever realise the propaganda in Loach. The two countries share a bitter past over imperialism. Religion becomes a victim, and that is the tale told by the dominant party. Ruling ideas of a ruling age are the ruling ideas of a ruling class, says Karl Marks. There you are! But credit to Ken Loach; the film works very well.

The next one was Aaron Fernandes’ The Empty Hours (Mexico, 2013) about a young boy Sebastian trying to fill his empty hours at his uncle’s motel. Brilliantly narrated in visuals, the film makes an immediate impact.

The third and last of my day was Serge Frydman’s Now or Never (France, 2014). The emotional saga of this film is not lost on the viewer. The piano teacher has her bag stolen, and once she challenges the thief, she wants her bag to be stolen, but not by anybody else! I thought the music (it’s about a piano teacher, after all!) comes alive in the film. So is casting of the emotionally-loaded protagonist.

7th Bangalore Film Festival: Day One

05 Dec. The Day One of BIFFes was a joy, worth every bit.
On the outset, I must confess, BIFF could teach a few important lessons to the meaningless, bureaucratic, and tasteless IFFI.
BIFF is a festival in its real sense, albeit on a much smaller scale. The seven day cinematic extravaganza on its day one staged quite a few films in 11 screens, plus a workshop by noted cinematographer Govind Nihalani in the VK Murthy memorial lectures.

I spent the entire day at FUN Cinema on Cunningham Road, where my students are helping as volunteers in executing the BIFF plans so gracefully! Loved seeing them interacting and helping the delegates, even in tough situations (when some delegates tend to vent their ire -for whatever reason- on these hapless students!)

The films are well-selected, I confess. I had a tough time selecting films to attend. But made some good decisions:
i) Rabbit-Proof Fence by Phillip Noyce (Australia, 2002) – was a delight to watch. The landscape is a living character. And the dilemma of the Aborigines and the condescending “developmental” concerns resonate with the viewer.
ii) Life of Riley by Alan Resnais, the 92-year French young director took me by surprise! I was accustomed to his Night and Fog and Hiroshima mon amour. But not a cute comedy like this one! Oh, what a joy to watch Resnais!
iii) Night of Silence by Reis Celik (Turkey, 2012) is another visual and thematic treat. The Kannada compere called (while announcing the screening) it ‘night of license!’ The film is about an old prisoner marrying a 16-year old child, who is still in her childish-mentality, and brings it to the bridal chamber. The entire drama unfolds in the bridal chamber. Her cuteness and innocence vs the ex-prisoner’s persona (or is it the society’s?) are absolutely beautiful. The film climaxes in on gun shot being heard in the morning, and not two! Then you see two women coming to the bridal chamber to collect the bed sheet. And all of us wonder – including the film producer- at what it means!

iv) Winter Sleep by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey, 2014), the winner from Cannes Film Festival could be a huge risk. But the 196-minutes drama was worth every bit. The film is heavily dialogue dependent, and series of long dialogues touching upon logic, philosophy, religion, ethics, etc. Could be quite heavy; and many left the theatre too. But my spirit prevailed over my sleepy eyes. And I was happy that I survived the demanding drama which takes on the crisis in marriage, sharp rich-poor chasm, better-than-thou attitude of the philosopher and the incredible ending with penniless, drunkard Ismael! Once again, another major character is the landscape of Cappadocea! The lovely rocks, impeccably snow-carpeted fields, horses and all the like! Well, was Nuri competing with Phillip Noyce for the stunning visuals!?

Bengaluru International Film Festival: Inauguration

04 Dec. For a change, the sarkari event, Bangalore International Film Festival (BIFFes) was quite a good event.

The Chief Minister Siddharamaiah came only 10 minutes late, and the 5.30pm-scheduled programme started at 5.45pm. Not bad for government servants known for delay!

Along with him were Roshan Beig (Minister for Infrastructure, Information & Public Relations), Umashree (Min. for Kannada & Culture), Ramalinga Reddy (Min. for Transport). Also with him were Govind Nihalani (noted bollywood cinematographer & filmmaker), Suhasini Maniratnam (leading South Indian female actor from Chennai, who spoke in better Kannada than the compere!), Meghana Reddi (young Kannada female actor), well-known Kannada actor Yash, Rajendra Singh Babu, Vishu Kumar, Shalini (“babu”), etc.

Roshan Beig announced a policy for the Kannada film industry for the next five years (soon!), Siddharamaiah promised much more cooperation and subsidies to the already existing Rs 10-lakhs/film for 100 films a year, and and then a lot more, including a praise for the number of Kannada films produced annually, and a wrap on the knuckles for the ‘poor quality’!

The inaugural programme went on for a good hour, followed by photo-op on the stage! So, for another 15 minutes, the stage was occupied with non-productive activity!

I was happy for my students who could attend this festival as volunteers and get a first-hand view of the event. Volunteers in various capacities – venue management, photography, travel management, etc.! It will be their festival! First hand!

The inaugural programme was followed by the inaugural film Ambassador to Bern, a Hungarian film (2014) based on an actual story of the migration and revolution and embassy-attack in Bern (Switzerland). Quite an poignant, adrenalin-rushing film; not meant for the inauguration, though!
Continue reading

Creations – Big Bang Theory vs Creation

04 Dec. There has been quite a buzz in the media about Pope Francis’ alleged statements concerning Evolution, Big Bang Theory and God as “Magician” who did not have a ‘magic wand’. Some news media have completely twisted and turned the statements that it is difficult to recognise them as the Pope’s statements!
Here is his original statement:

PLENARY SESSION OF THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
ON THE OCCASION OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE BUST
IN HONOUR OF POPE BENEDICT XVI

Casina of Pius IV; Monday, 27 October 2014

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!

A joyful emotion arose in my soul as the bust, which the Academics wished to have in the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as a sign of acknowledgment and gratitude, was unveiled. This bust of Benedict XVI brings dear Pope Ratzinger’s person and face back to the eyes of all. It also evokes his spirit: that of his teaching, of his example, of his opus, of his devotion to the Church, of his current “monastic” life. This spirit, far from crumbling over time, will appear from generation to generation ever greater and more powerful. Benedict XVI: a great Pope. Great in strength and intellectual insight, great in his significant contribution to theology, great in his love for the Church and for human beings, great in his virtue and his religiosity. As you well know, his love for the truth is not limited to theology and philosophy, but extends to science. His love for science spills over into regard for scientists, without distinction among race, nationality, culture or religion; care for the Academy, from the time St John Paul II appointed him a member. He knew how to honour the Academy with his presence and his words, and he appointed many of its members, including the current President, Werner Arber. Benedict XVI, for the first time, invited a president of this Academy, to participate in the Synod on the New Evangelization, cognizant of the importance of science in modern culture. It could certainly never be said of him that study and science withered his person and his love for God and neighbour; on the contrary, science, wisdom and prayer only expanded his heart and his spirit. Let us give thanks to God for the gift He gave to the Church and the world with the life and Pontificate of Pope Benedict. I thank everyone who so generously made this work of art and this event possible, especially the author of the bust, the sculptor Fernando Delia, your family, and all the Academics. I would like to thank all of you who are present here to honour this great Pope.

At the conclusion of your Plenary Session, dear Academics, I am glad to express my profound appreciation and my warm encouragement to move forward with scientific progress and the betterment of the standard of living of people, especially of those in the greatest poverty.

You are addressing the highly complex subject of the evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go into the scientific complexity, which you well understand, of this important and crucial question. I only want to underline that God and Christ are walking with us and are also present in nature, as the Apostle Paul stated in his discourse at the Areopagus: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we read the account of Creation in Genesis we risk imagining that God was a magician, complete with an all powerful magic wand. But that was not so. He created beings and he let them develop according to the internal laws with which He endowed each one, that they might develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time in which He assured them of his continual presence, giving life to every reality. And thus Creation has been progressing for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until becoming as we know it today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives life to all beings. The beginning of the world was not a work of chaos that owes its origin to another, but derives directly from a supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big Bang theory, which is proposed today as the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator but depends on it. Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings who evolve.

As for man, however, there is a change and a novelty. When, on the sixth day in the account of Genesis, comes the moment of the creation of man, God gives the human being another autonomy, an autonomy different from that of nature, which is freedom. And he tells man to give a name to all things and to go forth through history. He makes him the steward of Creation, even that he rule over Creation, that he develop it until the end of time. Therefore the scientist, and especially the approach of the Christian scientist is that of investigating the future of humanity and the earth, and, as a free and responsible being, to contribute to preparing it, to preserve it, and to eliminate any risks to the environment, both natural and manmade. But, at the same time, the scientist must be moved by the conviction that nature, in its evolutionary mechanisms, hides its potential which it leaves for intelligence and freedom to discover and actualize, in order to reach the development that is in the Creator’s design. So then, no matter how limited, the action of man partakes in the power of God and is capable of building a world adapted to his two-fold physical and spiritual life; to build a humane world for all human beings and not only for one group or one privileged class. This hope and trust in God, the Creator of Nature, and in the capacity of the human spirit, are able to give the researcher a new impetus and profound peace. But it is also true that the action of man, when his freedom becomes autonomy — which is not freedom, but autonomy — destroys Creation and man takes the place of the Creator. And this is a grave sin against God the Creator.

I encourage you to continue your work and to carry out these happy theoretical and practical initiatives for the benefit of human beings, which do you honour. It is with joy that I now consign the insignia, which Bishop Sánchez Sorondo will present to the new members. Thank you.
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/october/documents/papa-francesco_20141027_plenaria-accademia-scienze.html Continue reading

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