Apostolic Letter on John Duns Scotus

Today, the Vatican released a brief apostolic letter by Pope Benedict XVI (though it is date October 18, 2008), marking the 700th anniversary of the death of Blessed John Duns Scotus.  Scotus, a Franciscan friar, was one of the most important philosophers of the Middle Ages. 

The Pope’s letter is not addressed to the whole Church, but rather to Cardinal Joachim Meisner and the participants in an international congress that took place last month in Cologne, Germany (Meisner’s see city), marking the occasion.

The Vatican news service page does not specify an official title, but I suppose it’s Laetare, Colonia urbs, which is “Rejoice, city of Cologne.”  (The titles are generally the first two or three words of the Latin version.) 

In the letter, Pope Benedict praises Scotus for emphasizing the harmony between faith and reason, for his fidelity to the Church’s magisterium, and for anticipating the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  It is, however, available only in Latin and Italian at this point. (It seems odd that’s it’s not in German, too, given the group it’s addressed to.) 

John Duns Scotus was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993. 

Interestingly, though, there are some reliable voices who point to Scotus as the source of contemporary Western society’s cultural and philosophical woes.  Pope Benedict himself makes an attempt to get to the root of these woes in his encyclical Spe Salvi (see the section that begins with article 16).  He starts with Francis Bacon, the British 16th/17th century scientist-philosopher.  Robert Barron, in his extraordinary book The Priority of Christ, is an example of one who traces things back a bit farther, to John Duns Scotus’ revision of Thomas Aquinas’ conception of what being is all about.

Blessed John Duns Scotus, pray for us.

UPDATE: An article on the letter from the Congregation Propaganda Fides is here, and one from Zenit here.


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