Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Science of Man is the Most Necessary of All Sciences

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Address to Participants of the Inter-academic Conference
"The changeable identity of the individual"

Promoted by the "Academie des Sciences de Paris"
and the Pontifical Academy of Science
January 28, 2008
The address was delivered in French.

Honorable Chancellors,
My fellow academicians,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you at the end of your colloquium here in Rome, which started at the Institut de France in Paris, on the theme "The changing identity of the individual." * * *

Since the exact sciences - natural as well as human - have achieved prodigious advances in knowledge about man and his universe, there is a great temptation to want to totally circumscribe the identity of the human being and enclose it within the knowledge that one can have about him. In order not to be committed to such a way, it is important to give the same importance to anthropological, philosophical and theological studies which allow man's mystery to emerge and be maintained, because no science can say what man is, where he comes from, and where he is going.

Thus the science of man becomes the most necessary of all sciences. * * * Man is always something beyond what we can see or what we can perceive through experience. Not to question the essence of man leads inevitably to a refusal to study the objective truth of the human being in his integralness, and because of this, no longer to be capable of recognizing the foundation on which human dignity rests, from the embryonic stage to his natural death.

In the course of your colloquium, you experienced how the sciences, philosophy and theology can aid each other to perceive the identity of man, which is always in the process of becoming.

Starting from an investigation into the new being borne out of the union between two cells, which carries a new and specific genetic patrimony of its own, you have shown the essential elements of the human mystery, which is distinguished by otherness - a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and made to be loved. As a human being, man is never closed in on himself; he is always the bearer of otherness, and finds himself from the start in interaction with other human beings, as the human sciences more and more reveal to us.

How can we not evoke that wonderful meditation of the psalmist on the human being 'knit in the secret of his mother's womb' but known, in his identity and his mystery, by God alone who loves and protects him" (cf. Ps 138(139), 1-16)!

Man is not the result of chance, nor of convergences, determinisms, or physico-chemical interactions. He is a being who enjoys a freedom which, while taking human nature into account, transcends it and is the sign of that mystery of otherness that he inhabits. Through this freedom, man can know there is a sense to his existence. In exercising authentic freedom, a person realizes his calling; he fulfills himself; he gives shape to his deepest identity.

It is also through the exercise of freedom that he can take responsibility for his actions. In this sense, the dignity that is particular to the human being is both a gift of God and the promise of a future. Man carries in himself a specific ability to discern what is good. Placed in him by the Creator like a stamp, synderesis (the principle of moral consciousness which pushes an agent to good) impels him to do what is good. Thus impelled, man is called on to develop his conscience by training and by exercise to guide himself freely during his existence, based on the essential laws which are natural law and moral law.

In our time, when scientific progress attracts and seduces through the possibilities it offers, it is more important than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries so that science does not become the criterion for what is good, and so man may be respected as the center of creation who should not be the object of ideological manipulations, arbitrary decisions, nor of abuses by the strong over the weak. All these dangers we have known in various manifestations throughout human history, but most especially during the twentieth century.

Every scientific initiative should also be an initiative of love, to be carried out in the service of man and humanity, and to make its contribution to the construction of personal identity. In effect, as I underscored in the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time...Love is indeed 'ecstasy'.. in the sense of a journey, an ongoing exodus from the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery..."(No. 6).

Love makes a man come out of himself to discover and know the other - in opening to the other, he also affirms the identity of that other, because the other reveals me to myself. Throughout the Bible, it is the experience which, beginning with Abraham, numberless believers have had. The model par excellence of love is Christ. In the act of giving his life for his brothers, of giving himself totally, he manifests his profound identity and gives us the key to reading the unfathomable mystery of his being and his mission.

In entrusting your studies to the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, whom the Church honors today and who remains 'an authentic model for you who search for the truth' (Fides et Ratio, No. 78), I assure you of my prayers, as well as for your families and co-workers, and I impart to all with affection the Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 28 January 2008


Monday, January 28, 2008

Educate in Love and Truth, Freedom and Discipline

Letter from the Holy Father, as Bishop of Rome,
to the Diocese and City of Rome,
to discuss his concerns about education for young people

Dear faithful of Rome,

I thought of addressing you with this letter to speak to you about a problem that your yourselves feel and which is the concern of various elements of our church: the problem of education.

We all have at heart the good of the persons we love, particularly our children, adolescents and young people. We know that the future of our city depends on them. We cannot be not solicitous about the formation of the new generations, about their capacity to orient themselves in life and to discern good from bad, about their health, both physical and moral.

But education was never easy, and today it seems to be even more difficult. Parents, teachers, priests and all those who have direct responsibilities for education know this well. That is why one speaks of an “educative emergency,” confirmed by the lack of success that very often our efforts meet in trying to form persons who are solid, capable of collaborating with others and of giving a sense to their own life. And often, the new generations are blamed, as though the babies born today are different from those born in the past.

Then there is the so-called generation gap, which certainly exists and weighs in, but which is the effect, rather than the cause, of the failure to transmit certainties and values.

So must today's adults be to blame for no longer being able to educate? Certainly, the temptation is strong - among parents, teachers, and educators in general - to give up, or even before that, to risk not even to understand their own role. Or better still, the mission that is entrusted to them.

In fact, what is in question is not only the personal responsibilities of adults and young people - though these exist and should not be hidden - but also a widespread climate, a mentality and a form of culture which lead to doubting the value of the human being, of the meaning itself of truth and goodness, and ultimately, of the very goodness of life itself. Thus, it becomes difficult to transmit from one generation to the next something valid and certain, rules of behavior, credible objectives around which to construct one's life.

Dear brothers and sisters of Rome, at this point, I wish to say something very simple: Do not fear! All these difficulties are not insurmountable. They are, so to speak, the other side of the coin of that great and precious gift which is our freedom, with the responsibility that rightly accompanies it.

Unlike what takes place in the technical or economic fields, where progress today can be added up to the progress of yesterday, there is no similar possibility of accumulation in the field of formation and moral growth of persons, because human freedom is always new, and so, every person and every generation must make their own decisions anew, and on their own. Even the greatest values of the past cannot simply be inherited, they must be made ours, and renewed through personal choice, often difficult and tormented.

But when the foundations are shaken and essential certainties are lacking, the need for such values becomes felt in compelling manner: that is why, the demand for an education that is truly an education is increasing in our day. It is demanded by parents, concerned and often anguished for the future of their own children; by so many teachers, who experience the sad degradation of their schools; by society as a whole, which sees the bases for coexistence placed in doubt; and in their intimate selves, by the children and youth themselves, who do not want to be left alone facing the challenges of life.

Whoever believes in Jesus Christ has other and stronger reasons not to fear: he knows that God does not abandon us, that his love reaches us where wee are and as we are, with our miseries and weaknesses, to offer us a new possibility of the good.

Dear brothers and sisters, to make these reflections of mine more concrete, it could be useful to identify some common requirements for an authentic education.

An authentic education needs, above all, that nearness and trust which come from love: I think of the first and fundamental experience of love that babies have - or at least should have - with their parents. But every true educator knows that to educate, one must give something of oneself, and only that way can one help pupils and students to overcome selfishness and become, in turn, capable of authentic love.

Already in every small baby there is a great desire to know and to understand, which is shown in his continuous questions and requests for explanation. But it would be a poor education which limits itself to just teaching ideas and providing information, but leaves aside the great questions about truth, above all, the truth that can be a guide for life.

Suffering, too, is part of the truth about life. Therefore, if we seek to keep young people sheltered from every difficulty and from experiencing pain, we risk raising - despite our good intentions - fragile and not very generous persons. The capacity to love corresponds to a capacity to suffer and to suffer together.

And so we arrive, dear friends of Rome, at the point that is perhaps most delicate in educative work: to find the right equilibrium between freedom and discipline. Without rules of behavior and life, valid everyday even in the little things, character cannot be formed and children cannot be prepared to face the trials which will not be lacking in the future. But the educative relationship is above all the encounter between two freedoms, and successful education is formation in the right use of freedom. The child grows, becomes an adolescent, and then a youth. We must therefore accept the risk of freedom, remaining always attentive to help him to correct wrong ideas and choices. What we must never do is to allow mistakes, pretend not to see them or worse, to share them, as if these were new frontiers in human progress.

Education therefore cannot do without that authoritativeness which makes the exercise of authority credible. It is a fruit of experience and competence, but it is acquired above all through consistency in one's own life and with personal involvement, expression of true love. The educator is therefore a witness of truth and goodness: of course, even he is fragile and could be deficient, but he will always try to be in tune with his mission.

Dearest faithful of Rome, from these simple considerations what emerges is how education is decisive for the sense of responsibility: the responsibility of an educator, certainly, but - in the measure that the child grows - the responsibility of the child, the schoolboy, and the youth who enters the workplace. Responsibility is knowing how to respond to himself and to others. The believer also seeks beyond, and above all, responds to God who loved him first.

Responsibility is personal above all, but there is also a responsibility that we share as citizens in a city and a nation, as members of the human family, and, if we are believers, as children of the one God and members of the Church. In fact, ideas, lifestyles, laws, the overall orientations of the society in which we live, is the image it gives of itself through the media, exercising great influence on the formation of new generations, for the good, but often also for the bad.

But society is not an abstraction. In the end, we are ourselves all together, each of us with orientations, rules and responsibilities, although our roles and responsibilities may be different. There is a need for each of us to contribute - every person, family or social group - so that society, starting with our city of Rome, may become an environment more favorable to education.

Finally, I wish to propose to you a thought in the recent encyclical Spe salvi on Christian hope: only a trustworthy hope can animate education and all of life. Today our hope is undermined in many ways and we risk becoming like the ancient pagans, men "without hope and without God in this world", as the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus (Eph 2,12). It is from this that perhaps the most profound difficulty in education arises: at the root of the crisis in education is, in fact, a crisis of confidence in life.

I cannot therefore end this letter without a warm invitation to place our hope in God. Only He is the hope which resists all delusions; only his love cannot be destroyed by death; only his justice and his mercy can heal injustices and compensate for the sufferings we undergo. The hope we place in God is never just hope only for oneself, it is always also hope for others: it doesn't isolate us, but makes us fraternal in goodness, and stimulates us to educate each other in truth and love.

I greet you with affection and assure you of a special memory in my prayers, while I impart my blessing to everyone.

From the Vatican, 21 January 2008


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Search for Truth Requires the Light of the Logos and Christian Faith

Discourse of the Holy Father Benedict XVI
for his visit to La Sapienza - Università di Roma

January 17, 2008
(presented in writing after protestors prompted cancellation of the address in person)

. . . I am moved, on this occasion, to express my gratitude for the invitation extended to me to come to your university to deliver an address to you. In this perspective, I first of all asked myself the question: What can a pope say on an occasion like this? In my lecture in Regensburg, I indeed spoke as pope, but I spoke above all in the guise of a former professor of the university, seeking to connect memory and the present. But at the university "La Sapienza," the ancient university of Rome, I have been invited as "Bishop of Rome," and so I must speak in this capacity. Of course, "La Sapienza" was once the pope's university, but today it is a secular university with that autonomy which, on the basis of its founding principles, has always been part of the nature of the university, which must always be exclusively bound to the authority of the truth. In its freedom from political and ecclesiastical authorities, the university finds its special role, and in modern society as well, which needs institutions of this nature.

I return to my starting question: What can and should the pope say in meeting with his city's university? Reflecting on this question, it has seemed to me that it includes two more questions, the clarification of which should by itself lead to the answer. It is necessary, in fact, to ask: What is the nature and mission of the papacy? And again: What is the nature and mission of the university?

It is not my intention here to belabor either you or myself with lengthy examinations of the nature of the papacy. A brief summary should be enough. The pope is, first of all, the bishop of Rome, and as such, in virtue of apostolic succession from the Apostle Peter, he has Episcopal authority in regard to the entire Catholic Church. The word "bishop" —- episkopos -— which in its immediate meaning refers to "supervision," already in the New Testament was fused together with the biblical concept of the shepherd: he is the one who, from an elevated point of observation, surveys the whole landscape, making sure to keep the flock together and on the right path.

This description of the bishop's role directs the view first of all to within the community of believers. The bishop — the shepherd — is the man who takes care of this community, the one who keeps it united by keeping it on the path toward God, which Jesus points out through the Christian faith, and He does not only point this out: He Himself is the way for us. But this community that the bishop cares for, as large or small as it may be, lives in the world; its conditions, its journey, its example, and its words inevitably influence the rest of the human community in its entirety. The larger it is, the more its good condition or eventual decline will impact all of humanity. Today we see very clearly how the situation of the religions and the situation of the Church — its crises and renewals — act upon the whole of humanity. Thus the pope, precisely as the shepherd of his community, has increasingly become a voice of the ethical reasoning of humanity.

But, here, there immediately comes the objection, according to which, the pope does not in fact truly speak on the basis of ethical reasoning, but instead draws his judgments from the faith and, therefore, he cannot claim that these have validity for those who do not share this faith.

We must return to this argument later, because it poses the absolutely fundamental question: What is reason? How can an assertion, and above all a moral norm, demonstrate that it is "reasonable"? At this point, I would like to note briefly that John Rawls, while he denies that religious doctrines overall have the character of "public" reasoning, he nonetheless sees in their "non-public" reasoning at least a reasoning that cannot simply be dismissed by those who support a hard-line secularist rationality. He sees a criterion of this reasonableness in, among other things, the fact that such doctrines are derived from a responsible and well grounded tradition, in which, over a long span of time, sufficiently strong arguments have been developed in support of the respective doctrines.

It seems important to me that this statement recognizes that experience and demonstration over the course of generations, the historical backdrop of human wisdom, are also a sign of their reasonableness and their lasting significance. In the face of an a-historical form of reason that seeks to construct itself in an exclusively a-historical rationality, the wisdom of humanity as such — the wisdom of the great religious traditions — should be viewed as a reality that cannot be cast with impunity into the trash bin of the history of ideas.

Let's return to the opening question. The pope speaks as the representative of a believing community, in which, throughout the centuries of its existence, a specific life wisdom has matured; he speaks as the representative of a community that holds within itself a treasury of ethical understanding and experience, which is important for all of humanity. In this sense, he speaks as the representative of a form of ethical reasoning.

But now we must ask ourselves: What is the university? What is its purpose? It is a huge question which I can only answer once again in almost telegraphic style by making just a few observations. I believe that it can be said that the true intimate origin of the university lies in man’s craving for knowledge. He wants to know what everything around him is.

In this sense, the Socratic questioning is the impulse that gave birth to the Western university. I am thinking here, just to mention one text, the dispute that sets Euthyphro, who defends mythical religion and his devotion to it, against Socrates. In contrast Socrates asks: “And do you believe there is really a war amongst the gods, with terrible feuds, even, and battles . . . Are we to say that these things are true, Euthyphro?" (Euthyphro, 6: b and c). In this apparently not very devout question — but which drew in Socrates from a deeper and purer sense of religiosity, one that sought a truly divine god — the Christians of the first centuries recognized their path and themselves.

These early Christians accepted their faith, not in a positivist manner or as a way of getting away from unfulfilled desires, but rather as a way of dissolving the cloud that was mythological religion so as to discover the God that is Creative Reason as well as Reason-as-Love. For this reason, asking themselves about the reason for the greater God, as well as the real nature and sense of being human, did not represent for them any problematic lack of religiosity, but was part of the essence of their way of being religious. They therefore did not need to solve or put aside the Socratic dilemma but could, indeed, had to accept it. They also had to recognize, as part of their identity, the demanding search for reason in order to learn about the entire truth. The university could, indeed, had to be born within the Christian world and the Christian faith.

We must take another step. Man wants to know; he wants the truth. Truth pertains first and foremost to seeing and understanding theoria, as it is called in the Greek tradition. But truth is not only theoretic. In correlating the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mountain and the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Isaiah 11, Augustine asserted the reciprocity of scientia (knowledge) and tristitia (sorrow). For him, merely knowing is source of sadness. In fact, those who only see and learn all that happens in the world end up becoming sad.

But the truth means more than knowledge. The purpose of knowing the truth is to know what is good. This is also the sense of Socrates’ way of questioning: What good thing makes us true? Truth makes us good and goodness is true. This optimism dwells in the Christian faith because it was allowed to see the Logos, the Creative Reason that, in God’s incarnation, reveals itself as that which is Good, as Goodness itself.

In medieval theology, there was a great dispute over the relationship between theory and praxis, over the proper relationship between knowledge and action, a dispute that we must not go into further here. In fact, with their four faculties, medieval universities embodied this correlation.

Let us begin with medicine, which was the fourth faculty according to the understanding of that time. Although it was seen more as an “art” than as a science, its inclusion in the realm of the universitas meant that it was seen as belonging to the domain of rationality. The art of healing was seen as something guided by reason and was thus beyond the domain of magic. Healing is a task that always requires more than simple reason, but exactly for this reason, it needs the connection between knowledge and power and must belong to the realm of ratio.

Inevitably, in law faculties, the relationship between praxis and theory, between knowing and doing, takes front seat for it is about giving human freedom its right shape, which is always freedom in reciprocal communion. The law is the premise upon which freedom is built; it is not its adversary.

But this raises another question: How can we identify what the standards of justice are, that is, those that make freedom as part of a whole possible and serve mankind’s goodness? Let us come back to the present. It is a question that is related to how we can find legal rules that can govern freedom, human dignity and man’s rights. It is an issue that concerns us insofar as it relates to the democratic processes that shape opinions, but also one that can distress us insofar as it relates to humanity’s future.

J├╝rgen Habermas articulates a view, widely accepted in today’s world of ideas, in which the legitimacy of a constitution as the basis for what is legal stems from two sources: the equal participation of all citizens in the political process and reasonable conflict-resolution mechanisms in politics. Insofar as the reasonable mechanisms are concerned, he notes that the issue cannot be reduced to a mere struggle for who gets more votes, but must include a “process of argumentation that is responsive to truth” (wahrheitssensibles Argumentationsverfahren). This is well said, but it is something difficult to turn into political praxis. We know that the representatives of this public “process of argumentation” are, for the most part, political parties which shape the formation of the public will. In fact, they invariably will seek a majority and will almost always take care of the interests they pledge to protect, which are very often partisan and not collective interests; responsiveness to the truth always takes the back seat to partisan interests. To me, it is significant that Habermas should say that responsiveness to truth is a necessary component of political argumentation, since it reintroduces the concept of truth in philosophical and political debates.

Pilate’s question then becomes inevitable: What is truth? How do we recognize it? If we turn to “public reason” as Rawls does, another question necessarily follows: What is reasonable? How does a given reason prove to be the true reason? Whatever the case may be, it is obvious that, in the quest for freedom and for living together equitably, groups other than parties and interest groups must be heard; although that does not mean that the latter are any less important.

Let us go back to medieval universities and the way they were set up. Along with law, philosophy and theology had their own faculty with the task of studying mankind in his totality and thus keeping alive responsiveness to truth. One might even say that this is the real and enduring meaning of both faculties — philosophy and theology maintain responsiveness to truth and prevent man from being distracted in his quest for the truth. But how can they do this? This is a question which we must always work at and which can never be raised and answered once and for all. Hence, at this point, not even I can properly give you an answer. I can, though, invite you to keep asking this question, one that has involved all the great thinkers who, throughout history, have fought for and sought out the truth, coming up with their own answers and enduring their own fears, always going beyond any one answer.

Theology and philosophy are an odd couple; neither can be totally separated from the other and, yet, each must keep its own purpose and identity. Compared to the answers Church Fathers formulated in their day and age, St. Thomas Aquinas deserves a special place in history for highlighting the autonomy of philosophy, as well as that of the law. He equally has the merit of pointing out the responsibilities that fall on reason when it questions itself on the basis of its own strengths.

Unlike neo-platonic ideas that saw religion and philosophy inseparably intertwined, the Church Fathers had presented the Christian faith as real philosophy, insisting that this faith corresponds to the needs of Reason in its quest for the truth, that is, a faith that was a “Yes” to truth when compared to mythical religions that had ended up turning into mere custom.

However, when universities were founded in the West, those religions were no more, only Christianity existed. This meant highlighting, in a new way, reason’s own responsibility, one that was not absorbed by the faith. Thomas lived at a special time. For the first time, all of Aristotle’s philosophical writings were available, as were the Hebrew and Arabic text that embodied and extended Greek philosophy. Thus, as Christianity interacted with others and engaged their reason in a new dialogue, it had to fight for its own reasonableness.

The Faculty of Philosophy, i.e. the so-called artists’ faculty, was until then only a preparatory stage before moving on to theology. Afterwards, it became a faculty in its own right, an autonomous partner to theology and the faith which the latter reflected. We cannot dwell on the gripping confrontation that followed. I would say that St. Thomas’ idea about the relationship between philosophy and theology can be expressed by the formula handed down by the Council of Chalcedon on Christology, namely, that philosophy and theology must relate to each other “without confusion and without separation.”

“Without confusion” is understood in the sense that each will maintain its own identity, so that philosophy is truly a free and responsible search for reason and aware of its own limits and, thus, of its own greatness and vastness. Theology must instead continue to draw from a source of knowledge that it has not invented and that is always greater than itself, and which always renews the process of thinking since it is never totally exhausted by reflection.

“Without confusion” does not stand alone for there is “without separation,” that is, the idea that philosophy never starts from scratch in isolation, but is part of great dialogue found in the accumulated knowledge that history has bequeathed and which it always critically, but meekly, accepts and develops. Yet, it should not shut itself off from what religions, especially the Christian faith, have received and given to humanity as a sign for the path to follow.

Indeed, history has shown that many of the things that theologians have said in the course of time, or that Church authorities have put in practice, have been proven false and today they confuse us. But it is equally true that the history of the saints, and the history of the humanism that has developed on the basis of the Christian faith, are proof of the truth of this faith in its essential core, making it something that public reason needs. Of course, much of what theology and faith say can only be appropriated from within the faith and thus cannot be seen as a need for those to whom this faith remains inaccessible.

It is true, however, that the message of the Christian faith is never only a "comprehensive religious doctrine" in Rawls’ terms, but that it is, instead, a force that purifies reason itself, further helping the latter to be itself. On the basis of its origins, the Christian message should always encourage the search of the truth and thus be a force against the pressures exerted by power and interests.

Well, so far I have only talked about the university in the Middle Ages, trying, however, to show to what extent its nature and purpose have remained the same all along. In modern times, knowledge has become more multi-faceted, especially in the two broad fields that now prevail in universities. First of all, there are the natural sciences which have developed on the basis of experimentation and the supposed rationality of the subject matters. Secondly, there are the social sciences and the humanities, in which man has tried to understand himself by looking at his own history and uncovering his own nature.

From this development, humanity not only acquired a great deal of knowledge and power, but also an understanding and recognition of the rights and dignity of mankind. And for this we can be grateful. But man’s journey can never be said to be over, and the danger of falling into inhumanity is never just warded off as we can see in today’s history.

The danger faced by the Western world, just to mention the latter, is that mankind, given its great knowledge and power, might give up on the question of the truth. At the same time, this means that reason in the end may bow to the pressures of partisan interests and instrumental value, forced to acknowledge the latter as the ultimate standard.

From the point of view of the academic world, this means that there is a danger that philosophy, feeling incapable of fulfilling its task, might degenerate into positivism, a danger that theology, and the message it has for reason, might be confined to the private sphere of a group more or less big. If, however, reason, concerned about its supposed purity, fails to hear the great message that comes from the Christian faith and the understanding it brings, it will dry up like a tree with roots cut off from the water that gives it life. It will lose the courage needed to find the truth and thus become small rather than great. Applied to our European culture, this means that, if it wants to constitute itself on the basis of its arguments and whatever appears to it to be convincing, with concerns about its own secular nature, it will cut itself off from its life-sustaining roots and, in doing so, will not become more reasonable and pure, but will instead become undone and fragmented.

And so let me go back to the initial point. What does the Pope have to do or say in a university? He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others, which can only be freely offered. Beyond his ministry as Pastor of the Church and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral ministry, it is his task to keep alive man’s responsiveness to the truth. Similarly he must again and always invite reason to seek out truth, goodness and God, and on this path urge it to see the useful lights that emerged during the history of the Christian faith and perceive Jesus Christ as the light that illuminates history and helps find the way towards the future.

From the Vatican, 17 January 2008