ROME — Pope Francis told students never to be afraid of their desire for truth and never to settle for mediocrity.

He encouraged them to live with open hearts and minds, and not just stick with the predominant mindset in a world that believes diversity is conflict.

“May you feel a healthy ambition to add something original that also may be concrete and useful,” he said Nov. 14, speaking to students and faculty of Rome’s LUMSA University.

Reflecting on the role of a university, Francis referred to a talk Pope Benedict XVI had been scheduled to deliver in person at Rome’s La Sapienza University in 2008 until student protests forced its cancellation: “The true origin of the university lies in the thirst for knowledge that is proper to man. The human being wants to know what everything around him is. He wants truth.”

Francis said, “We must not be afraid to use this word, in a spirit of sincere dialogue. Truth, liberty, the good,” which are pursued through “the integral formation of the person.”

He asked the students to take part in collaborative projects and exchanges with other universities to come up with innovative research guided by “that intellectual charity that does not discount the truth and that does not settle for mediocrity.”

Earlier in the day, the pope met with professors from the Sophia University Institute, founded by the Focolare Movement.

He reminded them that true wisdom is God’s light shining upon all people, from all religions and all cultures. “That is why we are called -as you already do — to walk together with everyone, not against everyone.”

“However, there are those who have this habit of always seeking someone against whom they can walk,” he said. “Our message is different: With whom do I walk in order to build a true and harmonious culture of encounter, which is greatly lacking?”

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