On the 20th anniversary of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (January 10, 2005)

On the 20th anniversary of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

Filled with gratitude to God, we recall yesterday’s 20th anniversary of the decree Dei Servus, on January 9, 1985, by which the Congregation for Catholic Education officially established the Roman Academic Center of the Holy Cross, the original nucleus of the present university. The Roman sections of the University of Navarre’s schools of Theology and Canon Law had been established the previous October by my beloved and venerated predecessor, then Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, thus bringing to reality a long cherished dream of St. Josemaría Escrivá.

Also today the fourteen volumes of the acts of the congress commemorating the centennial of St. Josemaría’s birth will be presented, which was held three years ago, just a few months before his canonization. The University’s Rector will describe the contents of these acts in a few moments. I will therefore limit myself to some brief reflections on the anniversary itself.

No one can be unmindful of the fact that the formation of all the faithful in the Church, a formation adequate to each one’s vocation and mission, constitutes one of the principal needs of the People of God in our day and age. The concern that Opus Dei’s holy founder had for formation, particularly that of priests, gave rise to his wish to establish a center of ecclesiastical studies in Rome—as well as so many other initiatives throughout the world.

As Msgr. del Portillo said in 1985 in a message to the University of Navarre’s School of Theology, the University “seeks to respond to the repeated calls by his Holiness John Paul II that theologians and canonists, and all the other professionals in the ecclesiastical sciences, carry out their work with loyalty to the doctrine of Jesus Christ as faithfully transmitted by the magisterium, while striving to respond to the problems and needs of contemporary culture.”[1] Penetrating more and more deeply into the knowledge of God and man in order to attain a unity of personal life and participate in the evangelizing work of the Church by entering into a dialogue with the men and women of our times: this is the exciting panorama that is presented before us and that calls for a daily and constant effort on our part.

It is important never to forget that all the activities of the ecclesiastical centers of higher studies should have as their final goal the building up of the Church and the good of the faithful. This is the specific contribution of the ecclesiastical universities and schools to the Church’s evangelizing mission, since God needs apostles who know how to transmit to others what they have first assimilated in study and prayer, and striven to live in an exemplary manner.[2]

In the face of the world’s current situation, which we always view with objectivity and optimism, there is a clear need to help foster a new culture and a new legislation that respond fully to God’s plan for creation and to human dignity. This is truly an ambitious goal, but to attain it we count on God’s help. It is a mission that falls to all the people of God without exception, including the specific contribution of those who cultivate both the sacred and the secular sciences. For this contribution to bear fruit two things are required: in first place, there must be an ever higher level of scientific competence; and in second place, there is a need to foster interdisciplinary work, without creating watertight compartments, so that each branch of research is in communication with the others and contributes to the common task. I feel the need to stress the importance today (really it has always been necessary, but perhaps especially so now) of this interdisciplinary aspect, that is, for the sciences of the spirit and the positive sciences to move forward together, firmly directed to a search for the truth in all its aspects, a truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32) and that find its fullness in Christ, because only he is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).

With God’s help—for Him be all the glory!—the little seed sown twenty years ago with the setting up of the Roman Academic Center of the Holy Cross has taken firm root thanks to the concern of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo and the efforts of the teachers, administrative personnel, students and so many benefactors who have contributed to the growth of what is today, by the title granted by John Paul II on July 15, 1998, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The various names that our center of ecclesiastical studies has had over the course of these twenty years of existence correspond to the various stages of its canonical configuration: at first, as we have already mentioned, it was called the Roman Academic Center of the Holy Cross; later (after January 9, 1990), the Roman Athenaeum of the Holy Cross; still later (after June 26, 1995), the Pontifical Athenaeum of the Holy Cross; and finally (since July 15, 1998), the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. I only wish to emphasize that the name “Roman” with which our University was born, is indicative of its fundamental aspiration, which it should always preserve, because “Romanness” means above all close union with the Holy Father and full fidelity to his teachings, the universality of a yearning that extends to all parts of the world, and charity and understanding towards all mankind.

Two decades after its first steps, my thoughts go in first place to God, to thank him for the countless benefits that he has poured down on us and the abundant fruit that we have gathered up till now. Thanks also to our Lady, Sedes Sapientiae, to whose maternal care we have entrusted each of our steps. Thanks also to St. Josemaría, who, above all with his prayer, set down the foundations upon which the university has risen.

Thanks also to our Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, whom we have seen spending himself day after day for the good of the Church without concern for himself. The Pope has so often expressed his concern for fostering a truly human culture and has followed with his fatherly gaze the development of our university since its birth.

I would also like to take this occasion to express my deep personal thanks and that of all involved in the University to Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, who is present with us today, for the decisive role that he played as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, in granting the title of Pontifical University to our institution.

Looking to the future, we are all aware that we must persevere in our efforts to attain ever more fully the ends that characterize the university. To do so, we count on the help of God who will never fail us if, on our part, we seek to respond with generosity.

Yesterday marked the end of the liturgical time of Christmas, and in our hearts there remain indelibly sculpted the figures from the nativity scene—with the Child Jesus, Mary Most Holy and St. Joseph at the center—who represent in an ineffable way God’s love for us. Let us continue now on the path that the Holy Father John Paul II set for us when he dedicated this year to the Holy Eucharist: Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is renewed each day on our altars pro mundi vita, for the life of the world. He is present in our midst and remains in the tabernacle so that we may turn to him with confidence and so that, knowing and loving him to the point of identifying ourselves with him, we may sanctify our ordinary work of seeking and transmitting the truth and learn to be witnesses to that truth at every moment in our lives, in order to bring all men and women his message of peace, truth and love.

[1] Alvaro del Portillo, "Mensaje a la Facultad de Teologia de la Universidad de Navarra para el acto académico con occasión del 25˚ anniversario de la fundación," June 12, 1985, in Rendere amabile la verita. Raccolta di scrtti di Mons. Alvaro del Portillo, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1995, p.577.

[2] Cf. Alvaro del Portillo, Homliy at the Mass of inauguartion of the academic year 1991-1992, October 21, 1991, Romana 7 (1991), p.265.

Romana, n. 40, January-June 2005, p. 85-87.

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