On the Occasion of the Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 3, 2022)
The whole Church has embarked on the synodal journey to which the Holy Father has repeatedly called us. In addition to recalling the personal participation of some members of our university in the various stages of this journey, I would like to reflect today on how the spirit of synodality can be present in university life. Indeed, this “walking together” through encounter, listening and discernment can also be lived within the academic setting.
This “walking together” gives a new meaning to the relationship between students and professors, academic authorities, technical and administrative personnel and all those who, in some way, collaborate in the life of the University. The work of the professors is a “walking together” that takes place in an atmosphere of service, respect and appreciation for each person. On this journey, students are enriched by assimilating the riches of their professors’ knowledge and the style with which they carry out their work, in which being demanding goes hand in hand with attention to each person. This “walking together” also affects university research, which the professors carry out above all thanks to the active participation of students in classes, seminars and, in particular, through the preparation of their dissertations and doctoral theses. Relations with the academic authorities (those of the departments and institutes, those of the faculties, the rectorate and the chancellery) must be inspired by a faithful and loyal acceptance of all that the common good of the institution demands, and be imbued with a deep sense of service in the performance of all the offices of governance. “Walking together” also includes the relationship of trust and cooperation among faculty, students and non-teaching staff, who perform other tasks in the University and contribute, in an equally important way, to creating a pleasant and stimulating human environment. We refer to all the activities that support the governance of the university, the services offered by the library, the administrative services, the publishing department, the computer services, the various secretariats, the organization of events and all the other services, such as the material care of the premises and cleaning services. Finally, it is worth mentioning the University’s common path with the many benefactors from all over the world, whose support is indispensable – vital – for the very existence of the academic community.
Interpersonal encounter and listening are aspects that should imbue all university life. Academic activities require, above all, a constant attitude of listening to and appreciation for all those involved, without confusion of roles. Of the various forms of encounter and listening, I would like to recall three that seem particularly important to me: interdisciplinarity, which implies the reciprocal openness of the various forms of knowledge united in the search for truth and the generation of synergies with other university institutions; collegiality in governance at all levels, in which the collaboration of all, including students and non-teaching staff, is invaluable; and care for external and internal communication, which helps so much in this “walking together”.
Meeting and listening to each other is also important because it develops the necessary discernment in all decisions, large or small, that are made for the good of the university. At the same time, when a decision is made, it is necessary to accept the legitimate dispositions dictated by the authorities, ecclesiastical and civil, each within its sphere of competence. In the last two years, the experience of the measures taken to deal with the pandemic caused by Covid has been an excellent example of loyal compliance with the rules dictated by the civil authorities, combined with the spirit of initiative to face and overcome difficulties. But it has also been a great opportunity to enhance certain aspects of university work, such as the use of online activities, both academic and outreach, which were previously not very accessible. At all levels, in fact, all decisions, besides being in accord with the identity of an ecclesiastical university such as ours with specific characteristics, must always be taken from a perspective that positively enhances teaching, research and the service to the Church and civil society that the University of the Holy Cross is called to provide.
I would like to conclude these very brief reflections by underscoring how these aspects of the synodal spirit are in harmony with the spiritual patrimony of this university, inseparably united to the charism of Opus Dei. The message and life of St. Josemaría should constantly inspire this academic community, just as they inspired, in exemplary fidelity to that charism, the carrying out of the founder of Opus Dei’s wish (who strongly desired this university), thanks to the faithful efforts of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, his successor and first Grand Chancellor. Among the many aspects of this spiritual patrimony, I would like to mention just one that is truly central: the awareness that we must carry out our university work with sanctifying it as our goal. The “walking together” that Pope Francis has repeatedly recommended is inseparable from the pursuit of each one’s personal holiness, a holiness that is found through the fulfillment of one’s daily work. Thus the triple dimension so often stressed by St. Josemaría is verified: sanctifying work, sanctifying oneself in work, sanctifying others through work.
With the hope that we will know how to incarnate the synodal spirit and always remain truly faithful to the spiritual heritage that sustains this university, I declare open the academic year 2022-2023.
Romana, n. 75, July-December 2022, p. 208-210.