ROME — The 13th Rome Seminar for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), organized in partnership with The Lay Centre, began 28 May and came to a fruitful conclusion on 1st June. Participants from the United States and Canada met officials at the Roman Curia in the Vatican and visited historical sites in Rome related to Catholic higher education.
The main purpose of this program was to promote a culture of dialogue between Vatican dicasteries and presidents, senior administrators, and faculty leaders of Catholic universities. The discussion included the elements of Catholic identity, how to carry forward the tradition and charisms of institutions founded by religious orders, and how cultural activities, sports and worship can be part of the mission of Catholic institutions.
Among the highlights were visits to the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
Participants met many officials who work in these Vatican offices. Among them were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Bishop Paul Tighe, adjunct secretary at the same dicastery; Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Msgr Robert Oliver, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Visits to the American and Canadian embassies to the Holy See offered participants the perspective of the diplomatic missions on Catholic higher education, among other issues on which they collaborate with the Vatican.
From the artistic viewpoint, the group had the privilege to make a private visit to St Peter’s Basilica, guided by the head of the Fabrique of St Peter (Fabbrica di San Pietro), Dr Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella. The tour included an exclusive view of one of Michelangelo’s renowned marble sculptures, the Pietà, and a visit to the room of the wooden models of St Peter’s basilica, built between the 16th and 17th centuries.
ACCU delegates and spouses also attended the traditional Wednesday general audience, with Pope Francis, a few days before the Solemnity of Pentecost. On that occasion, the Holy Father had some inspiring words for those who work in Catholic higher education:
“The Spirit bears witness within our hearts to the consoling truth of God’s promises and the inheritance that awaits us as his beloved sons and daughters (cf. Rom 8:16). Filled with this hope, we can become, in the words of Cardinal Newman, ‘consolers in the image of the Paraclete… advocates, helpers and bringers of comfort’ to others. The Spirit, who brings hope to all creation (cf. Rom 8:20-22), also inspires in us love and respect for this world in which we live.”