26 July 2018, The Tablet

Tough times ahead for global leaders of Catholic universities


The threat to Gospel values lies in popular relativism, which questions any objective truths and relegates the right to life beneath the right to individual choice, the head of the Irish Church has warned.

Making the assertion in his homily for the opening Mass of the twenty-sixth General Assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities held at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, on Monday, Archbishop Eamon Martin acknowledged that it is a “challenging time to be a leader in a Catholic university”.

Addressing delegates from all over the world, including Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and 200 university presidents, vice-presidents and international development officers, he encouraged them “not to be afraid to celebrate and openly proclaim the ethos of your universities – connected as they are to Christ and to the Church’s mission – to bear much fruit.”

But he also stressed that today the “vineyard of the Lord” cannot “remain walled off from the influences and challenges of a fast-paced, multimedia world”.

The archbishop, who is chancellor of St Patrick’s College, told the delegates that the task of Catholic universities is to offer spaces for dialogue and encounter between faith and culture where students can learn and test ideas, while being nourished by the very best of Christian scholarship. The four-day assembly had the theme “Catholic universities, working in solidarity as responsible agents from the local to the global”.

Of the university in Maynooth, he said young adults of all faiths and none meet and interact, sharing their ideas and hopes for the present and future, engaging with a rapidly evolving culture and learning to discern amid often contradictory messages.

Archbishop Martin reminded the international delegates that 160 years ago, Blessed John Henry Newman founded his Catholic University in Dublin. For Newman, a Catholic university was a space to cultivate an intellect comprehensive and versatile enough to be able instinctively to evaluate “things as they pass before us”.

Referring to the assembly’s setting in Ireland, he said there was “a tremendous sense of anticipation as we count down the days to the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis”.

The assembly also looked at how to bring the teachings of Laudato Si’ into its network of third-level institutions and issues linked to the social responsibility of Catholic universities.

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