My alma mater officially opened its new Rome Centre, one of a growing number of global gateways, in January, with some of the students moving their classes into the building for the spring semester and a weeklong meeting of the University Board of Trustees here in the Eternal City.
The first Catholic University from the States (perhaps the first at all) to enjoy a full private audience with Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome praised Notre Dame’s “outstanding contribution” to the U.S. Church, religious education, and serious scholarship “inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth and virtue.”
He later added something which has been spun, in some quarters, as a critique of the Catholic identity of Our Lady’s university. If you actually read what he said though, it becomes clear that this is not really the case:
It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. [emphasis mine]
Regardless, it was the highlight of a busy week: there was the granting of honorary doctorates to Cardinal Tauran of the PCID and Maria Voce of Focolare; mass with Cardinal Wuerl in his titular church of San Pietro in Vincoli; receptions at Villa Taverna and Villa Richardson with the Ambassadors to Italy and the Holy See, respectively (both part of the ND family); and a closing dinner that included ND alumni working in the Holy See and leadership of the local Alumni Club. All this on top of the usual schedule of meetings and tours of the city.
It was great to bring two of the great parts of my life together, and to even see some old friends. Notre Dame, long the pre-eminent Catholic university in North America, has made surprisingly little inroads into the European scene beyond study abroad programs. That is changing, and this visit is a sign of the things to come. I have to say I am looking forward to being a part of it in some small way!