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Angelicum Leads the Way in Rome for Eucharistic Adoration

Rome Reports is an English-language news program based in Rome, and broadcasting to several countries. They recently did a feature of the Angelicum, apparently the only Pontifical Univeristy in Rome with daily Eucharistic Adoration, including interviews with familiar faces: Benedict Croell, OP; Matthew John Paul Tan, PhD (another Russell Berrie Fellow); and Jill Alexy, M.Div. (fellow Notre Dame alumn).

You can watch the clip here:


Mar Bawai Soro

One of my intensive courses this semester is “The History of Aramaic Christianity”, taught by Mar Bawai Soro, a bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church whose name is probably familiar to anyone who has been involved in ecumenism the last few years. He was also our guest for dinner at the Lay Centre this evening. (And though he did not share this, he was the person who, during the Jubilee Year 2000, recieved from Pope John Paul II the cross carried at the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum. The pope carried it to the first two stations, handed off to Bishop Bawai for the second two, who then handed it off again.)

History of Aramaic Christianity, Angelicum, 2010

In most church history classes I have taken or taught, the focus is usually on the history of the Church within the Roman empire, and subsequently the nations were in direct succession from that Empire. Sometimes it gets even more eclipsed if the focus is purely on the Latin Church, the churches directly associated with the ritual and patriarchal patrimony of the church of Rome itself (ie, the Roman Catholic Church). It is sometimes news enough for people to realize there were four other apostolic sees within the Roman empire besides Rome! But we have often forgotten entirely the church in Asia, beyond the borders of the ancient Roman Empire.

The focus of our studies for this course have been on that Church of the East – not the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox Churches, but further east, in Mesopotamia and what was part of the Persian Empire at the time of Constantine. This church never enjoyed the status of being an official religion of the empire, as did the church in the empire of Rome and Constantinople. In fact, persecution only increased after Christianity became associated with the enemy to the west. To this day, being Christian in this area makes you suspect of collaboration with the “West” – whether that is Emperor Constantine or President Bush, and whether the dominant religion is Persian Zoroastrianism or Shi’a Islam.

This was the church of refuge for the Nestorians and the theological School of Antioch, driven across the border in the aftermath of the Council of Ephesus in 431, and a place where the theological battle between Monophysites and Nestorians was waged for centuries. The first stopping point for the missionary activity of the Apostle Thomas, the Mesopotamian church was the mother church of the earliest Christians in India, still known as Mar Thoma (St. Thomas) Christians. Missionaries of this church had reached Mongolia and China by the sixth century, and some scholars have suggested communities as far as Japan.

The current heirs to this tradition include:

  • The Assyrian Church of the East, with about 250,000 members, traditionally centered in Iraq
  • The Chaldean Catholic Church, with about 750,000 members, centered in Iraq
  • The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, with about 4 million members centered in the state of Kerala, India

Mar Bawai Soro

Much of the Church of the East’s history has been marked by political and ecclesial isolation – first by being the Christians outside the Roman empire, then ecclesially, and throughout by being more or less constantly a persecuted minority in Zoroastrian Persia, or Muslim Arab and Mongol rule. Several times in the last six centuries dioceses and other groups of the faithful would resume full communion with Rome. The first, in 1445 was the archbishop of Cyprus and his diocese, who after a couple generations were unfortunately Latinized and assimilated into the Latin (Roman) Catholic Church. A couple others only lasted for a century or so, eventually leaving communion again. Finally, the Patriarch (one of two rivals, anyway) and his cohort came in to full communion in 1830, giving us the current Chaldean Catholic Church. The rival patriarchal line and those in communion with it remain today as the Assyrian Church of the East, though they were the line which had been in Catholic communion for a century or so during the 16th and 17th centuries.

For 20 years, Bishop Bawai served this church as a bishop and as their top theologian and ecumenical officer (a sort of Ratzinger-Kasper combo, if you will), and participated in the Assyrian-Catholic dialogue from its inception, through the Common Christological Declaration of 1994 and the preparation of the Common Sacramental Declaration that was to follow.

For those who wonder about the products of ecumenism, it only took 8 years of dialogue to resolve the Christological issue that split the church 1500 years ago, and confess together that : 

Our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. In him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and operations. But far from constituting “one and another”, the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.

This is why there is always hope!

Of course, that hope is always needed. The reality of the impending full communion with the Catholic Church provoked some nervousness. Understandably, I suppose: Comparatively, we are beyond huge (4400 Catholics for every one Assyrian Christian), and the prospect of the Patriarch becoming a mere cardinal, as some bloggers have put it, was uninviting. Their decision was to suspend the dialogue, and to suspend the bishop.

After finding no appeal, Mar Bawai and about 5000 faithful, including 30 deacons and a half dozen priests, came into full communion with the Chaldean Catholic Church in 2008.

New Semester in Rome

It is hard to believe my first semester is already finished! That is ¼ of the way through for the two years of my Fellowship and the S.T.L. – and a good time for a general progress report!

I had hoped to return to grad school and maintain a perfect GPA, since my undergraduate and first round of grad school grades were moderately good, but not great.

(That’s the problem with being so involved in extracurricular activities, you tend to forget important details like deadlines! I calculated, near the end of my time at ND, that my cumulative GPA would have been .5 higher if I had just turned everything in on time!)

The Roman academic system grades on a 10-point scale, rather than a 4-point scale. According to our Order of Studies, they look like this:

  • 10-9.75 Summa Cum Laude (Highest Honors) = 3.9-4.0
  • 9.74-8.51 Magna Cum Laude (High Honors) = 3.4-3.89
  • 8.50-7.51 Cum Laude (Honors) = 3.0-3.39
  • 7.50-6.51 Bene (Good/Acceptable) = 2.6- 2.99
  • 6.50-6.00 Probatus (Probation) = 2.4-2.6
  • 6.00-0.00 Fail

Another difference between the Roman system and the American version that I am more used to, is that while the Roman system (at least at the Angelicum) tends to have less required reading and papers, your entire grade for a semester can depend on one 15-minute oral exam, or a single written in-class final.

There is a two-week break between classes when all the exams are supposed to take place, but with our Jerusalem seminar in the middle of that period, most of mine were done when the exam period started.

The second semester is already shaping up to include a bit more reading and more balanced variety of assignments. Here is the list of my courses for the rest of the year:

  • Acting Acts: Survey on the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement
  • Catholic Understanding of Interreligious Dialogue
  • Christ Beyond the Church
  • History of Aramaic Christianity
  • Methodology of Biblical Interpretation and its Significance for Jewish-Catholic Understanding
  • Ministry of the Ecumenical Officer
  • Philosophical Elements in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue
  • Reformation Theology in Context
  • Sacramental Character

So the perfect 10 I was aiming for? Missed it, with just one class – and I do not know what I got wrong on the final! Ah well, at least it leaves room for improvement! Other good news, is that when i met with the dean to register for the second semester, he pointed out that with the credit i have been given from my previous academic work and experience, i could finish the License early – i only have a couple seminars left, the thesis and comprehensive oral exam.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Seal of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome

Today is the feast of San Tommaso d’Aquino, patron of my current university,  of academics and theologians everywhere. Unfortunately, as I was trying to beat a cold, I was unable to get to the celebration of our Patronal Feast at the Angelicum this morning, with Archbishop Agustin DiNoia, OP, but a friar friend has put some photos up on the university blog, so check them out!

I have never claimed to be a Thomist per se, for as one of my first university philosophy professors said, “If you are going to be a Thomist, you have to be a damn good one.” I am fascinated by the Angelic Doctor, but I see him as one (important) contributor to the Catholic, Christian theological tradition, rather than devoting all of my studies to him and his works, which is what it would take to be a “damn good” Thomist.

Truth be told, though, even that would not be enough – I am not convinced Thomas would approve of such narrowed focus! He was, after all, the Great Synthesizer, and did not hesitate to use a variety of Christian sources, as well as Jewish, Muslim and pagan ones.

When I was an undergraduate, I had a friend who was studying medieval philosophy, almost exclusively with the late Ralph McInerny – who is a Thomist. He and I would have many long debates some of which revolved around the maxim of the Papal Theologian: “Never mix philosophy and theology, because philosophy always wins!” My friend felt that, as a medieval philosophy with a particular focus, he was therefore an adept theologian. As a theologian with a much broader view of Tradition, I often had to remind him that this was not the case! No matter how profound and how great the tradition, no one theologian encompasses the whole of Catholic theology, much less the attendant pastoral, liturgical, historical and other issues that interact with theology in the lived experience of the Church.

I have always had a great affinity for Thomas, first as a theologian, and in more recent years as a patron for “new” vocations, such as lay ecclesial ministry.

As a theologian and student, his peers dubbed him the “Dumb Ox” – dumb as in mute – to which Albertus Magnus supposedly retorted, “That ‘dumb ox’ will one day fill the world with his bellowing!” Thomas was no quick wit. He would not have made it as official Catholic commentator on Fox News or CNN. He was big, slow to move and slow to speak, and as with any good introvert, would fix you with a stare in response to unexpected questions that probably left less astute contemporaries wondering if he really was all that bright. He is an inspiration to any systemitizing introvert who has been caught in the spotlight by “think out loud” extravert peers!

As a candidate for patron of “new” vocations, consider his story:

According to his father, the Count of Aquino, Thomas was going to be groomed as the Abbot of Montecassino, an old, established, and wealthy Benedictine Abbey not too far from Rome. This was the normal sort of ecclesial vocation of his era – monastic life. It was how you served the church successfully. It was expected. It was “just the way things were done”. You want to serve the church? Fine, join the monastery.

But he would have none of it. At 19 he ran off to join some newfangled wannabes who were kind of like monks, but not really monks – and I doubt the real monastics would have been too happy if you called these mendicant friars “monks”! They had only been around for 40 years. They did not spend their time at the monastery but wandered around the countryside preaching, teaching, and doing God-only-knows what else that was properly the ministry of monks and diocesan clergy.

This was not right!! How dare they? So, his family did the only respectable thing to do – they arranged for him to be rescued from this cult, threw him in a locked room and commenced a serious deprogramming effort.

A year later, he remained committed to his vocation. He was called to serve the church, clearly, just not in the way that his parents and grandparents generations took for granted. It looked a little different. The charism was a little different. New terminology had to be used to explain it. There were bishops who did not support it. People worried about the confusion of identity of traditional monastic life – of monks and nuns – with this itinerant innovation of mendicant life – these friars. Even a few years later, after being ordained in this “new order”, he spent time writing defense of the vocation he was living. Some critics argued that real ministers would be spending their time in prayer and sacramental service, not defending and defining a “new” vocation!

The parallels to the present age, to lay ecclesial ministry and even to the restoration of a real diaconate, are overwhelming! (Though, I admit I am not aware of any pastoral associate being kidnapped by family to consider the diocesan presbyterate or religious life instead.) We are 50 years into the present form of lay ecclesial ministry in the U.S., and it never ceases to amaze me how much suspicion, ignorance, misunderstanding and outright vitriol is out there. I completely understand this minister’s plea, “Don’t dis lay ecclesial ministry!”

St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of “new” vocations, pray for us!

It’s a Small (Catholic) World After All

I think John Allen, Jr. said that if you stand in the same place in Rome long enough, you will meet every Catholic you have ever known, or at least someone who knows them.

Nancy left for home on Thursday after three weeks here in Italy, and I spent the next day sleeping to recover from vicarious jetlag! As Sunday approached I had not yet decided where I would be worshipping in my quest to pray in as many of Rome’s different churches as possible (without becoming just a liturgical tourist). So when Donna asked me to deliver some propaganda for Lay Centre events to the “Caravita”, the oratory of St. Francis that Nancy and I had been to a couple weeks ago, I agreed, still thinking I should be going somewhere new.

The Spirit works in little ways too.

When I arrived at del Caravita, I looked around for someone to ask about the material – where to put it, if we could announce the events, etc. As I watched two people seemed to be the “go-to” folk, one was a woman clearly preparing to serve as lector, and the other a tall, thin, bald guy who seemed to know everyone. So, i approached him with, “you seem to know whats going on around here, who would I talk to about this?” He offers to introduce me to the lector, “Cindy”, who would know. Here’s a transcript:

Me: Hi, my name is AJ Boyd, and I’m from…

Cindy: Oh my God! You’re AJ! I’m Cindy… Me: [Shocked expression] Cindy: …Woodin!

Me: Oh that Cindy!

Cindy: So you’re at the Angelicum right? Are you in Don’s class [indicating tall, thin, bald guy]?

Me: No, I just met him.

Cindy: He’s teaching a course on Methodism, and he’s just been named bishop of Saskatoon

Me: That’s Don Bolen?! I didn’t recognize him! I am taking his class… it starts tomorrow.

Ok, so it was more comical in real life. Cindy is a college friend of one of my parishioners from St. Brendan, and when I decided to come to Rome, she decided to put the two of us in touch. Cindy and I had been exchanging sporadic emails since July, and just had not yet met in person. She has lived in Rome for 20 years as part of the Catholic News Service Vatican Bureau.

Monsignor Don Bolen recieving the Cross of St. Augustin from Archbishop Rowan Williams

Monsignor Don Bolen is the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and former staff of the Anglican/Methodist desk at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Over Christmas break his election as bishop was announced, which I followed and even posted on Facebook. He’s teaching the second half of our course, Methodism and its Dialogue with the Catholic Church. He was the presider and homilist for the Sunday Eucharist, and was clearly loved by the people who had known him there from his time in Rome.

First impressions – after one mass and one class – is that the people of Saskatoon are blessed among Canadians. Home of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, it seems like a great fit, and any diocese would welcome a bishop who is so genuine, humble, intelligent and obviously a gifted ecumenist. A good preacher and teacher too!

Nativity of the Lord: Christmas Mass at Midnight

Preparing for Jill's Feast: AJ, Greg, Karina, Jill, Natalie

Nancy and I, and a small group from the Lay Centre started Christmas Eve with a traditional Italian dinner hosted by Jill, another Domer I discovered at the Angelicum. It was incredible! Antipasti and prosecco to start the night off, followed by soup, pasta, fish… and each prepared and served in proper order, it was almost a pity we had to leave for the mass! Seriously, aside from theology, ministry, and guiding tours of Rome she could open her own trattoria. Not only was it all delicious, it was presented so beautifully, it really made a special evening even more delightful.

Standing on the confessionals at St. Peter's, Midnight Mass 1944

It is from Jill that I learned that Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s is actually a relatively new phenomenon. Until 1944, the last time the bishop of Rome had celebrated Christmas midnight mass at St. Peter’s is believed to be for the coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. Otherwise, the traditional location in Rome had been Santa Maria Maggiore – which makes a lot more sense given the indispensible role Mary played in the Nativity, and the location there of the relics of the Nativity including what was believed to be the manger in which the Christ child was laid. Since Pius XII’s celebration just after the liberation of Italy during WWII, the popes have celebrated midnight mass at St. Peter’s; but the Romans still go to Mary Major while the Americans and other pilgrims go pray with the pope – though we were not standing on the confessionals this time.

The line begins outside the Basilica of St. Peter

Jill’s place being mere minutes from Piazza San Pietro, we took some liberty with our arrival time. For the first time, what has traditionally been a Midnight Mass was moved up to 10:00pm so we were advised to arrive three hours early – we got there at 7:30 and got into a line that already wrapped around the entire Piazza and had started doubling up on itself. Waiting just ahead of us in line was an American, a theatre professor from Miami, who was hoping against hope to find a ticket to get into the papal mass. (His name is James Brown. No, really – you can look him up.) As it happens, I had had a friend arrange to get four tickets for us before we knew we would be getting enough through the Lay Centre, so Natalie had borrowed three for friends, and there was just one left over – the Spirit works in small ways too! Unfortunately, we lost Jim in the mass crush when our part of the line finally got inside the Basilica, but in a couple hours of waiting in line at least got to make a new friend.

View from our seats, taken after the liturgy

Once inside, we found the massive line had filled the seats in the nave and it looked as if we might have to stand – until they opened the transepts. We got the leftover seats from the “reserved” section in the south transept, directly to the side of the altar. We couldn’t see the pope as he sat in the presiders chair, but had a great view of the liturgy of the Eucharist.

We were placed directly between two of the massive pillars supporting Michelangelo’s Dome, looked over by Sts. John of God and Mary Euphrasia Pellettier on one side and Sts. Juliana Falconieri and Angela Merici on the other. Because of this we could not see very far down the nave toward the main doors. About the time we thought the music was changing from prelude to procession, we heard something like screams, a pause long enough to ask each other what that was about, then cheering. “Ah, they were cheering for the pope like a rock star!” We did not realize that Benedict had been knocked down until after the liturgy and we met up with some students who had been in that part of the Basilica. We did see Cardinal Etchegaray being wheeled out on a gurney behind us, and thought perhaps he had fallen or something. His Holiness did not mention it, and did not even seem fazed by the time we saw him.

Presepe at Piazza San Pietro

The liturgy was beautiful. Last time I was in Rome, for the close of the Jubilee, midnight mass had been held outside, in the Piazza. This was my second papal Eucharist inside St. Peter’s this year, and both times there has really been a sense of reverence and participation in the liturgy, even despite the size of the church and the numbers of people celebrating. The mass parts were in Latin, the readings in Spanish and English, the gospel sung in Latin and the pope’s homily delivered in Italian, the prayers of the faithful in Russian, French, Tagalog, Portugese, and German. The music is increadible, of course: the only places outside Rome I have seen compare for quality liturgy and liturgical music is the Basilica of Sacred Heart at Notre Dame and St. James Cathedral in Seattle. (The National Shrine in D.C. sometimes makes the cut, too…) Nancy was tempted to record the entire liturgy, but we settled for trying to get some of the music.

Afterwards we stood in front of the presepe (crèche, Nativity scene) at the foot of the obelisk in the middle of Bernini’s piazza, listening to a group of sisters singing carols. After an hour of trying to hail a taxi, we got a couple to take us back to the Lay Centre without trying to rip us off (Thank you, Karina!!)

On returning to the Lay Centre, Donna had prepared for us an “American breakfast” – pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, eggs, bacon, and orange juice – the most proper way to celebrate the birth of Jesus at 2:00am! And, to be honest, I do not think I have ever appreciated American fare so much!

My courses…

Allora… people have asked, and I keep forgetting to answer. This is my fall semester lineup:

The Catholic Church in Ecumenical Dialogue
     Rev. Dr. Frederick Bliss, SM, Professor incaricatus from New Zealand

Hebrew Bible, Human Rights, and Interreligious Dialogue
      Rabbi Jack Bemporad, visiting professor from the Center for Interreligious Studies, USA

Knowing the Christian East: Encounter and Experience
     Rev. Dr. Joseph Ellul, OP, professor incaricatus from Malta

Methodism and its Dialogue with the Catholic Church
     Rev. Dr. Trevor Hoggard, Methodist Representative to the Holy See, from U.K.
     Monsignor Donald Bolen, former staff of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, from U.K.

Philo of Alexandria and his Influence on Early Christianity
      Dr. Adam Afterman, visiting professor from Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prophecy and Wisdom
      Rabbi Jack Bemporad, visiting professor from the Center for Interreligious Studies, USA

Reception and Receptive Ecumenism
     Rev. Dr. Frederick Bliss, SM, Professor incaricatus from New Zealand

Russell Berrie Fellowship Seminar in Jerusalem (Feb 5-13)
     Various lecturers, coordinator: Dr. Adam Afterman of Shalom Hartman Center and Hebrew University

Social Teaching in Pope John Paul II
      Various Lecturers, coordinator: Sr. Dr. Helen Alford, OP, Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences, from U.K.

Sociologia della Conoscenza (Sociology of Knowledge, in Italian)
     Dr. Bennie Callebaut, visiting professor from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

Hebrew Bible, Human Rights, and Interreligious Dialogue

 The second Oasis in the City event hosted at the Lay Centre this year featured a presentation by Rabbi Jack Bemporad on the topic The Hebrew Bible, Human Rights, and Interreligious Dialogue. Among his 30 years of experience in international interreligious work, Rabbi Bemporad is the founder and director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding in Englewood, NJ, and has been a visiting professor of Interreligious Dialogue at the Pontifical Angelicum University for 13 years. He has been invited by the Holy See to speak on matters of Jewish-Catholic relations, and met on several occasions with Pope John Paul II personally.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad

During his comments to the Lay Centre residents and community guests, one of the points Rabbi Bemporad raised was the tremendous work of the Catholic Church through Vatican II and especially the efforts of Pope John Paul II with respect to the Jewish community and the relationship of the two religions. Despite the wealth of documents from the Church, he said, especially the USCCB document, God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation on Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, the international Jewish community has yet to examine its own long-standing description of Christ and Christianity at the same level.

The Hebrew Bible is primarily an account of monotheism directed at those who are not yet monotheists. Further, the revelation of monotheism is integral and necessary for a truly peaceful vision of the world and for the development of the concept of human rights.

“One God implies the possibility of a world of peace and justice. As long as there exists the battle between the gods and the plurality of gods as embodying separate forces of nature, then there is no sense of a world at peace. One God implies one world and one universal goal of justice and peace embodying the greatest possible realization for each individual.”

Six key themes or aspects of the Biblical message highlight the origination of human rights in the Hebrew Bible:

Equality in the Bible does not refer primarily to those of the same rank or class, but indicates a positive action of bringing up those who are weaker than oneself (widow, orphan, stranger, the poor and the slave).

The holy and ethical are inseparable. The prophetic tradition, with Amos as the first clear example, claim that social injustice –not simply idolatry or non-orthodox worship – will bring about national ruination. The value and destiny of a nation is dependent on how it treats its most vulnerable members. This social concern for the vulnerable can be traced back to Israel’s enslavement in Egypt.

The Biblical condern for the stranger and sojourner is essential. Love your fellow human being – not “as yourself” as is often translated – but “because he is like you”. There is but one law for you and for the stranger – a concept still foreign to most nations today!

Sabbath as an institution, which allows even the slave and the stranger to rest and be master of their own time for at least one day a week. By extension, the sabbatical year and the Jubilee year remind us that we are not owners of the land or of property, but stewards only. Poverty and wealth alike are only temporary.

A king is subservient to the law, not the law unto himself. The messianic king will be unlike all other kings, rather than to make war, he will make peace.

Finally, two elements that separate Judaism from the black-and-white view of “our religion is the true one, and all others are totally false and therefore evil”: First, the establishment of the Noachide as a status that taught that one did not have to be an Israelite to be saved. Second, the Tosephta enunciated that “the righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come” an idea now nearly universally accepted in Judaism.

The questions of interreligious dialogue, and our common work in support of human rights, remain: “How can I be true to my faith without being false to yours?” and “What is the place of the other religions I our own self-understanding?”

In the States, according to Rabbi Bemporad, it was the civil rights movement that joined Jews and various Christians to working together, and so we must continue to dialogue to discover the “common moral and ethical elements that are constitutive of our religions and try to unite on a common ethic independent of our theological perspectives.”

Centro Pro Unione

We had our first meeting of the ecumenical section tonight, in the famous Centro Pro Unione.

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj at Piazza Navona

At the Angelicum, there are four ‘Faculties’: Theology, Philosophy, Social Sciences, and Canon Law. The Theology Faculty, being by far the largest, is further divided into sections: Biblical Theology, Dogmatic Theology, Thomist Theology, Spiritual Theology, Moral Theology, and Ecumenical Theology.

By reputation, at least, the two pillars of the Angelicum are its Thomist and Ecumenical sections. Part of the reason I decided to study here, in fact, is that it is the only specifically ecumenical licentiate/doctoral program offered by a Catholic university, and one of only three in the English speaking world (the others being at the Ecumenical Institute of the WCC at Bossey, Switzerland and the Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin).

James Puglisi, SA, Director of Centro Pro Unione

The ecumenical section is coordinated by James Puglisi, SA, the Minister General of the Franciscian Friars of the Atonement and director of the Centro Pro Unione. The Centro serves as the library for the ecumenical section, being the most complete ecumenical library in the world since its inception in 1962. It is located in the Collegium Innocenzium, part of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj overlooking Piazza Navona. Originally the guest house for the family, part of it then became a house of hospitality named Foyer Unitas, run by the Ladies of Bethany, and the rest a place for the ecumenical observers at Vatican II to gather, named the Centro Pro Unione.

The main meeting room is therefore steeped in history, both Roman and ecumenical. As the guest house of the noble family, this room is where Vivaldi first performed his “four seasons” after the premier in Florence. Franz List and Caruso played here, and so many others. During Vatican II, this room, with a grand view of the Piazza and its fountain, is where the ecumenical observers would gather with bishops and peritii for their weekly briefing, and where some of the most important texts of the council were born or developed: Gaudium et Spes, Unitatis Redintegratio, Nostra Aetate, and Dignitatis Humanae.

There were 21 members of the section present or accounted for, and I am not sure how many others there may be. Six are from Africa, four from India, three each from the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and North America, one Italian and one Australian. One-third are lay, and two-thirds are priests; no religious and no deacons. There is currently only one woman (and she is technically in Philosophy, not Theology, but as a Russell Berrie Fellow is included in the section too).

Translating Roman and American degrees

So, I am studying for a License in Sacred Theology (STL). What is that? How does it compare to the MA in Theology that almost/never was? How do the American and Roman degrees correlate?


Academic Biretta, worn by a Doctor of Sacred Theology

Rome has answered a frustration I had at CUA, which was shared by several of my classmates: the graduate courses there seemed to be really geared at a more basic, undergraduate level. Some blamed the overwhelming presence of seminarians, for whom classes had to be “dumbed down”. Others attributed it to “the lack of academic freedom” at the only U.S. University officially run by the Catholic Church (as opposed to a religious congregation or non-profit). I believe this to be primarily the result of the difference between the Roman and secular/American degree systems, and a less-than-efficient blending of the two.

Europe has a host of different practices, i find out, and for the last decade they have been in the process of synchronizing the systems. Some graduate secondary (high school) at 17, then have a 3-year bachelors program. Others graduate secondary at 19. Italy currently has what they are calling a 3+2 program for college studies, the three years for a bachelors, and the 2 for a masters – or what we might call a masters. But Italy is different than the Pontifical system.

In the pontifical system, you earn the Baccalaureate first, then a License, and then a Doctorate. If you are studying theology, however, you need at least two years of Philosophy first, then a Bachelors in theology, before doing the License and Doctorate. So, the STB really is an undergraduate degree, and it makes little sense to compare it to an M.Div., though these are respectively the basic ministry degrees required by each system.

So, if one were to go straight through in each of the systems it would look something like this:

HS + yrs Pontifical American
+2  Philosophy (no degree) Associate (AA)
+4   Bachelor (BA/BS)
+5 Baccalaureate  (STB)  
+6   Master (MA), or
+7 License (STL) Professional (M.Div.)
+9 Doctorate (STD) Pastoral Doctorate (D.Min)
+10   Research Doctorate (Ph.D.) 

Thus, my License is both the completion of the work i began at CUA for the MA in Theology, and the begining of my doctoral work.

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