Today, January 30, Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., President of the University of Notre Dame, and other leaders from the University, including members of its Board of Trustees, had a private audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace.
In his opening remarks to the Holy Father, introducing the Notre Dame delegation, Fr. Jenkins said, “Blessed Basile Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, said education is ‘the art of helping young people to completeness.' And we’re proud to educate people, to serve humanity and to serve the Church with deep faith.”
Fr. Jenkins also presented the Holy Father with a small statue of the Visitation, which is based on a larger Statue of the Visitation on the Notre Dame campus, which is located in Notre Dame, Indiana, in the United States. The original statue was sculpted by the late Fr. Anthony Lauck, C.S.C., a Holy Cross priest who worked at Notre Dame as a professor and sculptor.
"I am pleased to greet the Trustees of Notre Dame University on the occasion of your meeting in Rome," said Pope Francis. "From its founding, Notre Dame University has made an outstanding contribution to the Church in your country through its commitment to the religious education of the young and to serious scholarship inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth and virtue."
Pope Francis continued by connecting the educational work of the University with the evangelization mission of the Church. This intimate, essential link between education and evangelization was also at the heart of Blessed Basile Moreau's vision of the Holy Cross charism.
"In my Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, I stressed the missionary dimension of Christian discipleship, which needs to be evident in the lives of individuals and in the workings of each of the Church’s institutions," said Pope Francis. "This commitment to 'missionary discipleship' ought to be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities, which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life.
"Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors. 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. And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!"
The University's leadership and Board of Trustees had been in Rome for a week of meetings, including the dedication of the University's new 32,000-square-foot Rome Center, located a block from the Colosseum at Via Ostilia 15. The facility serves as the home to study abroad programs for the School of Architecture and the College of Arts and Letters.
Notre Dame is one of the Congregation's six colleges and universities in the United States. Holy Cross shares governance at its educational institutions with its lay collaborators to fulfill the Congregation's charism as Educators in the Faith.
All photos in this story are courtesy of the Vatican Photo Office.