ON ECCLESIASTICAL UNIVERSITIES AND FACULTIES
1.The joy of truth (Veritatis Gaudium) expresses the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells within God’s Light, and shares that Light with all people. For truth is not an abstract idea, but is Jesus himself, the Word of God in whom is the Life that is the Light of man (cf. Jn 1:4), the Son of God who is also the Son of Man. He alone, “in revealing the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself and brings to light its very high calling”.
When we encounter the Living One (cf. Rev 1:18) and the firstborn among many brothers (cf. Rom 8:29), our hearts experience, even now, amid the vicissitudes of history, the unfading light and joy born of our union with God and our unity with our brothers and sisters in the common home of creation. One day we will experience that endless joy in full communion with God. In Jesus’ prayer to the Father – “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (Jn 17:21) – we find the secret of the joy that Jesus wishes to share in its fullness (cf. Jn 15:11). It is the joy that comes from the Father through the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth and of love, freedom, justice and unity.
This is the joy that the Church is impelled by Jesus to bear witness to and to proclaim in her mission, unceasingly and with ever renewed vigour. The People of God makes its pilgrim way along the paths of history, accompanying in solidarity the men and women of all peoples and cultures, in order to shed the light of the Gospel upon humanity’s journey towards the new civilization of love. Closely linked to the Church’s evangelizing mission, which flows from her very identity as completely committed to promoting the authentic and integral growth of the human family towards its definitive fullness in God, is the vast multidisciplinary system of ecclesiastical studies. This system has developed over the centuries from the wisdom of the People of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in dialogue with, and discernment of, the signs of the times and diverse cultural expressions.
It is not surprising then that the Second Vatican Council, in its decisive and prophetic effort to renew the Church’s life for a more effective mission in this moment of history, in its Decree Optatam Totius called for a faithful and creative review of ecclesiastical studies (cf. Nos. 13-22). That review, after careful study and prudent testing, led to the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana, promulgated by Saint John Paul II on 15 April 1979. The Constitution further encouraged and refined the Church’s efforts to support “Ecclesiastical Faculties and Universities, which is to say those concerned particularly with Christian revelation and questions connected therewith and which are therefore more closely connected with her mission of evangelization”, as well as with other disciplines which, “although lacking a special link with Christian revelation, can still help considerably in the work of evangelizing”.
Almost forty years later, in fidelity to the spirit and directives of Vatican II and for its own timely application, the Apostolic Constitution urgently needs to be brought up to date. While remaining fully valid in its prophetic vision and its clarity of expression, the Constitution ought to include the norms and dispositions issued since its promulgation, and to take into account developments in the area of academic studies in these past decades. There is also a need to acknowledge the changed social-cultural context worldwide and to implement initiatives on the international level to which the Holy See has adhered.
This, then, is a good occasion to promote with thoughtful and prophetic determination the renewal of ecclesiastical studies at every level, as part of the new phase of the Church’s mission, marked by witness to the joy born of encountering Jesus and proclaiming his Gospel, that I set before the whole People of God as a programme in Evangelii Gaudium.
2.The Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana represented in every respect the mature fruit of the great work of reforming ecclesiastical studies initiated by the Second Vatican Council. In particular, it consolidated the progress made in this crucial area of the Church’s mission under the wise and prudent guidance of Blessed Paul VI, while at the same time heralding the contribution, in continuity with the past, which would be made by the magisterium of Saint John Paul II.
As I have had occasion to note, “one of the main contributions of the Second Vatican Council was precisely seeking a way to overcome this divorce between theology and pastoral care, between faith and life. I dare say that the Council has revolutionized to some extent the status of theology – the believer’s way of doing and thinking”. It is precisely in this light that Optatum Totius strongly proposes that ecclesiastical studies “be more suitably aligned and… work harmoniously towards opening more and more the minds of the students to the mystery of Christ. For it is this mystery which affects the whole history of the human race, [and] continually influences the Church”.
In order to achieve this, the conciliar Decree urges joining meditation with the study of sacred Scripture, “the soul of all theology”, together with assiduous and conscious participation in the sacred Liturgy, the “primary and indispensable source of the truly Christian spirit”, and the systematic study of the living Tradition of the Church in dialogue with all people of our time, listening attentively to their concerns, their sufferings and their needs. Consequently, Optatam Totius stresses, “pastoral concern… ought to permeate thoroughly the entire training of the students”, so that they become accustomed to “transcending the limits of their own diocese, nation, or rite, and to helping the needs of the whole Church, [and] prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere”. .......
Read: VERITATIS GAUDIUM