Cardinal Lehmann Tells What Makes Catholic Universities Different

Urges Dialogue With Nonbelievers

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ROME, JULY 21, 2003 ( What sets apart Catholic universities from their counterparts is that they carry out their work in the light of faith, says Cardinal Karl Lehmann.

The president of the German episcopal conference made that point in the opening lecture of the symposium on the «University and Church in Europe,» held in Rome from July 17-20.

«Catholic universities are like others, being responsible for study and research, but they do so in the light of the Christian proclamation,» he said.

The symposium gathered some 1,500 participants, including students, professors, chaplains, rectors, and bishops of university cities.

«The credibility of the testimony and the ability to dialogue are the most persuasive in the university realm,» the cardinal bishop of Mainz said.

In the university world, «theology has the task of ideological criticism,» he observed. «It must show in a clear and limpid way what it can do to overcome the daily problems of individuals and society.»

Yet, theology must keep alive in the university «the question on our origin and destiny, on the meaning of the world and of history,» Cardinal Lehmann said. «Theology is at the service of the Church, but also of the sciences and of the world.»

The duty of the university pastoral program is «to be the Church in the university,» he added.

«Changes in society and in the university make necessary a change in youth and university pastoral care,» he acknowledged.

Cardinal Lehmann suggested that efforts be increased «to support young people without giving up the dialogue with professors and researchers» and also «to dialogue with nonbelievers.» New ways will have to be found to dialogue with fallen away Catholics and nonbelievers, he said.

The «community and university centers must promote the spiritual well-being of those who belong to the university, students and teachers, and offer them help in the broad sense,» he added.

Cardinal Lehmann ended by lamenting the omission of any reference to Christianity in the draft preamble of the European Constitution, describing it as «shortsightedness that can have serious consequences for the university.»

The European university meeting was organized by the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe; the Italian prelates’ commission for Catholic education, the school and the university; and the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research.

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