Italy's Newest Catholic University

Interview With Father Paolo Scarafoni, Rector

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ROME, JAN. 10, 2006 ( The first new Catholic university established in Italy since World War II — and only the third in the country — has been officially inaugurated.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s vicar for Rome, inaugurated the European University of Rome today.

The university, which shares a campus with the Regina Apostolorum university, is administered by the Legionaries of Christ. The new institution has civil recognition and began courses in October with three schools: in law, historical sciences and psychology.

The institution is part of an international network of 18 universities and centers of higher studies run by the Legionaries in Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Chile.

Legionary Father Paolo Scarafoni, the president of the new university, explained the need for such an institution, which aims to advance contemporary science and culture, in fidelity to the Church’s magisterium.

Q: What is the purpose of the university, especially as it is a civil institution?

Father Scarafoni: We already have an ecclesiastical university in Rome, Regina Apostolorum, which offers degrees in philosophy, theology and bioethics, mostly for priests, seminarians, and religious, but also open to laypersons.

The urgent call to address the problems and questions of modern men and women in a wider variety of fields made the creation of a civil university an important priority. It offers society a Catholic voice to intervene in critical areas of academic life.

Q: Could this civil university be considered an offshoot of the athenaeum?

Father Scarafoni: Yes, in a sense. A Catholic institution such as Regina Apostolorum naturally seeks to broaden its outreach to help shape culture and to offer well-formed Catholic leaders to civil society.

Between the institutions there is a synergy. We are always going to live in close proximity, in the same headquarters. Of course, both will have distinct areas, but this does not prevent their having courses in which the two universities can participate.

Q: Does Italy really need an institution such as the European University of Rome?

Father Scarafoni: In Italy, as in all the countries of Europe, there is a very great need to intervene, as Catholics, in the field of culture and formation. Because, even though there are good institutions, the Catholic presence is surprisingly limited.

Q: How would you describe this necessary “Catholic presence”?

Father Scarafoni: On two levels. Within the universities, there should be Catholics who operate in them. And also institutes that, being Catholic, are available so that those who so wish may be formed in a clearly Catholic environment.

Without giving up our identity, we have decided to take the first step to make this presence public. This is not only desirable — if only there were 20 more!

Q: Is it an attempt to open the athenaeum up to society?

Father Scarafoni: Yes, it would be an error to think of the athenaeum as a closed institution. But it must be clearly identified so that it and the new university have their proper place.

The layperson will be able to share fully in everything that comes from a Catholic institution. In this connection, the collaboration of the two institutions might be very advantageous.

Q: Will it fulfill all the specifications of the universities of the Legionaries of Christ?

Father Scarafoni: At present, the 18 universities of the Legionaries of Christ are forming a network to help and support one another in several fields: exchange of students, of professors, of programs. They also pursue a common ideal of formation: to be focused on the student.

The latter is the leader of tomorrow. He must be a man who seeks the Kingdom of God, and who is very well rounded. We do not want to graduate people who are concerned only with the material world, who only seek gain. They must seek the good of others.

Q: Will the professors have to be Catholic?

Father Scarafoni: Yes. And there will be a series of courses and meetings so that they, too, can be formed in the Catholic vision.

Q: What will be the social dimension of the education a student receives at the European University of Rome?

Father Scarafoni: Each student will have to engage in social service in which he applies what he learns. That is the condition to live life as a vocation and a mission.

Volunteer work, social action is very important for us. There is also spiritual assistance, including the personal attention of a tutor who will guide the student in his studies and volunteer work. The student will also be helped to find a job when he graduates.

Q: Will this model be reproduced in other European capitals?

Father Scarafoni: We leave that to God’s providence. However, Europe needs to find its human and Christian roots. The failure of the European Constitution, by popular vote, is demonstrating that a Europe that does not take its Christian roots into account, is not right. People do not tolerate their ground being suddenly taken away from them.

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