VATICAN CITY, NOV. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Catholic universities are not just for Catholics, but rather for anyone who wants to develop a "free and responsible personality."
This was the affirmation made today by Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, rector of the Gregorian University, when he assisted in presenting the 23rd general assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC), which will be held next Monday through Friday.
The assembly will focus on "The Catholic University in Postmodern Societies."
This year's assembly marks the 60th anniversary of the approval of the FIUC statutes. The federation is made up of 207 Catholic universities or institutions of higher education, coming from 56 countries. In total, there are 1,210 Catholic universities in the world.
In presenting the assembly, Father Ghirlanda noted how the search for truth is a "constituent element of man's nature, and of his dignity and vocation."
"The Church," he added, "must offer the means for the truth to be discovered by everyone who seeks it. [...] This is why the mission of Catholic universities is not only aimed at the Catholic faithful -- in many of them, in fact, Catholic students are a small minority -- but to all men and women who wish to receive an integral education for the development of a free and responsible personality."
The adjunct secretary of the FIUC, Pedro Nel Medina Varon, spoke of three responsibilities of Catholic universities.
The first, he said, is preserving Catholic intellectual tradition: "the reflection that the Christian community has been developing for the last 2,000 years concerning the most profound questions about life and the human condition, as well as the beliefs and values transmitted by the Gospel."
The second task, Varon suggested, is "the integral education of the person." And the third is "service to the Church."
The FIUC played a key role in preparing the apostolic constitution "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," approved by Pope John Paul II in 1990. That document explains the essential characteristics a Catholic university should have in order to guarantee a Christian presence in the academic world.