VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is sending the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education to represent him at the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Manila’s Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski was named papal envoy in a Latin-language letter dated Nov. 27 and made public Jan. 20; the celebrations will take place Friday, feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of the university.
In his note, the Holy Father highlighted the contribution the university has offered for centuries “to the educational, cultural and religious development of young people,” carrying out a valuable service to “spread and confirm the Catholic faith in Asia.”
The Pontiff reflected that the institution has furnished high-level instruction “to hundreds of presbyters and bishops, religious and faithful,” who then went to many places “to build the Kingdom of God.”
The school and the university constitute “a particular ambit of the encounter between the Word of God and culture,” he added.
The Bishop of Rome praised “the constant faithful action and the merits” of the university, and expressed his hope that it will continue forward, “so that faith in Christ will obtain the first place.”
Santo Tomas University is the oldest operating university in Asia. It was established under the initiative of Dominican Archbishop Miguel de Benavides (1552-1605), the third archbishop of Manila. He allocated his properties and personal library to the institution of a college for the preparation of seminarians.
The college was founded officially on April 28, 1611, with the name “Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary.” Later, the name was changed in homage to St. Thomas Aquinas, and authorized to confer academic titles in theology and philosophy.
In 1645, Pope Innocent X elevated the college to the status of university. In 1681, Pope Innocent XI declared it a public university of general studies, authorizing the conferring of other academic titles.
In 1902, Pope Leo XIII conferred on it the title of “Pontifical University,” and in 1947, Pope Pius XII named it the “Catholic University of the Philippines.”
The university campus is 21 hectares (52 acres) in the district of Sampaloc. Among the projects to mark the fourth centenary is the establishment of two other campuses: in Santa Rosa, in the province of Laguna, and in General Santos City, in the province of South Cotabato.