ROME, JAN. 6, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A census by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education reveals that two out of every three Catholic universities are in the Third World, many in non-Christian areas.
Specifically, of the 1,358 Catholic universities worldwide, administered by religious or the laity, 802 are in developing countries.
Many of the schools in predominantly non-Christian environments are in Asia. There are 291 Catholic universities in India, 48 in Indonesia, eight in Korea, and three in Pakistan.
“The presence of Catholic universities is in line with evangelization,” Monsignor Vincenzo Zani, undersecretary of the congregation, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire. “Not only do they take the Gospel to the realm of the professions and to society, at times the schools are also the only official presence of the Church.”
Monsignor Zani cited Morocco and Tunisia, “where religious activity is not allowed,” yet Catholic schools are “much appreciated” because of the “formation they guarantee” and their “service to society.”
Evangelization fosters development in various ways, he said.
“First of all, in our universities there is cultural, scientific and technological promotion capable of combining the availability of technologically more advanced instruments with an original approach to science, with a clear concept of man,” Monsignor Zani said.
“Suffice it to think of the role that a faculty of ours of anthropological and social sciences can play in a country where human rights are violated,” he added. “Evidently, processes of formation and, therefore, of influence on society are long, but this is the only way possible.”
Moreover, “the universities themselves are places of social and economic development, capable of creating mechanisms to initiate self-development,” as is the case with the Agrarian Faculty of Entebbe, in Uganda, the monsignor explained.
“In the heart of the forest, this presence is changing the face of the territory,” he said. “Students are taught and exposed to more rational methods of agriculture, for example, for coffee.”
The university has become the “point of reference for the whole of the population, which attends it, learns and exchanges information,” Monsignor Zani added.
Catholic universities are also places “where one learns concretely a more human way of relating to one another, where one is accepted, where there is seriousness, respect of identity, room for religiosity.” He said these are important aspects “considering our great presence in non-Christian and underdeveloped” environments.
Cooperation is another specific trait of the world’s Catholic universities. We “do not want to create happy islands, but to unite rootedness in diverse local realities with international openness,” Monsignor Zani continued.
“This solidarity allows, among other things, that poor countries also have ultramodern instruments of formation, with the possibility of exchanges for students and professors,” he emphasized.
In fact, “it is a solidarity that functions even in the same country, as occurred in Argentina because of the recent economic collapse,” the monsignor said. “The 24 Catholic universities of the country have supported one another and have thus been able to surmount the emergency, guaranteeing the regularity of courses.”