Beginning its ninth academic year, the European University of Rome (UER) has named a new rector. Father Paolo Scarafoni LC , who directed the Athenaeum founded by the Legionaries of Christ since its founding in 2005, will be succeeded by Father Luca Gallizia LC.
As reported to ZENIT by Father Gallizia, in the next academic years UER will have the opportunity to fully develop its vocation: a modern and dynamic university involved in reality and culture , but firmly rooted in a multi-secular Christian tradition and open not only to technical & scientific research but to the integral human formation of future professionals.
ZENIT: Father Luca, what is your plan as rector for the academic year?
Father Luca Gallizia: Actually, for this academic year, my purpose is to continue developing the work that began prior to my appointment, especially in so many positive elements that the university already own and which should be completely expanded and strengthened.
Therefore, my goal is to consolidate this educational project, with the help of the entire academic and administrative staff, since it has a great potential which needs to be carried forward and supported.
At the same time, any innovation must be supported: we are working for the opening of a new facility, in the scientific field of civil engineering/architecture, which is actually in progress. Furthermore, we’ll continue to value the collaborations with other universities and the dialogue with those institutions.
ZENIT : The economic crisis produced a decline in the number of student’s enrolled in all Italian universities, especially private athenaeums. Has UER also been impacted by this.
Father Luca Gallizia: We do not suffer a decline, in fact we experienced a slight increase, although not very significant, of enrollments. For this academic year – though we have no definitive data – that there was an increase among students who participated in the admission tests.
These are elements that encourage us and that can be caused by many factors , from the attention that a university like this – private , small , inspired by Christian values – gives to the value of individuals
Our motto is : We train people to become prepared professionals . Therefore, we have a full formative inspiration, not only technical-scientific.
I believe that young people recognize this personal attention, this spirit of welcome, this extra effort to go to them, to give them the opportunities for extracurricular training, which are optional but create an environment of encouragement and acceptance in which the youth feel attended to and encouraged to bring the fruit of all their talents.
Perhaps, it’s for this reason that many students have made the choice of this kind of university. And also families show a desire to provide children with a learning environment that help them to manage specific matters that may arise along the way .
ZENIT : You are a Legionnaire of Christ, who runs a secular university . Which aspects of Catholicism develop the value of secular education?
Father Luca Gallizia: I think that a Catholic university has a specific vocation with respect to other universities. They have in common the mission of transmitting a a level of training and information, also for the purpose of youth inclusion in the labor market. Besides this purpose, the Popes have emphasized this specificity. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explained very well the vocation to a technical-scientific dimension that opens up to a higher length, involving the whole person. It is what he referred to as the “expansion of rationality”, a rationality that is not closed in itself, it doesn’t fall on utilitarianism but is open to the values that answer to the deepest questions of the human heart, that our students will apply serving society. In this way, these academic years, should also be years of a student’s growth.
We have excellent testimonies of young people who have completed their academic experience and express how it has been a time of personal growth: these students believe to have experienced not only intellectual development, but personal, relational, of social responsibility. These are the essential experiences that encourage us to move forward with our mission.
ZENIT : What role can be played by a university so firmly anchored in Christian values, in a today’s world, that is decadent and secularized?
Father Luca Gallizia: The Christian proposal offers some fundamental certainties on which to build our lives. Christianity is always an open proposal, never imposed; at the same time it is a proposal that has solid roots, as part of a tradition of thought that embraces a string of testimonies of personal adherence, often heroic, to the values of the Christian faith. Christianity, therefore, offers us a path of continuity with our past and our history that touches all dimensions of the person. In this chain of testimonies, I firmly believed that young people have an important roles as models and as witness.
ZENIT : Pope Francis has often told Catholics to “go to the outskirts” of society. Which are the outskirts that UER allows their students to explore?
Father Luca Gallizia: We offer our students various social responsibility programs that are embedded in the academic grade, so it’s not just mere volunteer work, but a proposal that is part of the academic curriculum, to which students, during the second academic year, must devote several hours, pledging to one of responsibility projects that are offered.
Those projects allow young people – in some cases for the first time in their life – to be in touch with the marginalized, areas of poverty, urgent situations, with the suffering of individuals and families.
In some cases these experiences are made abroad, such as the missions in Mexico and Ethiopia. Those important opportunities are not only academic: it’s not an abstract lessons but a practice in which the youth are invited and encouraged to get in touch with these peripheries, not in a theoretical way: it is not a study or a thesis, it is an experience.
We can observe how this peculiar element of our training is extremely important and in accordance with the vocation we profess.
The humanitarian project in Ethiopia was adopted as an international project of the University. For many years we have organized missions during summer. Father Paolo Scarafoni, my predecessor, has allowed students and teachers to live this experience and provide concrete help to this reality of marginalization.
Among the activities of social responsibility, this year we introduced a new theoretical and practical laboratory of communication, directed by Italian journalist Carlo Climati. They will explore the various forms of communication in today’s world : journalism trough social networking, music, radio, television dialogue in everyday life.
Young people will be encouraged to see others with a new glimpse, to create languages that can represent a bridge to all, contributing to the destruction of the walls, barriers, mistrusts and suspicions.