LOPPIANO, Italy, JAN. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The lay Focolare movement is looking to offer a unique contribution to the culture of unity — the Sophia University Institute, set to open this fall.
Beginning in the 2008-2009 academic year, the institute will offer a two-year master’s degree in the foundations and perspectives of a culture of unity. A doctoral degree in the same field is being planned.
Chiara Lubich, founder and president of the Focolare movement, conceived the idea of the university, which she began to promote with an international group of professors.
The institute, erected by pontifical decree on Dec. 7, 2007, will be located in the Focolare city of Loppiano, near Florence. Piero Coda, professor of systematic theology at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University and president of the Italian Theological Association, is president of the institute.
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, signed the decree. In a letter to Lubich accompanying the declaration, he underscored the novelty of the institute, “which grows from the roots of the spirituality of unity and from the rich experiences of the movement.”
He expressed his best wishes for “this important project, well-rooted in the academic tradition, but at the same time courageous and looking to the future.”
In a Jan. 15 meeting with Focolare priests of the Mariapolis Center of Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, defined the institute as “a gift for the Church and for the society of our time,” pointing out its “objectives of communion,” above all the decidedly interdisciplinary character, the focus on the “formation of leaders” and the prospect of influence in the fields of “politics, economics, science and philosophy.”
A Focolare spokesperson, Carla Cotignoli, told ZENIT that “from the very beginning [Lubich] had the intuition that her charism would create a new teaching and now she sees this dream fulfilled. She has worked hard in the last year to promote this institute.”
Cotignoli explained that the institute will crystallize the link between “life and thought” and for this reason was born at Loppiano, a place where the members of the movement live and work in community. “[Loppiano] is a sketch for a new society and it was natural for the institute to begin there,” she said.
First-year master’s students will focus on theology, philosophy, the sciences of social living and logical-scientific rationality.
Second-year students will be able to choose among philosophical-theological and political-economic courses.
A Focolare press statement explained that the institute will be “an academic laboratory of formation, study and research with a strong relational structure in the light of the Gospel — an innovative occasion for human and cultural growth.”
The statement added that the institution will bring together “study and experience within a community of life and thought, in which the relationship between persons is founded on the basis of the relationship between disciplines.”
The studies, research and lectures will aim to establish ongoing dialogue between professors and students.
The course of studies, the communiqué added, “intends to confer a solid cultural competence, of a humanistic and anthropological character, valuing the knowledge already acquired in the various university disciplines and promoting their integration with new and specific competence of a interdisciplinary, intercultural and relational character.”
The objective of the institute is to form leaders and academics who are “prepared to confront the complexity of today’s world with intellectual ability and interdisciplinary, intercultural and relational competence.”