VATICAN CITY, JULY 30, 2003 ( As the debate on European roots continues, concrete initiatives are underway by the Holy See to further study in European culture.

One such initiative comes from the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, which organizes a summer school "Schola Aestiva" in Sicily.

A campus will be available from September 11-19, for students interested in the study of Greek and Latin texts, both classic as well as Christian,.

The program is headed by professor Giovanni Maria Vian, of the Department of Patristic Philology of Rome's "La Sapienza" University, and member of the Pontifical Organizing Committee.

Professor Vian explained in statements to ZENIT that "the idea of this course is to return to the sources of European culture, to the Greco-Roman, pagan, and Christian roots."

In order to do so, "twenty students have been invited of the Universities of Athens, Greece; Heidelberg, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; Kiel, Germany; and Rome, Italy; who will share ten days of September in Oliveri, Sicily with humanities professors."

"The majority of students are girls," professor Vian said, commenting on those most interested in the program.

The course will count on the participation of German professor Walter Berschin, regarded as one of the most outstanding specialists in the Middle Ages, both Greek and Latin.

This particular school of humanities will offer master classes, as well as readings and commentaries in Greek and Latin on important classical authors. In the first session of the school the "Life of St. Patrick," famous Irish saint, will be read.

The "readings will also include Virgil, the great poet situated at the threshold of Christianity," Vian continued.

The initiative, promoted by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, presided over by Father Walter Brandmuller, specialist in the 15th century, also has the backing of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Philologist Vian told ZENIT that His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and all Greece, wrote a letter to Kostas Simitis, current rotating president of the European Union, during the first semester of this year, requesting the study of Greek and Latin.

According to Vian, the proposal was "unheard of, as until now the Greeks did not take Latin into consideration, and it is the first time that they speak officially of it."

The school is one of the "Ad fontes" projects proposed by the Pontifical Committee to "uphold humanistic formation in schools and universities throughout Europe and thus contribute effectively to the debate on the cultural roots of the continent."

According to a statement of the committee, "without the study of Latin, Greek, and the Classic and Christian heritage, there is the danger of losing the characteristic traces of European identity, precisely at the time when there is a desire to build the unity of the continent"