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On the Church's Institutions of Higher Learning

Interview With Rector of Regina Apostolorum

ROME, APRIL 4, 2007 (Zenit) - The role of Church-related institutions of higher learning is to provide quality formation so the world will come to know Jesus Christ, says the new rector of the Regina Apostolorum university.

Legionary of Christ Father Pedro Barrajón was recently chosen as the rector, succeeding Father Paolo Scarafoni, a member of the same congregation.

Pontifical universities and athenaeums are Catholic higher-education, degree-granting institutions overseen by the Vatican. An athenaeum has two faculties, normally philosophy and theology, while a university has at least three.

Q: What is the greatest service a Roman athenaeum offers the Church?

Father Barrajón: The services a Roman athenaeum offers the Church are varied. I would like to enumerate only a few.

In the first place, every university or athenaeum has the mission to orient the teaching staff and student community in the sincere search of truth and this is done by each discipline according to its own methodology, knowing that there isn't a double or triple truth but only one, and that truth isn't against truth.

In regard to the specific study of theology, which animates the heart of every original contribution of the pontifical universities to the Church, I like to recall the phrase of St. Bonaventure who said that theology must begin with faith, continue with the heart and end in contemplation.

Theology is not fruitful if it does not begin with the faith of the Church, gathered in sacred Scripture and the living Tradition as interpreted authentically by the magisterium.

Therefore, I think that an athenaeum must be a place of sincere, common and systematic search of truth in the different fields of learning. Christianity, as Benedict XVI has highlighted in many of his interventions, does not fear the "logos," given that it is the "Logos" himself who is the center of its faith.

There can be no schizophrenia between faith and reason. On the contrary, they are two wings to rise to the contemplation of truth.

In the second place, an athenaeum is a place of creation of Christian culture. Pope Benedict XVI himself has spoken in his books of the role that creative minorities will have in the Church of the future. Those minorities must have a superior intellectual formation and it is the universities and athenaeums that offer the possibility.

In the third place, the Roman athenaeums have the particular vocation to form priests.

Thanks be to God, there is in them a growing number of lay people, but the great majority continue to be priests who will eventually return to their respective dioceses in which they will contribute with their specific competency to the growth and strengthening of the local Church.

It is a great joy for me to know that every year more than 100 priests are ordained, from some 20 or 30 various countries, who have been formed in our athenaeum.

Q: Do you have a concrete project or specific priority in mind?

Father Barrajón: Historically, our athenaeum arose after a conversation of Pope John Paul II with the founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, on the need to forge apostles, priests and laity, of the new evangelization who would be at the unconditional service of the Church.

This apostolic initiative arose with this end in mind and it was entrusted to the special protection of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. I believe that my mission is to be faithful to this foundational origin to help forge these apostles of the new evangelization who can be present in the great areopagi from where Christ must be preached today. And to do so in the most absolute fidelity to the magisterium of the Church and of the Pope.

The rectors who preceded me, Father Álvaro Corcuera, at present director general of the congregation, and Father Paolo Scarafoni, who continues to function as rector of the European University of Rome, have been faithful to these foundational origins and have given the athenaeum great stimulation in all fields.

My present task, I believe, is to continue to work in that same direction, collaborating intensely with the Holy Father and the Holy See, with the other Roman pontifical universities and athenaeums in the delicate task of evangelization of the culture and in the high-level formation of priests and Catholic laity who are to take to the world the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Q: You are also involved in subjects related to the relationship between science and faith. Of what importance is this kind of subject from the theological point of view?

Father Barrajón: I am convinced that faith does not have to be afraid of science; rather a fruitful dialogue between them is very valuable, both for science as well as theology.

However, the mutual dialogue needs mediation -- philosophy, a philosophy of being, open to truth. In this way, the athenaeum has been collaborating actively in the STOQ -- Science and Theology and the Ontological Quest -- project in which several Roman ecclesiastical universities are involved and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Within the master's, I offer a course on "Christian Anthropology in the Face of Science" in which, after a few initial theoretical bases, I pause to consider some present-day subjects, such as the embryo's soul, death and immortality, mind-brain relationship, the process of animation in evolution, etc.


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