His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, visited the Pontifical Gregorian University on Friday, November 3, 2006 in honor of the Jesuit Jubilee Year.
This jubilee marked the 450th anniversary of the death of St. Ignatius as well as the 500th anniversary of the births of St. Francis Xavier and of Blessed Peter Faber.
Here is the Holy Father’s allocution during that visit:
My predecessor Pius XI, of venerated memory, declared the Gregorian University pontifical “with the fullest right and name.” The very history of the Roman College and of the Gregorian University, its heir, as Father Rector recalled in the greeting that he offered me, is the foundation of this altogether particular status. I greet Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., who, as Superior General of the Society of Jesus, is the Vice Grand Chancellor of the University and has the more immediate care of this work, which I do not doubt qualifies as one of the greatest services that the Society of Jesus renders to the universal Church.
I greet the benefactors present here, the Gregorian University Foundation of New York, and other groups of benefactors. Dear friends, I am grateful for all you do so generously to sustain this work that the Holy See has entrusted and continues to entrust to the Society of Jesus. I greet the Jesuit Fathers who carry on their teaching with a praiseworthy spirit of self-denial and austerity of life; along with them I greet the other Professors, extending my thoughts also to the Fathers and Brothers of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute which, together with the Gregorian form a prestigious academic consortium that embraces not only teaching but also the resources of the three libraries, enriched by incomparable specialized collections. Finally, I greet the non-teaching staff of the University. Every day the non-teaching staff fulfil a service that is hidden but very important for the mission which the Gregorian is called to fulfil by mandate of the Holy See. To each of them goes my heartfelt encouragement.
With joy I find myself in this courtyard which I have visited on various occasions. In a particular way I fondly recall the time when, as ordinary professor of dogmatics and the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg, I was invited in 1972 by then Rector Hervé Carrier, S.J., to give a course to the students of the second cycle of the specialization in dogmatic theology. As an old colleague I say to you, dear Professors and students, that the efforts of study and teaching, in order to have meaning in relation to the Kingdom of God, must be supported by the theological virtues. In fact, the immediate object of theological science, in its diverse areas, is God Himself, revealed in Jesus Christ.
The Gregorian University, ever since its origins in the Roman College, has been distinguished for the study of philosophy and theology. It would take too much time to list the names of the all the outstanding philosophers and theologians who have occupied professorial chairs here; and to theirs we would have to add the names of famous canonists and Church historians who have devoted their energies within these prestigious walls. All have greatly contributed to the progress of the sciences which they developed and thus have offered a precious service to the Apostolic See in the fulfilment of its doctrinal, disciplinary, and pastoral functions.
At this time I cannot forget the other human sciences that are cultivated in this distinguished University, following in the glorious academic tradition of the Roman College. All know the great prestige attained by the Roman College in the fields of mathematics, physics, and astronomy. It is enough to remember that the calendar, called the Gregorian calendar because it was desired by my predecessor Gregory XIII, the calendar currently in use throughout the world, was worked out in 1582 by Father Christopher Clavius, Professor of the Roman College. Today these disciplines are no longer treated at the Gregorian, but other human sciences have been introduced, such as psychology, social sciences, and communications. Their goal is to understand the human person more deeply both in his profoundly personal dimension as well as in his external dimension as builder of society, in justice and peace, and as communicator of the truth.
Only with reference to the God who is love, who is revealed in Jesus Christ, can man find the meaning of his existence and live in hope, in spite of his experience of those ills that wound his personal existence and the society in which he lives. Hope makes it possible for man not to enclose himself in a paralyzing and sterile nihilism, but to be open to a generous commitment to his society so as to make it better. It is the task that God gave us in creating us in his image and likeness, a task that confers on us an enormous dignity, but also an enormous responsibility.
It is in this light that you, Gregorian Professors and teachers, are called to form the students entrusted to you by the Church. The whole formation of youth has been one of the traditional apostolates of the Society of Jesus from its very beginnings. And therefore from its very beginnings, the Roman College assumed this mission. The entrusting to the Society of Jesus in Rome, near to the Apostolic See, of the German College, the Roman Seminary, the Hungarian College united with the German, the English College, the Greek College, the Scots College, and the Irish College was intended to assure the formation of the clergy of those nations where the unity of the faith and the communion with the Apostolic See was ruptured. Even now these Colleges send their students almost exclusively or in large numbers to the Gregorian, in continuity with that original mission. Over the course of history, many other colleges were added to those I have mentioned. How grave the responsibility that weighs on your shoulders, dear Professors and teachers! The mission [of the Gregorian] is difficult because it requires a constant fidelity to its history and tradition, so as not to lose its own historic roots, and at the same time an openness to present reality, to respond to the needs of the Church and the world of today after a careful discernment carried on with a creative spirit.
It is our duty to ask what kind of priests, religious, and lay persons we wish to form. Certainly it is your intention, dear Professors and teachers, to form learned priests who are at the same time ready to give their lives in service, with undivided heart, in humility and austerity of life, to those entrusted to them by the Lord in their ministry. You likewise intend to offer a solid intellectual formation to religious men and women so that they know how to live joyfully the consecration with which God has gifted them and to present themselves as an eschatological sign of that future life to which all of us are called. In the same way you wish to prepare lay men and women who will assume with competence offices and roles of service in the Church and be, above all, leaven of the Kingdom of God in the temporal sphere. In this context, this year the University has inaugurated an interdisciplinary program to form the laity for their specifically ecclesial vocation of moral commitment in the public arena.
Dear sons of Saint Ignatius, once again the Pope entrusts this University to you, a work so important for the universal Church and for so many particular churches. It has always been a priority among the apostolic priorities of the Society of Jesus.
Dear friends, with fatherly affection, I entrust all of you, who are the living components of the Gregorian University – Professors and teachers, students, non-teaching staff, benefactors and friends – to the intercession of St. Ignatius of Loyola, of St. Robert Bellarmine, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Society of Jesus, who, in the coat of arms of the University is invoked with the title “Seat of Wisdom.” With these sentiments I impart on all the Apostolic Blessing, as a sign of abundant heavenly favours.