On 18 and 19 January, 170 representatives of Catholic universities from 47 countries gathered in Rome to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU). The first moves to create a federation of Catholic universities in fact were made in 1924, thanks to the work of the Catholic Universities of Milan (Italy) and Nijmegen (Netherlands). What was then called the Foederatio Universitatum Catholicarum was formally established in 1948 by decree of the Holy See, and approved the following year by Pius XII.
The conference - entitled 'The University and the Church: The Future of the Catholic University' - was also addressed by Cardinal Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Sister Helen Alford, President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences; and Father Armand Puig i Tàrrech, President of AVEPRO.
On the morning of 19 January, the participants were received in private audience by the Holy Father, who, in his address to them, recalled how «at a time when, unfortunately, education itself is becoming a “business” [...] the Church’s institutions must show that they are of a different nature and act in accordance with a different mindset. An educational enterprise is not only based on perfect programmes, efficient equipment or good business practices. A greater passion must animate the university, as evidenced in a shared search for truth, a greater horizon of meaning, lived out in a community of knowledge where the liberality of love is palpable.»
The large attendance, the quality of the discussions, and the pleasure of sharing experiences and hopes, demonstrated how the Federation is a unique forum for dialogue around shared values, at a time when scientific cooperation, 'networking' and collective reflection are imperative.