Cardinal Angelo Scola holds that pontifical universities are the ideal place where issues at stake in the Synod of Bishops — which will discuss families next autumn — can be more deeply understood and developed. Universities should develop a dialogue that “moves from reality to scientific work, and from scientific work to reality, thus replicating the movement of Christianity: Jesus came from the periphery, then Christianity arrived at the center of the empire, and finally moved toward the peripheries again,” the Archbishop of Milan said Nov. 6. He spoke to CNA at the Pontifical Lateran University, where he gave a lecture on Pope Francis' vision of a university for the opening of the academic year. As a pontifical university, the Lateran is established by the Holy See and includes faculties of theology, philosophy, and canon law. It is home to the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Cardinal Scola noted that the John Paul II Institute was established at the behest of the Pope for which it is named, and is meant to develop the topic of the family. It has 11 branches throughout the world, and was widely quoted in the instrumentum laboris of the 2014 extraordinary Synod on the Family, even though none of its professors was appointed to take part in that synod. “To Pope Francis, the university must have a complete openness to reality, and must be set on a dialogue of solidarity, since solidarity makes history,” Cardinal Scola underscored. He also stressed that Pope Francis wants the university to be “a missionary environment, not a closed doors place.” The cardinal also reflected on Pope Francis' belief that the university should itself be “like a family,” such that “its daily life reflects the rhythm and style of family; that professors, students, employees live their specific work in a family environment.” And if the university is like a family, what impact can academic work have on family issues, especially in view of the synodal path on the family, which consists of both the 2014 extraordinary synod on the family and in the coming 2015 ordinary synod on the same topic? According to Cardinal Scola, being like a family means also “aligning research, and teaching, with real needs.” This is how “the issues which emerged in the first synod’s assembly, which will be organically included in the second synod’s assembly, will find in universities a place to understand well the profound reasons behind the issues, and to meet the experience and needs of current families.”
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