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The Sacred and the Profane - The Chronicle of Higher Education
At Rome's ecclesiastical universities, the tradition of mixing the two continues within the bounds of papal authority

Francis X. Rocca - 23.09.2005


Here at the center of the Roman Catholic world, amid the squares and fountains of the Eternal City, and all within walking distance of St. Peter's Basilica, a special group of universities serves as the training ground for the church's future leaders.
Archbishop Miller believes ecclesiastical universities have a special obligation to be faithful to the church's authority over matters of faith and morals, because the are institutions, certainly at the theological level, whose principal purpose is the formation of clergyxThey are the Holy See's own universities.
The basic principle of the curriculum, Archbishop Miller says, is to train Catholics to serve the church in fields of study appropriate to the work of evangelization in the world. Thus, students in the communication school at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross typically plan to work as spokesmen or public-relations consultants for their home dioceses. As one of the first exercise in a course on audiovisual communication, the instructor, Jorge Milàn, holds role-playing sessions in which he impersonates a hostile reporter raising recent church controversies such as scandals over pedophile priests
But he does not neglet the basic skills that any secular school would teach. On a recent afternoon, several students, including an Iraqi nun, worked in the university's television studio, going over video documentaries they had made on one of the historic bridges spanning Rome's Tiber river
In fact, all modern higher education has ecclesiastical roots, observes Msgr. Mariano Fazio, the rector of Holy Cross and professors of intellectual history there. The first universities were universities of the church, he says
Then there is the allure of studying in a city filled with historic and artistic riches. On their way from classrooms to the library, students at Holy Cross must walk past the Baroque fountains and churches of the Piazza Navona
For Pia de Solenni, a California native who earned degrees in theology at the Angelicum and Holy Cross in the late 1990s, her minority status was sometimes an advantage. "Since I was the only woman, if I missed a class, someone would notice and make sure to save the materials for me", she says.