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A sign of institutional solidity and maturity
The Holy See approves the definitive statutes of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum

Fachada principal del Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum

On August 6, 2012, the Holy See definitively approved the statutes of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorumby means of a decree of the Congregation for Catholic Education.  The decree of approval arrived just prior to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Athenaeum.  Here is an interview of Fr. Pedro Barrajón, the rector of the Athenaeum, regarding the approval process, the anniversary and future plans for the Athenaeum.

Q: How did the approval of the Athenaeum come about?  When did it come about?  What meaning does it have for the life of the Athenaeum?

The process of the approval of our Athenaeum has been laborious.  You have to show that there is a need for the institution, that the team of professors is capable, that there are and will continue to be students applying, etc.  When the Holy See approved the Athenaeum, it put its faith in the Legion’s ability to adequately fulfill this important mission. 

The Athenaeum was first approved on September 15, 1993, by the Congregation for Catholic Education, with a nod from John Paul II.  Five years later, in June, 1998, the Athenaeum was granted the title “Pontifical” – a further sign of the bond that unites the Athenaeum with the Holy Father.  But, as with all athenaeums, this approval was “ad tempus” (provisional).  We were given a timeframe in which to show that we were up to the task.  As part of this process, the statutes were also approved for a certain trial period. 

In 2011, the definitive approval of the Athenaeum was granted.  However, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the Athenaeum’s Chancellor, asked the Holy See to extend the trial period for the statutes another year, since theresults of the “Bologna Process” would imply making changes one way or the other. 

In July, we presented the definitive draft of the statutes to the Congregation for Catholic Education.  The Congregation definitively approved the statutes with a decree dated August 6, 2012.  Now, the academic community in the Athenaeum has a solid, definitive reference point for its government.  


Q: What novelties will these statutes imply on the practical level for the professors and for the students?

The most noteworthy changes have to do with the
El padre Pedro Barrajón durante la entrevista  concedida a LaRed en el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum.
form of government and with the professors.  With respect to the government, a directive council has been created to support the rector.  The deans of the departments, who formerly didn’t,will form part of this council, and now have a part to play in the life of the whole Athenaeum.  As well, the “academic senate,” which involves all the sectors of the Athenaeum – from students to employees – has been given more of a consultative role.  It became clear that it was very difficult to make important decisions among so many.  Most of the responsibility for decision making has been shifted from the academic senate to the directive council.  Of course, the directive council has the obligation to listen to the opinion of the senate. 

With respect to the professors, besides the categories that are in place – adjunct, extraordinary and ordinary – we have added the figure of “responsible professors,” those who play a growing role in the life of the Athenaeum but are not as yet tenured. 

We have also added a financial commission.  Their role is to help the administration keep an eye on the budget, to make suggestions regarding financial decisions or regarding fundraising for the Athenaeum. 

What practical consequences will this have in the life of the Athenaeum?  There will probably not be much visible change in the short term.  But, over the long term, the sense of being an academic community will be reinforced, the professors will feel more a part of the faculty to which they belong and of the Athenaeum as well.  Finally, I think we will begin to see a teaching style that seeks a deeper understanding of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ, in dialogue with the world around us. 


Q: The majority of the students in the Athenaeum are priests or students for the priesthood from around the world.  The teaching given there is, in a way, a preparation for their mission.  Does this aspect come across in the statutes?

In the section of the statutes on the mission of the Athenaeum, it says that we form priests and religious for the mission of evangelization.  Of course, the Athenaeum is not exclusively for priests and religious.  We also teach
Vista parcial del hall del Ateneo.
lay people who want to help in the pastoral work of the Church and in spreading the Gospel throughout the world.  Having said that, in our mission and vision the formation of priests plays an important role.  You see this above all in the activities that the different departments offer, which seek to emphasize aspects that priests need in their academic formation. 


Q: What events are you planning to hold to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Athenaeum?

Well, we are all giving thanks to God for these past twenty years, remembering the gifts that God has given us in the past, seeking understand our present situation and accepting the challenges of the future. 

We are planning one especially important event: a congress in May, 2013, to seek to understand the mission and calling of new ecclesiastical communities and apostolic movements.  In the context of the Year of the Faith, this congress will seek to follow up on the work of the Synod on the New Evangelization.  It is especially meaningful for us as an institution that is connected with the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.  There will also be congresses put on by our departments of philosophy, theology and bioethics.  Finally, the anniversary will formally conclude with the celebration of the inauguration of the academic year of 2013-14 next October.


Q: The Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum was the first institute of higher learning in the world to have a bioethics department.  When do you expect to open a fourth department?  And, how long will it be until the Athenaeum receives the title “university”?

The growth of the Athenaeum has come, above
Vista parcial de un aula del Ateneo Pontificio Regina  Apostolorum
all, through institutes.  Even before the year 2000, in light of Blessed John Paul II’s PastoresDaboVobis, we had started the Sacerdos Institutefor the ongoing formation of priests. 

As well, since John Paul II repeatedly expressed interest in the role of women in the Church – notably with his apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem and with the Holy See’s intervention in the World Conference on Women in Beijing – interest in this area grew in the Athenaeum.  The Institute of Higher Studies on Womenwas the fruit of this interest.  It was the second institute in the Athenaeum. 

Along with the creation of the bioethics department, we created the Institute of Bioethics and Human Rights in connection with the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights.  This was groundbreaking and has put the Church on the cutting edge this new discipline which is so important for respect of the dignity of the human person throughout the world.    

In response to requests from a number of Italians involved in the realms of economics and politics, we created the FidelisInstitute of Economic Ethics, which Fr. Michael Ryan directs.  It works in conjunction with the Fidelis International Institute to help apply the Church’s social teaching to real life in business and politics on the local, national and international levels.  

Ten years ago, Fr. Rafael Pascual started a program that offers diplomas on the interplay between science and faith.  Positive experiences in this program over the years were a sign that this could also become an institute.  Combining the focus of the program I mentioned with a program that studies the Shroud of Turin and groups that are studying neuro-bioethics, we have begun the Institute for Science and Faith.   

As well, a group of lay people who were fascinated by the figure of Blessed John Paul II wanted to delve into his spirituality and teachings.  In response we began an institute whose goal is to reflect more deeply on the intellectual and cultural heritage that this great pope has left us. 

Now, we get to your question of a fourth department and the title of university which might come with it.  First of all, there is nothing written that four
El padre Rafael Pascual, decano de la facultad de filosofía, durante una de las clases a los alumnos de nuevo ingreso.
departments mean you earn the title “university”.  This has been a de facto procedure on the part of the Holy See.  Now, three of those four departments have to be sacred sciences or have to be connected with them: philosophy, theology, canon law.  Our Athenaeum cannot open a canon law department simply because there are already seven canon law departments in universities in Rome, and some of these have a reduced student body.  It would be illogical to create another one.  That’s why we opened the department of bioethics.  We have studied the possibility of opening a fourth department.  For the moment it is not a priority.

When we do open one, it will be born from one of the institutes we already have up and running.  The idea would be to grow something from a base that is already solid and thriving.  It is very difficult to start something from scratch that you dreamed up behind a desk.  This would involve converting an already existing institute into an institute ad instafacultatis (which means that it can grant master’s degrees and doctorates).  Then, if the Holy See approves it, we will turn it into an independent faculty.  From my point of view, the fields of social doctrine of the Church, science, and faith or women’s studies are promising. 

At one point we had thought of opening something in the field of communications and the New Evangelization.  There is not much offered in Rome in this area.  But creating a program that would grant diplomas in communications is easier said than done.  

We have sown a number of seeds.  For the moment, the strategy is to see how they all grow.  



Related links web site
New Gate Tours
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Magdala Center
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College

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