University of Santo Tomas Rector Very Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P., once again met with His Holiness Pope Francis at the annual New Frontiers for University Leaders forum of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU). With the theme “The Future of Health and the University Ecosystem,” it was held at the Augustinianum Congress Centre in Rome, Italy from November 4 to 5, 2019.
The Father Rector, who is currently the IFCU Vice President, previously welcomed His Holiness Pope Francis at the Arch of the Centuries during his visit to the University of Santo Tomas on January 18, 2015.
According to the IFCU website, the two-day forum aimed to update university leaders from around the globe with the latest challenges and transformations arising from the new frontiers of science in healthcare, biotech, artificial intelligence, automation, and the impact of societal transformations and climate change in the strategies and policies in the self-definition of universities as sites of knowledge production.
The Holy Father received the forum participants, among them the Father Rector and UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery Dean Ma. Lourdes D. Maglinao, M.D. The Pope delivered an address during the first day of the forum. From a bulletin published by the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis discussed the role of universities in addressing the need to educate students in an age of increasing technological advancement and shifting societal demands. Universities have the responsibility of preparing new generations to become competent professionals, proponents of the common good, and responsible leaders, so institutional leaders and educators must consider how to contribute not only to the integral health and development of a person, but also to the community.
A Catholic university, emphasized the Holy Father, must become “a place where solutions for civil and cultural progress for individual persons and for humanity, marked by solidarity, are pursued with perseverance and professionalism.”
“The formation of leaders achieves its goal when it imbues the academic years with the aim of developing not only the mind but also the ‘heart,’ the conscience, together with students’ practical abilities. Scientific and theoretical knowledge must be blended with the sensitivity of the scholar and researcher, so that the fruits of study are not acquired in a self-referential way, affirming only one’s professional position, but have a relational and social purpose,” said Pope Francis.
The Pope further explained, “Just as every scientist and every person of culture has an obligation to greater service, because they possess greater knowledge, so too [does] the university community, especially if it has a Christian inspiration, and the ecosystem of academic institutions must respond together to the same duty. In this perspective, the path that the Church and Catholic academics must follow is succinctly expressed by the patron of [IFCU], the newly-canonized Cardinal John Henry Newman: The Church ‘fears no knowledge, but she purifies all; she represses no element of our nature, but cultivates the whole.’”
IFCU is based in France and is composed of more than 226 Catholic universities and higher education institutions, including the University of Santo Tomas.