A promising group of Catholic educational institutions in Asia resumed its international cooperation after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Led by the University of Santo Tomas in the Executive Board, the Association of Southeast and East Asian Catholic Colleges and Universities (ASEACCU) held the 28th ASEACCU Conference with the theme “Memory and Identity.” The event was from August 23 to 27 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
“I have always believed that we have to work as one team in different specialties collaborating together, exchanging knowledge and experiences, ASEACCU members working together as a Catholic Identity in higher education,” said Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler of Phnom Penh.
“We can move forward more quickly and effectively in solidarity if we are able to promote higher education both in the Catholic Church and in society where we work,” he added.
Bishop Schmitthaeusler is the founder and chancellor of the St. Paul Institute, Cambodia, which is hosting the international conference.
Meanwhile, UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard Ang, O.P., Ph.D., in his welcome remarks, highlighted that the event theme is inspired by the last book of St. John Paul II, a Pope who was well-loved in Asia, especially the Philippines.
“The Pontiff’s reflections on the most challenging issues and events of his period revealed his intellectual and spiritual journey and pastoral experience,” Fr. Ang, who is also ASEACCU’s executive secretary, said.
Father Ang continued: “Right now, our nations face a common enemy—the pandemic. We are weighed down by its protracted effects but buoyed up by the firm belief that God will never abandon us in the difficult moments of our lives.”
The conference featured executive meetings, historical and philosophical lectures, intercultural dialogues, interfaith prayers, and field exposure to important sites in Cambodia. Its keynote speaker was Isabel Capeloa Gil, president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) and rector of the Catholic University of Portugal.
IFCU, which has since been supporting ASEACCU, is a federation recognized by the Holy See via a decree in 1948, and personally by Pope Pius XII in 1949. It closely collaborates with the Congregation for Catholic Education and various dicasteries of the Church, including the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.
Present at the 28th ASEACCU Conference were representatives from Catholic universities and colleges from Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, China, Philippines, and Thailand.