The 43rd meeting of UNIV gathered in Rome during Holy Week with 4,000 students taking part. The question that the participants tried to answer during the most recent Forum was: “Can Christianity inspire a global culture?”
The point of departure for the discussion were words spoken by Benedict XVI at the La Sapienza University in Rome. “If our culture seeks only to build itself on the basis of the circle of its own argumentation, on what convinces it at the time, and if—anxious to preserve its secularism—it detaches itself from its life-giving roots, then it will not become more reasonable or purer, but will fall apart and disintegrate” (Address, January 17, 2008).
The students came from thirty different countries, including the United States, France, Spain, Russia, Australia, and Kenya, which helped provide various and complementary perspectives on the same question. Together with the presentations by the university students, the Conference included the collaboration of professors and specialists such as Joseph Pearce, professor of literature at Ave Maria University in Florida, and the author of numerous biographies; Andrew Hegarty, director of the Thomas More Institute in London; and Jeffrey J. Langan, Associate Professor and Chairman of Liberal Studies, Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, Indiana.
The UNIV students gave the following letter to Benedict XVI during the audience that took place on March 31 in St. Peter's Square, a few days after the fifth anniversary of his pontificate.
We are university students from 30 different countries. We come from diverse cultures, not all of which are Catholic or Christian; but we wish to write the Pope to express gratitude which we all share in common.
Thank you, Holy Father, for these five years of your Pontificate, in a commission of service and search for the truth. Thank you for your gatherings with young people. We thank you in the name of millions of young men and women who have been able to hear your words in Cologne, Krakow, São Paolo, Loreto, New York, Sydney, Paris, Yaoundé, Luanda, Prague… Thank you for your untiring service and for your example of openness and dialogue, which you constantly offer us, to search out the truth of things.
Thank you for having invoked this Year for Priests for the Church and for the world. We notice that many have taken advantage of some episodes that are painful for the Church and for the Pope, to spread doubts and suspicion. To these sowers of doubt we wish to say with clarity that we do not accept their ideology. We hold respect for them, but we demand from them respect for our faith and the recognition of the right that we have to live as Christians in a pluralist society.
Each one of us, including those who do not have the gift of faith, know in a personal way countless priests, university chaplains, parish priests, spiritual directors and confessors. We know them first hand, not by way of newspapers, and we are grateful to them for their constant presence, availability, self-sacrifice, and openness to everyone. To all of them, and above all to the Pope, we wish to say: thank you!
Thank you, Your Holiness, for the courage with which you invite the faithful of the Church to follow Christ with a total gift of self, without “allowing oneself to be intimidated by the bickering of reigning opinions.” We thank God that He has given his flock a Shepherd who from the very first moment has declared the Church as young and alive as ever.
Also in the name of thousands of our colleagues, we wish to express that we are with you, Holy Father, through our prayer, our affection, and our daily work. We ask you to bless our studies, our families, and the friendships we form with God and with others, in the university, in our volunteer work, in our sports, and in our rest.
Please accept our thanks and our most affectionate congratulations for these first five years as the Vicar of Christ!
Robert Weber (Austria)
President of UNIV Congress 2010
Benedict XVI responded to the students in the Wednesday audience with these words: “Dear friends, you have come to Rome in Holy Week for an experience of faith, friendship and spiritual enrichment,” said the Holy Father. “I invite you to reflect on the importance of university study for the formation of that 'universal Catholic mentality' which St. Josemaría described in these terms: 'a breadth of vision and a vigorous endeavor to study more deeply the things that are permanently alive and unchanged in Catholic orthodoxy.' May there be, in each of you, a growing desire to meet Jesus Christ personally, so as to bear joyful witness to him in all places.”
The first UNIV meetings were organized at the prompting of St. Josemaría, the founder of Opus Dei. Tens of thousands of students and university professors, over the past four decades, have been able to broaden their own cultural horizons in the universal atmosphere of the center of Christianity, thanks to the special audiences granted by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI to the UNIV participants.
During the Roman meeting the theme for UNIV 2011 was decided upon: “Living Freedom Decisively” (www.univforum.org).