Granting of honorary doctorates by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross has, for the first time in its brief history, granted honorary doctorates. The honorees were Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi (Theology), Prof. Javier Hervada (Canon Law) and Prof. John M. Rist (Philosophy).

The academic ceremony took place on November 26 in the Cardinal Höffner Hall at the university. Participants included the rectors of other universities in Rome, members of the diplomatic corps and colleagues of the three recipients of the honorary doctorates.

In his initial greeting, Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei and Chancellor of the University of the Holy Cross, emphasized the mission of the university as “a living seed preparing new generations of men and women consciously dedicated to serving the common good through the fostering of knowledge.” He also made reference to the example and teachings of Saint Josemaria Escriva, who was the inspiring force behind this university, where the search for knowledge and spiritual life would always be closely united.

“Anyone who has felt the call to make the university the place of his own work,” Bishop Echevarría said, “is conscious of having accepted a great and inspiring responsibility, both before God and mankind. To effectively confront this responsibility, intellectual effort is no less important than the spiritual one. If we want to form minds capable of orienting themselves towards the truth, we must form souls thirsting for God.”

The first doctorate was awarded to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, who gave a presentation on “Timeliness of the encyclical Veritatis Splendor: the relationship between truth and freedom.” The Cardinal noted that history has shown that freedom alone, uprooted from all objectivity, is unable to satisfactorily distinguish good and evil. He spoke of the need for freedom and truth to be illuminated by the light of faith brought by the announcement of the Gospel. The archbishop said that “the life of the believer, especially the life of sanctity, which is the fulfillment of the dynamism proper to moral existence, becomes the most eloquent example of the truth, beauty, and happiness that are the characterizing notes of a morally good life.”
The second honoree was Dr. Javier Hervada, professor of Canon Law and Natural Law at the University of Navarre. In his address, which he entitled “Confessions of a Canonist,” he outlined his own academic history and stressed the key role that the virtue of justice plays in canon law.
The philosopher John M. Rist, professor emeritus of “Classics and Philosophy” at the University of Toronto, was the third honoree. Professor Rist is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and of Clare Hall in Cambridge. In his lectio magistralis, he analyzed the concept of fundamentalism both historically and etymologically. He postulated that one of the defining characteristic of fundamentalism is that it represents a form of “voluntary ignorance,” since it requires a “radical choice of life that is often both harsh and inflexible.”

Between the presentations of the doctorates a small choir directed by Msgr. Pablo Colino sang a number of musical pieces accompanied by the quartet “Gli amici dell’Armonia.”

The rector of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Prof. Mariano Fazio, noted that “these first three honorary doctors incarnate, each in their own milieu, a model of the outstanding researcher, not only because of their undeniable scientific merits, but also because of their generous service to the academic community. They provide us with as a sure point of reference for our work in the university.” Referring to the service to truth exemplified by these three doctors, he added, “This is the spirit that animates the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross: to humbly seek the truth in order to place it at the disposition of other men and women.”

Romana, No. 35, July-December 2002, p. 356-357.

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