More than 600 years ago on January 11, 1397, Pope Boniface IX granted a request from Saint Hedwig, Queen of Poland, to create a Catholic theological faculty.

Today this Catholic educational institution, now called the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow, is celebrating the 625th anniversary of its founding.

Pope Francis offered congratulations to the pontifical university in a letter published Jan. 11.

“Together with you, I thank God for this tradition of more than six centuries, with all its scientific and educational achievements, as well as its own spirituality created by its holy founders, professors and students,” the pope wrote.

“Today's times require all of us not to forget tradition, but at the same time to look with hope to the future and to create the future,” he said.

The university was renamed for Pope St. John Paul II in 2009. Its Catholic theological faculty had been part of the Jagiellonian University since the 14th century until Communist authorities expelled it from the university in 1954, however this decision did not interrupt its underground and canonical existence.

John Paul II issued a motu proprio “Beata Hedvigis” in 1981 officially reestablishing the theological faculty of the Jagiellonian University as the Pontifical Academy of Theology.

In his letter dated Jan. 6, Pope Francis encouraged the students at the university to live out its motto: “Go and make disciples.”

“Saint John Paul II stressed the need for such a ‘ministry of the mind,’ through which academic circles join the Church's mission of spreading Christ's message to the world,” Pope Francis said.

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“Therefore, faithful to centuries of tradition, read the signs of the times and courageously take up new challenges in order to effectively bring the truth of the Gospel to contemporary man and the world.”

“May your university be a place of formation for new generations of Christians, not only through scientific study and the search for truth, but also through the public witness of living the faith,” Pope Francis said.