A report by the U.S. bishops finds a positive relationship between Catholic universities in America and the Church, while encouraging continued cooperation and growth.

"Bishops reported that they believe our institutions of Catholic higher education have made definite progress in advancing Catholic identity," the document stated.

"The relationship between bishops and presidents on the local level can be characterized as positive and engaged, demonstrating progress on courtesy and cooperation in the last ten years," it explained.

Released Jan. 10, the report marks the 10-year anniversary of the application of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," an apostolic constitution written by Pope John Paul II in 1990 to offer reflections and norms for the identity and mission of Catholic colleges.

"It is in the context of the impartial search for truth," the Pope says in the document, "that the relationship between faith and reason is brought to light and meaning…The renewal requested of Catholic Universities will make them better able to respond to the task of bringing the message of Christ to man, to society, to the various cultures."

The Holy Father continues in the document to describe of aims of the Catholic university in pastoral ministry, evangelization, and catechesis. He also outlines the responsibilities of the bishops and dioceses in supporting the mission of Catholic universities.

The U.S. bishops approved the application of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" in 1999, and it went into effect in 2001, with directives to perform reviews of its success every five years.

In November 2011, the bishops met in regional meetings to discuss the state of Catholic higher education in their area.

According to the report, written by Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg, who chairs the bishops' Committee on Catholic Education, "the prevailing tone was positive and the news was good."

"Clarity about Catholic identity among college and university leadership has fostered substantive dialogues and cultivated greater mission driven practices across the university," he wrote.

The report also offered suggestions for improvement. It said that the Committee on Catholic Education will form a working group of bishops and college presidents to further study avenues for cooperation between the Church and Catholic universities around the nation.

Areas to be addressed in the future include hiring for mission; forming faculty, staff and trustees in Catholic identity; continuing cooperative dialogue between bishops and presidents to promote the Church's mission; and curricular and pastoral means to offer accurate theological and catechetical knowledge.

In exploring these subjects, the working group will "continue the dialogue about strategic subjects on a national level," the report said.

"As they consider topics, they will gather information regarding best practices, offer suggestions for conversation at the local level, and as needed, develop resources," it explained.