US bishops, Catholic college presidents to review use of papal document on campuses

US bishops, Catholic college presidents to review use of papal document on campuses

Bishop Thomas Curry speaks at an education symposium at the University of Notre Dame in 2009
Bishop Thomas Curry speaks at an education symposium at the University of Notre Dame in 2009


Bishops and Catholic university presidents across the U.S. are set to begin talks this year as a first step in the 10-year review process for implementing Pope John Paul II's document on Catholic colleges, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

"Ex Corde Ecclesiae" (From the Heart of the Church) was issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990 to emphasize the importance of the relationship between bishops and Catholic colleges and universities.

The papal document called for “close personal and pastoral relationships…between university and Church authorities, characterized by mutual trust, close and consistent cooperation and continuing dialogue.”

The U.S. bishops approved The Application of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" for the United States in 2001. The 10-year review process in the upcoming year will consist of dialogue between the local bishop and each university president within his diocese to discuss how effectively the document is being implemented.

Discussion points will include: Catholic identity, mission, service rendered by the university, and continued cooperation between the bishop and school president.

Bishops will report their findings later this year at the annual bishops' assembly in November.

Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops' conference, announced the beginning of the review on Jan. 20.

“This review will help us appreciate the positive developments and remaining challenges in the collaborative efforts of bishops and presidents to ensure the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States,” he said.

Bishop Curry added that collaboration between bishops and university presidents is “essential to the spirit” of Pope John Paul II's document, “which is why a working group of bishops and university presidents created the review process together.”

During his papal visit to the U.S. in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI addressed Catholic teachers gathered at the Catholic University of America, emphasizing that Catholic education should lead to an encounter with Jesus, who teaches us the truth. Any failure to do so leads Catholic institutions to fall short of their Catholic identity, he said. 

The pontiff also underscored that Catholic institutions must fulfill their duty and privilege of ensuring that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice.

“This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, …both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual,” he said during his 2008 speech.

Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, president of DePaul University and chair of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, welcomed the news of the review on Jan. 20.

He noted that the Church and “the larger society are served well when the leadership of both the Church and higher education institutions work closely together.”

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