Cardinal Tolentino Mendonça: "A university is an ideal place to practice the culture of encounter"

Monday, June 5, 2023 - 10:18

"Inequalities are deepening, nationalisms are growing, wars are raging. Trust in the relationship between states, institutions and people is crumbling," said Isabel Capeloa Gil, President of Universidade Católica Portuguesa, at the closing conference of the celebrations of the 55th anniversary of the UCP. For Cardinal José Tolentino Mendonça, "in challenging historical periods, we are called to activate or rediscover our spiritual and human resources."

Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, which oversees Catholic universities, the Cardinal, who has already been vice-rector, professor and student at UCP, returned to the university to speak precisely on the spiritual resources to face the future. He focused on five "elementary and universal" resources: the human person, astonishment, relationship, accepting risk, and hope.

The theologian defended the importance of investing "in the empowerment of each person so that they may develop their potential and thus contribute in a qualified way to the common good". This is a central mission of universities which, according to Cardinal Tolentino Mendonça, should aspire to "the universality of knowledge", by putting into practice "interdisciplinary dialogue".

"We need the boldness to make alliances between knowledge areas, even between knowledge areas that seem distant," he said. "We need an education for hope. We cannot allow the rhetoric of indifference, giving up and fear to spread, nor let the universal right to hope be trampled on by the steamroller of nihilism. Hope is our mission", he added.

The Cardinal believes that "a university is an ideal place to practice the culture of encounter". The commitment of universities "should be with a future that practices a transversal dialogue of knowledge, because the challenges that are coming are more and more transversal". Cardinal Tolentino Mendonça believes that in this way it will be possible to "bring people together and find new forms of cooperation in facing the challenges brought about by the environment, technology, ethical sustainability, new forms of intelligence, a more just distribution of resources and the eternal questions about life and its meaning."

For Isabel Capeloa Gil, "rethinking the world from a logic of social fraternity, according to Pope Francis' call, is essential if we are to have a future". A future that the President of the UCP sees "with confidence", since "a Catholic university moves on the terrain of risk and hope, where knowledge is built in a perspective of service and not of domination or power, transforming the old disciplinary islands into large continents".

Manuel Clemente, Cardinal-Patriarch of Lisbon, said that "when the universities were created, it was with the intention of finding people with knowledge and the will to have it", highlighting the importance of there being availability "to learn, always".

Regarding the 55th anniversary of the University, the Cardinal also highlighted how the UCP has sought "to overcome the logic of walls, in an effort to be - as Pope Francis recently asked it to be - a socially inclusive university with an explicit commitment of service to the great human causes."