In a statement encouraging fidelity and strong Catholic identity in Catholic higher education, Pope Francis today urged the University of Notre Dame to be an “uncompromising witness… to the Church’s moral teaching” and to resist “efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness,” according to a translation by Vatican Radio.
The Holy Father’s words came today as he met with a Notre Dame delegation celebrating the University’s new Rome Center. Although Vatican Radio does not report whether Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., was present, a photo of Father Jenkins with Pope Francis accompanying the Vatican Radio translation suggests that he was.
Recalling the University’s founding Catholic mission in “service to the Church and American society,” Pope Francis said, “And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!”
The Holy Father preceded this call with praise for Notre Dame, but with an emphasis on the fidelity and Catholic identity that should mark the University of Our Lady—and so often has been challenged and compromised in recent years.
Concerns about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity have come up in the past. At least 83 bishops publicly criticized the University’s decision in 2009 to honor President Barack Obama despite his support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, and more than 367,000 individuals signed The Cardinal Newman Society’s petition opposing the honor. Most recently, problems occurred in one of the Notre Dame faculty suggested that the Vatican allow abortions.