Students of the New Testament in the Eternal City class visited Domitian’s Stadium, a huge arena where spectators in the first century could watch footraces and other athletic contests. The Romans were the first to use concrete, and today, the concrete and brick walls of that stadium first dedicated in 86 AD continue to support the buildings that line the perimeter of the Piazza Navona that was built directly over it centuries later. Between races, the Romans sometimes staged public executions of convicted criminals as a sort of half-time show. For roughly two hundred years, Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire, and periodically, Christians were persecuted. St. Agnes, a young Christian born into a patrician Roman family in the 3rd century, was executed there in the stadium during one of these periods of persecution.
Later, the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone was built in the piazza Navona, using sheets of marble taken from the stadium as part of its interior decoration. Many today mistakenly translate this to mean St. Agnes in Agony—since it is located over the site of her martyrdom. In fact, agone is the Greek word meaning “in the site of competitions” and it was the original name of the huge square.
Students had the opportunity to visit a side chapel in the church that contains her skull—(her body is located in the catacombs). Later in the semester, they will learn about the cult of relics in the early Christian church. Walking from the ruins of the stadium far below the piazza to the Church of St. Agnes on the piazza was a physical way to connect the past and the present.
Some of the students studying in Rome this semester also had the chance to witness the canonization of another saint, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, a way to connect the past with the future. In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis proclaimed her a saint, as another woman who had lived her faith and sacrificed for her beliefs.
On a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon, several of our students participated in this historic event. Ryan W. McSweeney said he felt “uniquely lucky” to have been present to celebrate the life of someone whom he had learned about since he was little. He added the whole experience was almost surreal. If you are interested, click here to read the full text of the homily.
Several other students from Providence College were also lucky enough to have received tickets to the canonization and joined a crowd estimated at 120,000. They were impressed with both the solemnity and the joy of the occasion. They counted themselves blessed. Next month, all of the PC students will attend a papal audience, another one of the unique opportunities of the PC in Rome program. Thanks to our student photographers for their contributions to this posting. To be continued.
Students of the New Testament in the Eternal City class visited Domitian’s Stadium, a huge arena where spectators in the first century could watch footraces and other athletic contests. The Romans were the first to use concrete, and today, the concrete and brick walls of that stadium first dedicated in 86 AD continue to support […]MORE
One of the great benefits of spending a semester abroad is the opportunity for students to travel independently, exploring sites in Italy and around Europe. Rome is centrally located and there are many discount airlines that make it possible (and economical) for students to explore. The PC-Rome program also works closely with the CEA to sponsor trips of interest and related to the course work that students do. This past weekend, for example, PC Friars participated in a weekend trip to Campania, organized by the staff at CEA. They spent time in the bustling city of Naples, the seaside town of Sorrento, the historic ruins at Pompei, and enjoyed the beaches of the Isle of Capri. Some students particularly liked Naples, noting its vibrance and the energy in the streets, while some were intrigued by the history of Pompeii. Others preferred the beauty of the rocky shoreline around Capri.
Enjoying the beach in Sorrento
This year, in addition to the cultural and historical experiences, they added an academic component, hence the name “Travelling Seminar”. Every student signed up for one of three seminars: History of the Mafia, Food and Wine, or Photography.
On Friday afternoon, they had a 3-hour seminar with their professors. The program was designed to promote reflection and to enable students to be more purposeful in getting to know about Italian history and culture. So for example, students in the Food and Wine seminar accompanied their professor to the fresh food market, where he explained about local delicacies, such as tripe.
Students who chose Dr. Alexandra Massini’s seminar had the unique opportunity to meet with the Deputy Mayor of Naples, Raffaele Del Guidice, where they learnt about Del Giudice’s personal and public fight against the Mafia, specifically the Camorra and “La Terra dei Fuochi” (the land of fires) which defines the industrial toxic waste disposal happening around Naples. The students were also free to ask questions and by the end of the meeting Del Giudice was very impressed with their preparation and genuine interest. This was a great honor, and the local television station featured the story on the evening news. The video clip is included for your enjoyment.
It was a jam-packed weekend, but students were enthusiastic about their experiences, whether checking out the historic ruins of Pompeii, or playing volleyball on the beach, or appreciating the local cuisine. A good time was had by all! Thanks for tuning in.
One of the great benefits of spending a semester abroad is the opportunity for students to travel independently, exploring sites in Italy and around Europe. Rome is centrally located and there are many discount airlines that make it possible (and economical) for students to explore. The PC-Rome program also works closely with the CEA to […]MORE
One of the most special features of studying in Rome for PC students is being in the place where the history they are learning about actually happened. Students had their first site visit of the semester and along the way, they passed the church that contains the body of St. Catherine of Siena, a tertiary of the Dominican order. All students are required to take New Testament in the Eternal City, a course that satisfies a theology requirement for the core. According to the course description, the course consists of classroom lectures and discussions, as well as onsite study that utilizes the city of Rome as a classroom. Onsite visits include the major archaeological sites of ancient Rome, early Christian cemeteries, shrines, and basilicas, and the Renaissance churches of Rome. The visits have a twofold purpose: 1) to introduce students to the topography of the ancient city; and 2) to expose students to the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the city of Rome through the ages, concentrating on the New Testament in art. Many of the other courses offered by PC and the CEA, such as the Art History course, Angels and Demons, and photography, also include site regular site visits, so students have additional opportunities to deepen their familiarity with Rome. This week the theme was on symbols of sustaining human life: water, the sun, and tree (the symbol for food).
We started at the Ara Pacis, both a Roman temple and a sacred mausoleum for Caesar Augustus who established the Pax Romana. Next to the site is a sundial built at precisely the point on the north/south axis where the original Latins came from. Our next stop, the Pantheon, was built on this axis to mark the movement of the sun. The fountain in front of the site, has an obelisk, another symbol for the sun. And the Pantheon itself is built in such a way that at high noon during the summer solstice, the sun’s rays hit precise points on the floor located immediately below the oculus. Although the Pantheon was intended as a temple for all the gods, historians speculate that Hadrian intended to dedicate the edifice to the sun god, as evidence of his divinely orchestrated reign.
Our final stop for the morning was a return to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, sculpted by Bernini and located in the Piazza Navona. It is located on an ancient site commissioned by the Emperor Domitian and a powerful work representative of the four rivers on the four continents where papal authority extended. The fountain is topped by another obelisk, again representing the sun. So we came full circle. The groundwork has been set for further study and future site visits.
More to follow.
One of the most special features of studying in Rome for PC students is being in the place where the history they are learning about actually happened. Students had their first site visit of the semester and along the way, they passed the church that contains the body of St. Catherine of Siena, a tertiary of […]MORE
Classes began at CEA. I remind our students that this is PC in Rome. That means that while they are acclimating to living in Rome, they must also begin their studies, with much the same expectations as if they were studying in Providence. All of the students are required to study Italian. This will enable them to communicate with the locals more easily and feel more immersed in the culture and life of Rome. In addition, studying a foreign language contributes to our goal of preparing students for a more diverse and increasingly globalized world. Thomas Nee, a Theology and Political Science double-major, notes, “I would say the first week of classes has shown that this is abroad experience is more than some trip to a foreign country for three months, but a new life experience entirely.” He adds that he already feels more independent and that studying and living here will enable him to experience Rome more authentically.
Most students take most of their classes at the CEA campus at Via GG Belli 122. We occupy the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building. In addition to administrative and faculty offices and classrooms, students can use the study lounges and computer labs. The center has extended hours Mondays through Thursdays to provide a quiet place for students to do their work.
All of the courses available to students undergo an in-depth review process. For example, courses that are approved for credit in a major, such as Business Finance or History of the Modern Middle East, must first be approved by their respective departments. Department chairs consider the syllabus, the readings, assessments, and the qualifications of the instructor to insure the course meets the same academic standards as those offered at home. Secondly, courses are reviewed by the Advisory Committee for International Studies. Finally, the courses go through a similar review process at the University of New Haven, which is the official school of record. Additionally, courses that are approved to satisfy core requirements, e.g. the Fine Arts core, must be approved by the appropriate academic department and the Core Curriculum Review committee in addition to the review at UNH. Ryan McSweeney, a marketing major, is equally excited about his international marketing class which “has already introduced me to a whole other side of my major” as he is about taking a photography class that will take him out and about Rome for photo shoots. These two classes will enable Ryan to keep up with the requirements for his major and also satisfy a core fine arts requirement.
Brynn Gilligan is a Sociology and Business major. Her favorite class so far is Italian, but she is also excited about the fact that many of her classes include site visits that will take her out and about in the city and its environs. All PC students also take a theology class entitled, The New Testament in the Eternal City. Students will participate in their first site visit to the “Scavi” beneath the Church of Santa Maria. Stay tuned for more.
Classes began at CEA. I remind our students that this is PC in Rome. That means that while they are acclimating to living in Rome, they must also begin their studies, with much the same expectations as if they were studying in Providence. All of the students are required to study Italian. This will enable […]MORE
After a full day of travel and checking into their homes for the semester, orientation began this week organized by the capable staff at CEA-Rome. Late August in Rome tends to be hot and humid. Students are simultaneously dealing with the weather, jet lag, culture shock, excitement, and trepidation. For Abigail Post, (Marketing)the language barrier is the biggest challenge, while Brenna Farley, a Management major, sees acclimating to the culture and lifestyle that is so different from her routine at home as her greatest personal challenge. All of this is normal, and the staff at CEA are trained and experienced in helping students acclimate to their new surroundings, responding to their concerns, and insuring that students are safe and happy in order to make the most of their experience. This week, central Italy was stricken with a 6.2 earthquake that left entire towns in Umbria devastated. This highlighted the importance of precautionary measures the CEA and PC have in place when natural or man-made disasters occur. Luckily, no on in our group was harmed in any way, but it certainly underscored the importance of knowing where our students are and how to contact them (and their families) in the event of an emergency.
Some highlights of the first orientation day included a frank discussion by the CEA staff and an Italian police detective on how to stay safe. The first day also included neighborhood tours that incorporated many practical suggestions such how to read a bus sign and use bus passes, how to shop in a grocery store, and where to find ATM’s, post offices, and other services.
PC students live in apartments in the Prati neighborhood of Rome. Rather than living segregated in dorms, they live in buildings with Italian neighbors—in some ways, this immersion experience—taking out the garbage, walking to class, shopping in local markets, eating at local restaurants and cafes– can be one of the most transformative aspects of study abroad. These are learning experiences in and of themselves.
Several students identified becoming immersed in Italian culture as one of their “fondest hopes” for the upcoming semester. Chris Chiocco, a Finance major, hopes he will “come away with a proficiency along with a true appreciation of their culture,” while others expressed the hope they could become “cultural sponges.” Andrew McLaughlin hopes he will feel at home and not want to leave. As participants of the PC-Rome program, students are not just visitors; they become inhabitants of the local community. Long after they may have forgotten what they learned in a particular class, they will have vivid memories of their daily lives in Rome.
During our first PC orientation session, we reviewed many of the policies and procedures, recognizing that jet lag can be debilitating, particularly in the first few days. More importantly, I also asked students to identify their personal challenges and goals for this semester. Daintry Calnan, (Marketing) hopes she will be able to make the most of the opportunities, and “to learn more about myself.” Katlin Foster (Finance) aspires to enhance her “ability to communicate with many different people internationally.” Bridgette Clarke, a Theology major, hopes her study abroad will enhance her “love and knowledge of the Church’s history and provide me with insight and tools to continue to serve the Church later on in life.” Jennifer Dorn, an English and Theater Arts double major, hopes to “enhance my artistic and cultural knowledge and awareness.” Nicholas Sweeney (Finance and Management) hopes to learn more about foreign policies, and Jake Karas (Finance) aspires to enhance his understanding of the global economy.
During the next several months, we will, at our monthly meetings, PC Friday excursions, and other times together, ask them to be mindful of how their understanding of Italian and/or European culture has changed and grown, how their own sense of identity as Americans has developed, and finally how their personal sense of self has been changed as a result of their experiences, both academic and cultural.
Classes begin on Monday. Academic work in a foreign setting has its own sets of challenges.
A prossimo (Until the next time)
After a full day of travel and checking into their homes for the semester, orientation began this week organized by the capable staff at CEA-Rome. Late August in Rome tends to be hot and humid. Students are simultaneously dealing with the weather, jet lag, culture shock, excitement, and trepidation. For Abigail Post, (Marketing)the […]MORE
Bongiorno, mi chiamo Margaret Manchester! I am honored and privileged to have been chosen as the next Faculty Resident Director for the PC-Rome program. I am a historian who has been teaching at Providence College for many years, teaching in the Development of Civilization and the American Studies programs, and offering a variety of American history courses. My area of specialization is American diplomatic history and the history of the Cold War. As a historian and the first non-theologian to be directing the program, I am, just like our students, preparing for the semester ahead.
As an undergraduate at Georgetown University, I spent a year studying at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. I well remember both the excitement and the feelings of trepidation as I prepared for my study abroad those long years ago. It was a transformative experience that continues to affect my life profoundly.
Our director at the time was a retired Jesuit priest, Fr. George Dunne. Fr. Dunne had served in China as a young priest where he spoke out against oppression and the violation of human rights. In the US, he spoke out against racism, injustice, and the Vietnam War–sometimes challenging his own Catholic institutions. He was also a poet, playwright, and scholar. We were young and rambunctious, some of us experiencing both independence and being away from the US for the first time. He was patient, knowledgeable, and had a wry sense of humor. I hope and pray that I may carry out my responsibilities with the same grace as he did. If you are interested in reading more about this remarkable person, click here.
The CEA staff in Rome are capable, well-organized, and work together to insure the well-being and safety of the students. They and I will do everything in our power to help our students make the most of this immersion experience in Rome and contribute to their lifelong passion.
Fino alla prossima volta (Until the next time!) Go Friars!
Bongiorno, mi chiamo Margaret Manchester! I am honored and privileged to have been chosen as the next Faculty Resident Director for the PC-Rome program. I am a historian who has been teaching at Providence College for many years, teaching in the Development of Civilization and the American Studies programs, and offering a variety of American […]MORE
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This past week was final exam period and our lives were full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We enjoyed a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic semester last night and today most of the students are flying back home.
I like to say that “Rome is not a city, it’s a drug!” And all of us have become addicted! Already some of the students are planning a return trip to the Eternal City as soon as their bank accounts allow. The Italians believe that one way to assure a return to Rome is by throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. During the semester, all of us have thrown at least a few coins in that famous place.
For me, personally, this is more than just the end of another semester, but rather the end of my three year term as Faculty Resident Director here. I will be returning to the home campus in Providence after six wonderful semesters of having the blessing and the privilege of teaching Theology at the heart of the Church. Since the days of my doctoral studies in Rome at the Angelicum, I always dreamt of being able to teach in “the city of apostles, martyrs, and saints”. And these three years have been a dream come true.
During our last week together, I asked the students to share their thoughts about their experience with PC/CEA in Rome. I asked them to reflect on their time here in Rome and their experience of studying Theology. What they would say to a student back home who is considering studying abroad next year? What advice might they give to someone who was considering spending a semester in the Eternal City? Is there any reason why Rome should be the preferred place for studying Theology?
Here’s what some of them said:
“Rome might actually be the best place in the world to study theology, especially Catholic theology because of the historical and present relevance. You can’t go three blocks without passing some important church or site, with the biggest site, of course, being the Vatican.” Bryan Blum
“Studying theology in Rome is a unique experience because we have been able to learn not only from lectures and textbooks, but from the city itself. I have gained so much more insight about theology and also about my faith through the incredible sites that we have visited throughout the semester.” Alex Brady
“I think Rome is one of the most important places in the world to study theology. I have found that studying so close to the Vatican has given me so many opportunities to broaden my faith and learn more about Christianity than I ever could in a classroom in the states.” Abby Chave
“Rome is the ideal picture book to use to teach Catholics about the historical, political, and religious significance of their religion.” Caragh Corcoran
“The city of Rome is a visual theology in itself…” Lacey Sullivan
“Rome is the center for the theology of the Catholic religion and the heart of the Papacy. There is no better city to explore the beliefs of Catholicism than Rome…” Peter DiCenso
“The sites that we have visited this semester in the eternal city of Rome have brought theology to light in a whole new way that is unmatched by any other city.” Erin Wallace
“My experience of studying theology in Rome is much more than learning the history of the papacy or learning the different Christologies of the Gospels. Having the opportunity to study theology in Rome has brought me to a greater understanding of the values that Providence College stands for and how these values create such a strong sense of community.” Haley Grant McHugh
“Everyone knows that Rome is the center of the Catholic Church. However, it is not until you visit all the basilicas, catacombs, and historical sites firsthand while learning about the New Testament and its history that you truly understand what this entails. With every site you visit in Rome, you get a little better sense of the history and foundation of the Catholic Church and how it is still relevant in your life today.” Jamie Russo
“Rome holds the threshold of the apostles, over 500 churches, and an undeniable spiritual richness that attracts pilgrims worldwide. Studying in Rome and studying theology go hand in hand, complimenting each other in a way that allows the pilgrim to see both in a new and invaluable way, that has the potential to reshape from the inside out.” Alley Harbour
“The amount of Christian history that is available in our backyard is amazing… Rome is filled with historic sites that have shaped the foundations of Christianity. I would not want to study theology anywhere else.” Griffin Colpitts
“Studying theology in Rome is a fantastic opportunity because Rome is the center of the Catholic faith. There is no better way to learn about Peter, Paul, and their teachings on which the Church was built than doing so minutes from their burial sites.” Marco Scozzari
“To study theology in Rome has been truly an incredible experience. It has given me the opportunity to really learn about and understand my faith in an entirely new and enlightening way… through the visual theology we were so lucky to be able to witness on our weekly site visits here in Rome, the center of the Catholic faith.” Nick Berardi
“Studying prominent figures in the Bible has been an incredible learning experience, but there is definitely something special that happens when you get to see what you are learning come to life through the visual theology. Studying in Rome has enhanced my understanding of Theology because of our site-visits.” Paige Silengo
“I believe that it is important to study theology in Rome because of the rich spiritual history that lies deep in the roots of Roman history.” Grace King
“I really feel that there is no better place to learn about Christianity that here in Rome. In just about four months, we’ve visited so many locations that are important to Christianity. We’ve walked through the holy doors, gone to the Papal Audience, visited the basilicas of Peter and Paul, and seen some of the oldest frescoes including images of Mary and the infant Jesus. We would not have been to experience these things in any other country!” Gianna Luciano
“In college, it is easy to forget the foundations of your faith that you were taught when you were younger. Being in Rome and not only learning about the beginnings of Christianity, but also being able to see the places where they happened, or great churches erected in honor of saints and martyrs, it gives it such a deeper meaning.” Lilly Steeves
Student quotes like these – and many others in past Blogs during these six semesters – say more than I ever could in an executive summary or an administrative report about my time here. I’m convinced that the PC in Rome Program flows from the very heart of the Catholic, Dominican mission of the College. And each year student testimonies have confirmed that.
I would like to end my final Blog with one more quotation. It’s a well-known quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow concerning Rome and it expresses quite well my thoughts and feelings during my bittersweet departure from this beautiful city.
“There is the centre to which all gravitates.
One finds no rest elsewhere than here.
There may be other cities that please us for a while,
but Rome alone completely satisfies.
It becomes to all a second native land by predilection,
and not by accident of birth alone.”
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This past week was final exam period and our lives were full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We enjoyed a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic […]MORE
All of our day trips and Friday excursions have as their goal some sort of Italian cultural immersion. But this outing could have even been dubbed an “environmental immersion”. The Ninfa Gardens, declared a protected natural monument in 2000, include ruins of a medieval town, an English-style romantic garden, a 17th century hortus conclusus, a river, and a lake. The best time for viewing is the Spring with an extravaganza of blooming plants, flowers, and trees.
This day trip was part of the curriculum of the popular “Environmental Ethics” and “The History of the Culture of Food and Wine in Italy” classes offered to P.C. students this semester by CEA. Not a bad homework assignment!
Ninfa combines history, architecture, and nature. One of the internationally famous aspects of the Gardens is its micro-climate and rare eco-system due to its location between the two contrasting geological formations of the Pontine plain and the Lepini hills. It faces south and has at least four natural springs feeding the gardens with pure spring water and keeping the atmosphere temperate.
It is well known that Pope Francis has made environmental awareness part of his pontificate. His 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si, is a breakthrough in papal teaching concerning the common care of creation. In numerous speeches and press conferences the Pope has emphasized the moral dimensions of protecting the environment. Both the Environmental Ethics class and the Italian Food and Wine Culture class have considered this important document of Pope Francis.
Our tour of the Ninfa Gardens complex not only provided a wonderful Spring day experience of sights, sounds (over 150 types of birds!), and smells (so many flowers in bloom!), in anticipation of Earth Day next week, it also gave us a chance to think about Genesis and the human responsibility of the stewardship of creation.
Last week the Providence College in Rome program had an academic excursion to the famous Ninfa Gardens, a beautiful nature reserve south of Rome. All of our day trips and Friday excursions have as their goal some sort of Italian cultural immersion. But this outing could have even been dubbed an “environmental immersion”. The Ninfa Gardens, […]MORE
This week the P.C. in Rome program hosted the second academic colloquium of the Spring semester. Our topic was “Muslims in Europe: Immigration and Integration”. Academic colloquia are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to speak about their field, their recent research, and implications for current events.
Our distinguished speaker was Dr. Mustafa Cenap Aydin, director of the Tevere Institute for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue here in Rome. The title of his hour long presentation was “The Youngest Son of Abraham and/ of/ to Europe: Muslims in Europe between Immigration, Violence, and Dialogue”.
Currently he is a visiting fellow at the Institute for the Study of Philosophy, Politics, and Religion at the Wolfson College, in Cambridge, England. His remarks were the result of his current scholarship. He began with a discussion of the relationship between majority and minority religions in the history of Europe, tracing the emergence of Christianity and later Islam in Europe.
Dr. Aydin then unpacked the notions of citizenship and religion as well as how secularism has been defined in European history. He also stressed the definitions of “Islam(s) and Islamism(s)” suggesting that Islam is not monolithic either in its history or in its current manifestations.
Perhaps the most challenging part of his talk was about the growth of the modern nation state and realities of secular citizenship. That is, a model of citizenship wherein religion is not and cannot be expressed in the public sphere.
Through the use of historical and contemporary examples, Dr. Aydin outlined citizenship and religious identity issues facing Muslims in Europe. The discussion was helpful in giving our students a wider perspective, a cultural sensitivity, and a religious appreciation of what the European Union is facing in the re-emergence of Islam in its member states. “Identity politics” is a very hot topic, and one which the students can now understand, perhaps, on a much deeper level.
This week’s academic colloquium helped to raise the level of academic engagement among students and faculty. It’s experiences like this that help to ensure that our time here is not spent simply in “study tourism” but in “study abroad” – learning in the context of a culture and society that is different from our own.
This week the P.C. in Rome program hosted the second academic colloquium of the Spring semester. Our topic was “Muslims in Europe: Immigration and Integration”. Academic colloquia are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to […]MORE
This week the PC in Rome program had its first academic colloquium of the semester. These colloquia are organized a few times a semester by CEA and the PC Center for Theology and Religious Studies. They are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to speak about their field, their recent research, and implications for current events.
This semester it was decided to focus on the immigration crisis in the European Union. There is a course running at CEA this Spring called: “Immigration, Race, and Identity” and the professor, Dr. Volker Kaul, invited a colleague, Dr. Daniele Archibugi, to offer an academic colloquium on this challenging and controversial topic.
Dr. Archibugi is a research director at the Italian National Research Council in Rome and is affiliated with the Institute on Population and Social Policy. His work centers on the economics and policy of innovation and technological change and on the political theory of international relations.
Dr. Archibugi began his lecture tracing the history of the refugee crisis in Europe after the Second World War. The creation of the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention and its critera for seeking asylum and the principle of “non-refoulement” were the focus of his remarks. After this historical overview, he explained the current crisis in the E.U. and offered some observations on the obligations of the international community, the necessity of welfare and financial assistance, and the uneven burden of refugees across the various countries.
The lecture went on to unpack the challenges facing refugees including integration into the host society, problems of public order, unemployment, and aspirations of citizenship. He also explained the creation of new political parties in Europe specifically to close the borders to refugees and combat immigration.
His talk challenged the students with some thought provoking questions near the end: How do we distinguish economic migrants from refugees? How can benefits for immigrants be standardized across the E.U.? And, after one year, are these people still refugees?
The notion of “hospitality” was his final challenge. Yes, most E.U. citizens want to be hospitable to those seeking asylum for political, racial, and religious reasons. But, as a community of nations, the E. U. needs to decide how much of the burden is given to each country. A standardized system of “welcome and welfare” needs to be articulated for all countries.
After the lecture, I reminded some of the P.C. students that Pope Francis has spoken many times on the topic of refugees and immigration in his homilies, Angelus messages, and public speeches. In fact, just recently on Palm Sunday, during his homily, he departed from his prepared text to speak about this issue.
Diverting from his prepared remarks, the pope drew a parallel between Jesus being abandoned to his fate and European countries that are refusing to help the more than 1 million immigrants that have fled to Europe seeking refuge from persecution, war, and hunger in Iraq, Syria, and northern Africa.
Jesus was “denied every justice,” the pope said. “Jesus also suffered on his own skin indifference, because no one wanted to take on the responsibility for his destiny.” “I am thinking of so many other people, so many marginalized people, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees,” Francis said. “There are so many who don’t want to take responsibility for their destiny.”
“There they are, at the border, because so many doors and so many hearts are closed,” he said. “Today’s migrants suffer from the cold, without food, and with no way to enter. They don’t feel welcome.”
This week’s academic colloquium helped to raise the level of academic engagement among students and faculty. It’s experiences like this that help to ensure that our time here is not spent simply in “study tourism” but in “study abroad” – learning in the context of a culture and society that is different from our own.
This week the PC in Rome program had its first academic colloquium of the semester. These colloquia are organized a few times a semester by CEA and the PC Center for Theology and Religious Studies. They are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of […]MORE