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Pontiff impacted Catholic universities, ND presidents

Maddie Hanna | Monday, April 4, 2005

Although Pope John Paul II never stepped foot on God Quad or worshiped in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a number of indirect yet significant ties exist between the late pontiff and Notre Dame.Catholic universitiesPerhaps the pope’s most lasting impact on Notre Dame is his influence on Catholic education. In an April 25, 1989 address entitled “On the Catholic Universities,” the pope stressed the necessity of Catholic institutions in a world filled with challenges.”This Catholic character does not distort the university or restrict its legitimate autonomy as a place of moral formation and of free research; it recognizes and even confirms this autonomy, helping the university to realize its true nature and to overcome the dangers of distortion,” John Paul II said.During this time period, Malloy joined two other U.S. educators on a 15-member commission to help revise the pope’s Apostolic Constitution, a draft document released by the World Congress on Catholic higher education in November 1989.In the Sept. 26, 1990 issue of The Observer, Malloy said the draft “recognizes the significant role played by lay people [and] is strong in … affirmation of academic freedom.”Malloy added that the document “promoted a positive and friendly relationship between local bishops and Catholic institutions.”However, when the pope’s Ex Corde Eccelsiae came under the scrutiny of the nation’s bishops in November 1999, Malloy called the document’s potential impact on Catholic universities “positively dangerous,” according to an article in the Nov. 18, 1999 issue of The Observer.R. Scott Appleby, professor of history and director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, explained that Ex Corde was a comprehensive, broad-ranging statement about higher education unrelated to the 1990 Apostolic Constitution.”It was a papal document – Malloy had nothing to do with it,” Appleby said.He said the controversy was related to the issue of academic freedom and especially the pope’s mandate, which requires local bishops to approve theology professors at Catholic universities.”Malloy led the voices of those who wanted implementation of the papal document to reflect academic freedom,” Appleby said. “Even though [the University] is Catholic, the underlying principle is academic freedom, and Father Malloy is very much in that tradition. There’s no question that he wants to be Catholic but also a top-rate university.”Appleby said Malloy’s disagreement was not with the pope or the general statement but the method of implementation.However, Appleby said the approval of Ex Corde by U.S. bishops has not greatly harmed the academic freedom of Catholic universities.”Very few bishops have interpreted the mandate as requiring them to scrutinize in great detail everything that goes on in the classroom,” Appleby said.Malloy and Hesburgh remember “I’ve been with him in his chapel in the Vatican a couple of times, and that’s a very moving experience,” University President Father Edward Malloy told The Observer Thursday. “He’s clearly a man of deep prayer.”Malloy also worked with the pope on issues related to higher education and toured locations in Poland frequented by the late pontiff in his childhood. “I visited the church where he was baptized and the house where he lived in most of his life,” Malloy said.University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh met John Paul II right after the former Karol Woityla assumed the position at the Vatican, according to the South Bend Tribune.In a statement Saturday, Hesburgh referred to John Paul II as a “Pope for the World,” explaining that he “traveled millions of miles, to every corner of the earth, to bring his personal message of faith, hope and love to all of the world, not merely to Catholics.”ND appointments and titlesThe pope has appointed at least two priests with Notre Dame connections to higher positions in the church.In 1997, the pope named Father Daniel Jenky as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Prior to the nomination, Jenky, a Holy Cross priest, served as the rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.Theology department chair John Cavadini said the pope later appointed Jenky to bishop of Peoria, Ill.In 1995, the pope appointed Rev. Charles Schleck Titular Archbishop of Africa. Schleck graduated from Notre Dame in 1948 with an undergraduate degree in philosophy and served on the University’s faculty for a short period.In addition to making appointments, John Paul II made the Sacred Heart Church a minor basilica in 1992. In a Jan. 17, 1992 Observer article, Jenky said the title was “a papal recognition that Sacred Heart is a church with an international reputation; it is a center for prayer, pilgrimage and devotion and a place where the liturgy is done with amplified richness.”The pope’s giftThose attending Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart are undoubtedly drawn to the large painting of John Paul II surrounded by flowers. However, just to the left, a small crucifix sits unobtrusively on a table.This simple crucifix was actually a gift presented by the pope to Hesburgh, according to a plaque in front of the display.Family tiesIf the adage “blood is thicker than water” has any merit, then the pope has one essential and quasi-familial link to the surrounding Notre Dame community. South Bend, Ind. and Czestochowa, Poland are sister cities – Czestochowa being the site of John Paul II’s childhood home.Indiana governor Joe Kernan originally formed the sister city agreement in 1992 after visiting Poland when he was serving as mayor of South Bend.A press release from current South Bend mayor Stephen Luecke outlined the reasons for the agreement.”Along with the large Polish community of South Bend that draws much of its heritage from cities like Czestochowa, the two cities are also similar in size and in their common appeal to religious communities because of the University of Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Basilica and Czestochowa’s renowned monastery complex of Jasna Góra, the home of the famous Black Madonna,” the release said.