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Board of Trustees holds meetings in Rome

Maddie Hanna & Heather Van Hoegarden | Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Board of Trustees will convene in Rome for its annual winter meetings today and Wednesday to meet with key Vatican leaders, participate in an academic conference and confer two honorary degrees.

The five-day trip gives the University an added avenue to understand how to serve the Church, University spokesman Dennis Brown said Monday.

“Whether the board meets in Rome or not isn’t essential to Notre Dame’s commitment to serve the Church,” Brown said. “The University has been for many years, and remains, fully committed to that end. This trip gives the trustees and officers greater insight into how we can deepen our efforts in this regard.”

Brown said he was unsure if University President Father John Jenkins was going to meet Pope Benedict XVI, elected in April 2005, while in Rome. The last time a Notre Dame president met the pope was in July 2001 when then-University President Father Edward “Monk” Malloy met with the late Pope John Paul II, Brown said.

Brown said the idea of meeting in Rome stemmed from a past plan to have a Board of Trustees meeting there, one that never manifested itself. As a result, a meeting in this location has been on the Board’s agenda for several years. With Jenkins taking office on July 1, 2005, it seemed like an appropriate time to have the winter meeting in Rome, Brown said.

Brown also said it was unrelated to Jenkins’ recent addresses to students and faculty on academic freedom and Catholic character, issues that have prompted much discussion on campus over the past week.

“The board was scheduled to meet in Rome a couple of years ago, but the trip was postponed, in part because the University took steps at the time to reduce costs during a downturn in the U.S. economy,” Brown said. “With Father Jenkins’ new administration now in place, this seemed like an ideal time to make the trip as a way to renew previous relationships and make new ones.”

Trustees will meet with numerous Vatican officials, including representatives of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Secretariat of State.

The conference, entitled “Contribution of Catholic Universities to the Church and Culture,” will feature addresses by Jenkins, Rino Fisichella, auxiliary bishop of Rome and rector of St. John (Pontifical) Lateran University, and Notre Dame Trustee Daniel Jenky, bishop of Peoria, Ill.

During the conference, Fisichella will speak on “The Role of the Roman Universities,” Jenky will address “The Congregation of Holy Cross and Catholic Education,” and Jenkins will deliver an address entitled “Notre Dame: A Catholic University within American Academe.” His address comes a little over a week after he sparked campus dialogue on academic freedom and Notre Dame’s Catholic character.

The honorary degrees will be presented to Fisichella and L. Frances Rooney III, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

Fisichella was appointed to his position as rector of the Pontifical Lateran University by the late Pope John Paul II in 2001 and served as a primary contributor to John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical on faith and reason.

Last June, Fisichella visited Notre Dame to address a bishop’s conference.

Rooney, the former chief executive officer of Manhattan Construction Company, is the seventh U.S. ambassador to the Holy See since full diplomatic relations were established in 1984. He is a member of the Notre Dame School of Architecture Advisory Council.

Student government representatives will not be present at the meeting, but a brief report to update Trustees on the group’s initiatives since October was sent to Vice President of Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman, student body president Dave Baron said.

Poorman will present the topics – community relations, the Transpo partnership, Eating Disorders Awareness Week, diversity and cultural competency and the Catholic Think Tank lecture series – in the “State of Student Government” executive summary to the Board’s Student Affairs committee.

Brown said although the Board’s agenda for the meeting is not made public, he expects there to at least be some work on the budget.

“The winter meeting always includes work on the budget,” Brown said.