By Devin Watkins
As the world marks 100 years since the birth of Karol Wojtyla, the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome inaugurates an Saint John Paul II Institute of Culture within the Faculty of Philosophy in JPII’s name.
Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope, studied philosophy at the Angelicum from 1946 until 1948. The new institute is supported by two Polish foundations, Futura Iuventa and Saint Nicholas.
JPII: Inspiration and architect
To commemorate the new cultural institute, Pope Francis sent a letter on Monday to the Angelicum’s Rector, Fr. Michał Paluch, O.P., who hails from Poland.
The Pope said JPII is both “the inspiration behind this project and its first and most important architect.”
He added that the Polish Pope left the Church a “rich and multifaceted heritage” due to “the example of his open and contemplative spirit, his passion for God and man, for creation, history and art.”
Deep esteem for humanity
Pope Francis wrote that John Paul II always sought to interpret historical events and personal sufferings in the light of the Holy Spirit. This attitude, said the Pope, led him to reflect deeply on man and his culture roots “as an essential reference point for every proclamation of the Gospel.”
He recalled that JPII, in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, wrote that the “missionary attitude always begins with a feeling of deep esteem for ‘what is in man’, for what man has himself worked out in the depths of his spirit concerning the most profound and important problems.”
“We need to keep this approach alive,” said Pope Francis, “if we wish to be an outward-looking Church, not satisfied with preserving and administering what already exists but seeking to be faithful to our mission.”
Interpreting today’s cultural challenges
The Pope expressed his appreciation that the JPII Institute of Culture is part of the Angelicum University.
“The Angelicum,” he wrote, “houses an academic community comprising professors and students from throughout the world and is a fitting place for interpreting the important challenges of today’s cultures.”
He said the Dominican tradition – which guides the university – will certainly favor the project, “so that it will be characterized by the courage of the truth, freedom of spirit and intellectual honesty.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis expressed his best wishes for the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture, and imparted his Apostolic Blessing upon all those involved.