By Vatican News staff reporter
Emilce Cuda, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, led a group of university professors in meeting with Pope Francis on Friday, as part of an initiative linked to the Synod of Bishops.
The team of professors hail from Loyola University in Chicago, and were part of the group that held a virtual meeting with the Pope on 24 February entitled “Building Bridges North-South”.
Other educators from the United States and various Latin American universities took part in the papal audience and are holding a series of other meetings at the Holy See.
Synodal process in universities
They aim to promote a “university synodal process”, according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office.
The group will announce the launch of jointly-taught courses—in both humanistic areas and the hard sciences—to be offered at universities across North and South America.
“The objective, in line with the teaching of the current pontiff, is to generate processes of technology transfer and knowledge integration between both hemispheres to promote ecological reform,” reads the statement.
The courses will also focus on several ongoing issues, including migration, energy policy, and “the food crisis.”
'Friendly and concrete meeting with Pope'
Following the papal audience, Dr. Peter Jones, Interim Dean and Professor at the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University Chicago, spoke to Fr. Felipe Herrera about the encounter.
Q: What was the purpose of your visit to Rome and the aim of this meeting with Pope Francis?
We came to Rome after our meeting with students and Pope Francis. We began to construct a way for university students to participate and listen to each other in a way that mimics or is analogous to the Synod process.
And Dr. Cuda, who had partnered with us to develop the program, shared the information with Pope Francis, and he was excited about that, and he agreed to come and talk with the students. That was on February 24th. So, this meeting is to follow up with that meeting and to continue the work to develop more opportunities for students to connect with the Synod process around the world.
Q: What was the key message Pope Francis gave you this morning, and how was this experience?
Meeting the Pope was personally extraordinary. I've never experienced anything like that. He was warm. He was friendly. He was laughing with us and shared the joy that he felt when he met with the students.
Our conversation was very flexible. We talked about many things. We talked about life in the university. We talked about the experience and transformation of the students. We presented to him a gift, including messages and prayers for him from the students who participated in our events.
The core message today was the need to teach students by modeling ourselves as leaders, listening skills to accept the reality of crisis, of tension, of disagreements, and to commit to a relationship, to work through those moments of transformation in order to find a new reality together, to build a new future together.
Tension is healthy, and we can approach it in a healthy way. And he emphasized that with us more than once.
Q: How do you think that the encouragement you have received this morning from the Pope will impact all the projects that you are fostering with the university?
We are here for one week, and this is our first working meeting about the work that we're doing. And Pope Francis wanted to meet with us for the full 45 minutes in order to encourage us, to support us.
It’s his support that’s invaluable in pulling together the resources and the persons necessary for this to be successful. The Pope desires action just like students.
Students are tired of hearing leaders talk and do nothing. The Pope is encouraging us. With his support, we will be able to support the students, pursue their actions, and continue this important work of collaborating with students across the world, especially across the Americas, where we began with our events on February 24th, but even more importantly, students around the world.