Pope Francis met with a delegation of professors from Loyola University Chicago on Friday morning, 13 May. The group was led by Dr Emilce Cuda, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America ( Cal ).
Loyola University, a Jesuit institution, in collaboration with the Cal , had organized the event, “Building Bridges North-South”, on 24 February. During that event, the Pope had joined the conversation via video call to speak with students representing North and South America. The initiative will be followed by other encounters with the Holy See to promote a global university synodal process.
The delegation announced the innovative launch of jointly-taught academic courses, in both the humanities and hard sciences, offered by universities in North, Central and South America. The goal is to promote ecological reform by generating “processes of technology transfer and knowledge integration between both hemispheres”. Migration, energy policy and the food crisis are at the centre of this project, which counts on Pope Francis’ support.
At the meeting with the Pope on 13 May, Vatican Media’s Felipe Herrera-Espaliat spoke with Peter Jones, a professor at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago: “We came to Rome”, explained Jones, because after the 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”.
What was the key message Pope Francis gave you this morning, and how would you describe the experience of personally meeting the Pope?
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 event. The core message today was the need to teach students by modelling ourselves as leaders, listening skills, to accept the reality of crisis, of tension, of disagreement, 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.
How do you think 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 event on February 24th, but even more importantly, students around the world”.