Up to 10,000 academics to descend on Rome

May 26, 2000

The Vatican is offering the world's television networks an advertisement depicting a white dove taking off from a university lecture hall and winging its way to St Peter's basilica.

The video promotes the University Jubilee, set for September 9-10 in Rome, as one of the events in the Catholic church's celebrations of the year 2000.

The Vatican has invited "all the rectors, all the university ministers, all the academics of the world" to Rome to discuss the role of universities, for an audience with Pope John Paul II and for a special mass in St Peter's.

In the week leading up to the event, 1,500 academics will hold seminars and conferences on 59 themes, both in Rome and in universities around Italy.

According to Father Lello Iacobone, from the Vatican's commission for culture, 6,000 to 10,000 rectors, academics, higher education administrators and students are expected.

"We have invited everyone connected to the world of universities to come. So far we are certain of about 6,000 people, but we expect many more acceptances by September.

"The event focuses mainly on academics and university chaplains, but we also expect some students to come as delegates of their universities. No distinction is being made between academics who are Catholics, of other religions or atheists. Some universities are participating as a whole, while from others certain academics will take part as individuals. A number of Nobel prizewinners will be present," said Father Lello.

He explained that an essential element of the Catholic jubilee, which this time is vastly emphasised by the celebration of 2,000 years of Christianity, is the concept of charity.

"Just as one can make a pilgrimage, help the poor or take a vow as an expression of charity, so we are asking the world's academics to contribute their wisdom, knowledge and research, without profit to themselves, but as an act of charity. The main purpose of the Rome meeting, beyond the religious event itself, will be to discuss the present and future role of the world's universities," he said.

Monsignor Crescenzio Sepe, secretary of the Vatican's jubilee committee, added: "The idea is that culture is a means of meeting with God. This event is part of the church's long and fertile tradition and of John Paul II's constant efforts for dialogue with the world of universities."

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