Central and Eastern European Catholic University Conference in Esztergom May 20, 2019
Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPCU) had the honor of hosting a conference dedicated to Catholic Universities of Central and Eastern Europe titled 'Sustainability - on Social, Legal, Political and Environmental Basis', for the third time on 10-12 May in Esztergom, which event series dates back to 2003.
In 2003, by the initiative of University of Notre Dame (UND, Indiana) and the Nanovic Institute (related to studying Eastern and Central Europe), the Catholic University Partnership (CUP) was created to connect Catholic universities in the CEE region and to nurture mutual partnership in the area. It was designed similarly to the European Federation of Catholic Universities (FUCE) and the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), which consist the worldwide network of Catholic higher education institutions.
The Nanovic Institute, as a continuation of the legacy of its founder, considers its unique responsibility to support the Catholic universities of the region through scholarships and research programs, and the organization of an annual meeting dedicated to a current scientific topic.
PPCU was among the founding Catholic universities in 2003; moreover, the first symposium in the region was hosted by the Hungarian Catholic University between 30 September and 1 October 2005 in the Archbishop's Palace of Esztergom. The organizers laid the foundation for the annual meetings with the event in 2005, titled 'The Position and Challenge of the Central-Eastern European Catholic Universities'. Based on the first conference's practices, the most important issues are analyzed in the form of a presentation by a leading expert, followed by a roundtable discussion involving leaders of the participating universities. The 10th meeting was again organized by PPCU at the newly renovated Saint Adalbert Center in Esztergom focusing on higher education in secular Europe based on Pope Benedict XVI encyclical Caritas in veritate, which was issued on June 29, 2009.
This year's event, which is already the 15th conference, was again held at the Saint Adalbert Center by PPCU. Its theme centered around the issue of sustainability, not only from a scientific approach, but also extending to a moral, social, legal and political dimension, based on the encyclical Laudato si' written by Pope Francis, published on 24 May 2015.
PPCU was the first Catholic university to set up an independent international research center for sustainability ('Protection of all Creations') in 2016, which was granted institutional rank in 2017. PPCU was also the first to develop a master's degree program based on the principals of global sustainability of the Laudato si'.
The active participation in this international issue both in research and education at Catholic universities located in Central Europe, and the exchange of individual perspectives was facilitated by a discussion with prominent international experts in Esztergom.
Various institutions represented themselves at the scientific exchange, such as the Catholic University of Croatia, the Ukrainian Catholic University, the Catholic University in Ružomberok, the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, the Palacký University Olomouc, Graz University of Technology, the University of Notre Dame (Indiana), the John Templeton Foundation, and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Central and Eastern Europe delegate.
The participants of the conference were welcomed by archbishop Michael A. Blume, current Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary; William C. Donahue, Director of UND Nanovic Institute and Prof. Szabolcs Szuromi, Rector of PPCU.
Michael Blume emphasized that the topic and content of the conference were of great importance to institutions involved in either education or research. This is especially true for the network of Catholic universities. In his speech the apostolic nuncio pointed out that the area in question bears considerable responsibility, which directly affects the duty of conscience, as it its center lies the value of a person. As a frequent expression of Pope Francis, we are disciples of the Christian mission. This mission is a testimony of faith; it represents the closest bond to God. We must be a testimony of love and divine forgiveness to people, families, and communities. Catholic universities can serve the human community in many areas of sustainability, especially in areas where love and self-sacrifice are needed to express the presence of Christ among us, by working to create and preserve worthy conditions to people. Thus, the commitment to sustainability is a true mission that we offer to believers and non-believers as the experience of Christ's love.
Prof. Szabolcs Szuromi, Rector of PPCU, gave the first keynote speech of the conference on the formation, protection of classical values and comprehensive issues of sustainability in certain disciplines based on the Laudato si' encyclical ('Sustainability - protection of classical values'); followed by speeches and lectures of Dr. Subhas K. Sikdar, former Associate Director for Science for the National Risk Management Research Laboratory of the U.S. ('Contradictions in the area of sustainability: what, why and how?'); Prof. Michael Narodoslawsky of Graz University of Technology about the technical, economic and political challenges of sustainability; Prof. Željko Tanjić, Rector of the Catholic University of Croatia on theological aspects of sustainability; Dr. Emőke Korzenszky ('Ethical Imperatives of Global Sustainability') and Prof. Heriberto Cabezas, member of PPCU's Laudato si' Institute and head of the Bioethics Center ('Water, food and energy').
The lectures were followed by round-table discussions, in accordance with the usual procedures of the conference of Catholic universities in Central and Eastern Europe, with a particular focus on educational and research cooperation in the areas of concern.
On the closing day of the conference the progress of sustainability, family science, interfaith dialogue and new technical and biomedical principles of medical results which are analyzed on the basis of the teaching of the Catholic Church. The representatives of the participating institutions discussed the possibilities for cooperation. The conference concluded with a Solemn Mass, celebrated in the Basilica of Esztergom.
The next conference of Central and Eastern European Catholic universities will be held in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia in 2020.