Cardinal Vincent Nichols has praised St Mary’s University, of which he is chancellor, for preserving its Catholic identity.
His remarks were contained in an address to graduates at a degree ceremony on Thursday.
The cardinal said: “There is nothing narrow or insular in this Catholic vision of education. It is open to all truly human endeavour.”
Cardinal Nichols praised St Mary’s as “a most important point of contact” between British higher education and the Church. He added: “That engagement, if it is to be fruitful, requires that wonderful combination of openness and faithfulness: openness to the other, to every academic discipline, to the wide range of challenges facing our world, facing every individual today; and faithfulness to who we are and the richness of truth and beauty that the eyes of faith reveal in the soul of every person and in the created world and its unfolding.”
St Mary’s has recently strengthened its Catholic identity with the launch of the Benedict XVI Centre, a new research hub which is intended to bring the Catholic tradition into dialogue with today’s political, social and economic questions.
It has also made a series of high-profile appointees, including Francis Campbell, the former ambassador to the Holy See; Ruth Kelly, the former education secretary; and, earlier this week the Churchill scholar John Charmley.
Writing for the Catholic Herald, Kelly said that it was “essential” St Mary’s didn’t “try to blur our Catholic identity”, and that it should help to form a political culture “in which faith is openly expressed, and views of human wellbeing arising from faith are debated, challenged and scrutinised alongside others”.
St Mary’s is also hoping to improve academic standards, a goal Cardinal Nichols said was complementary to “the openness to the transcendent, to the spiritual, which is a formative characteristic of every human being, revealed in its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ”.
The cardinal said that it was a “great joy” to see the engagement between Catholicism and education “being developed, with such vigour, at St Mary’s University”.