Audience with Pope Francis

On January 30, 2014, Pope Francis held an audience with Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. and the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees. Below is a transcript of the remarks offered by Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Your Holiness, I am the President of the University of Notre Dame, along with the Trustees of the University. And it is our tremendous honor to be with you and extend to you, on behalf of the whole university, the most affectionate greetings.

We are proud to be a Catholic university, “born from the heart of the Church.” We strive to be a community of scholars devoted to the pursuit of reason in harmony with faith. We were founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross, whose founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, said that “education is the art of helping young people to completeness.” And we’re proud to educate people, to serve humanity and to serve the Church with deep faith.

It’s also our great joy and privilege to serve the Church in many ways: through, for example, the Alliance for Catholic Education which serves Catholic schools in the United States and throughout the world; through the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, founded through the inspiration of Pope Paul VI after his visit with the patriarch in 1964, that fosters ecumenical dialogue and interfaith dialogue.

In all these ways, Holy Father, we’re proud to be a Catholic university. We’re proud to be here with you. We celebrate the founding of a new center in Rome for our students and our faculty so we can serve the Holy See more faithfully.

Holy Father, on our campus on the main, historic building, there is a beautiful golden dome. And on the top of it a golden statue of Our Lady, who is the patroness of the university. It’s a reminder that we do our work under her guidance and protection.

Holy Father, as a memento of our visit, we have for you a gift: a sculpture of the Visitation of Our Lady with Elizabeth, with Jesus and John the Baptist in their wombs, in whose embrace the Church was born. We give it to you as a presentation of our devotion to our faith and our dedication to serving the Church and our inspiration, by this visit, to do that more often. 

Thank you for this visit. Thank you for your leadership of our Church. We ask for your prayers.


Below is a transcript of the remarks offered by Pope Francis.

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet the Trustees of Notre Dame University on the occasion of your meeting in Rome, which coincides with the inauguration of the University’s Rome Center. I am confident that the new Center will contribute to the University’s mission by exposing students to the unique historical, cultural and spiritual riches of the Eternal City, and by opening their minds and hearts to the impressive continuity between the faith of Saints Peter and Paul, and the confessors and martyrs of every age, and the Catholic faith passed down to them in their families, schools and parishes.

From its founding, Notre Dame University has made an outstanding contribution to the Church in your country through its commitment to the religious education of the young and to serious scholarship inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth and virtue. Conscious of the critical importance of this apostolate for the new evangelization, I express my gratitude for the commitment which Notre Dame University has shown over the years to supporting and strengthening Catholic elementary and secondary school education throughout the United States.

The vision which guided Father Edward Sorin and the first religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross in establishing the University of Notre Dame du Lac remains, in the changed circumstances of the twenty-first century, central to the University’s distinctive identity and its service to the Church and American society. In my Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, I stressed the missionary dimension of Christian discipleship, which needs to be evident in the lives of individuals and in the workings of each of the Church’s institutions. This commitment to “missionary discipleship” ought to be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities (cf._Evangelii Gaudium_, 132-134), which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life. Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors. It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!

Dear friends, I ask you to pray for me as I strive to carry out the ministry which I have received in service to the Gospel, and I assure you of my prayers for you and for all associated with the educational mission of Notre Dame University. Upon you and your families, and in a particular way, upon the students, faculty and staff of this beloved University, I invoke the Lord’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace, and cordially impart my Blessing.