By David Kerr
The Vatican has announced it is stripping the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru of its Catholic identity after the elite university repeatedly refused to comply with the Church’s requirements for colleges.
“The Holy See, with Decree of His Eminence the Secretary of State, under a specific Pontifical mandate, has decided to remove from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru the right to use in its name the titles “Pontifical” and “Catholic” in accordance with canon law,” reads a Vatican statement issued in Spanish and Italian on July 21.
Today’s move follows months of discussions between both sides, which began after a 2011 Vatican inspection of the university carried out by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest. He traveled to Peru, where he found the Lima-based institution at odds with the Catholic Church in several significant areas of policy.
Today’s statement explains that the university’s management has, in fact, continually refused to comply with the Church’s guidelines over the past 22 years, despite numerous requests to do so by the Vatican.
It also reveals that the Peruvian university’s management sent two letters in recent months to the Vatican’s Secretary, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, re-confirming their “inability to implement the requirements” of changing their statutes.
The statement notes that the university has also been defying a ruling by the Peruvian civil courts to give the Archdiocese of Lima a seat on its board of directors.
The guidelines on what is expected of an authentically Catholic university were laid out in the papal document “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” which was promulgated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II.
The Pontifical University of Peru was founded in 1917 and was awarded its pontifical status by Pope Pius XII in 1942. It currently has over 16,000 undergraduate students and is regarded as one of the top universities in Peru.
Its alumni include President Ollanta Humala of Peru, as well as his immediate predecessor, Alan García, and the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. In 1986 the university gave an honorary doctorate to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
The July 21 Vatican statement concluded with the promise that “the Holy See will continue to monitor the situation of the University” in the hope that the academic authorities will reconsider their position “in the near future.”
“The renewal requested by the Holy See will make the University more capable of responding to the task of bringing the message of Christ to man, society and culture, according to the mission of the Church in the world.”