Douai College in the 18th Century Douai College in the 18th Century 

Durham University: pioneering Catholic education

British prelates, theologians and scholars are gathered at the Centre for Catholic Studies in Durham marking the 450th Anniversary of the founding of the first English Seminary outside of England.

By John Waters

2018 marks the 450th Anniversary of the founding of the first English Seminary outside of England, in Douai, Belgium. As part of the anniversary celebrations, Prelates, Theologians and Scholars are gathered at the Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham, for a conference entitled “450 years of pioneering Catholic education, past, present and future.”  The conference runs from 30th April to 1st May.

Catholic education 

The conference is examining many aspects of Catholic education, particularly involving Seminary formation during the Reformation years, the re-establishing of Seminaries in England following the re-legalising of Catholicism in the 19th Century and the impact of the Second Vatican Council on English Seminaries. Ushaw College, a disused Catholic Seminary outside of Durham city itself, is hosting the conference.

University–encounter between faith and culture

The final event of the conference comes on 1 May with the Bishop Kevin Dunn memorial lecture. This year the lecture takes the form of a public conversation between Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Bishop Paul Tighe entitled “Universities as places of encounter between faith and culture”.

As president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Ravasi has spent much of his time at the Council for Culture promoting dialogue between the Church and other institutions and groups. Bishop Paul Tighe Secretary of the same dicastery had expressed in 2016 on his nomination to that position to connect with universities “because the universities are in the business of reflecting on and creating new cultures.”

Centre for Catholic Studies

The Centre for Catholic Studies is located within the University of Durham and, according to its website “represents a creative partnership between academy and church: a centre within the pluralist, public academy for critically constructive Catholic studies of the highest academic standing.” The centre aims to form and develop future generations of Catholic scholars, as well as promoting an interdisciplinary approach to research projects, aiming to apply Catholic theology across all aspects of life.

The city of Durham has a long association with theology and church scholarship. It’s most famous son is Venerable Bede. Bede was an 8th Century monk and scholar who spent most of his life working in the North East of England. His writings include many commentaries on different books of the Bible as well as works on science and music. He also chronicled the most detailed account of the settling the date of Easter, a major church controversy at the time. However, it is his “Ecclesial history of the English people” for which he is best known. He is also the only Englishman to be named as a Doctor of the Church. His tomb can be visited at Durham Cathedral.

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30 April 2018, 11:34