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Vatican conference to consider “new methods” for university chaplaincies

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education will hold a conference in November, looking at ways to renew university pastoral care.

By Joseph Tulloch

From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been calling the Church to a “pastoral and missionary conversion”.

But, according to Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, “little has been done” in the context of university chaplaincies.

That’s why the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education – which Cardinal Tolentino heads – is organising a conference this November, bringing together university professors and pastoral workers from all around the Catholic world to reflect on ways to renew university pastoral care.

New methods and emphases

In a speech to the International Federation of Catholic Universities earlier this year, Cardinal Tolentino identified two ways in which this renewal might be brought about.   

The first, he said, is to recognize the importance that young people place on social engagement.

“There are many young people willing to engage in voluntary work, active citizenship and social solidarity initiatives,” he said, and they “must be accompanied and encouraged.”

“Social engagement and direct contact with the poor,” the Portuguese Cardinal stressed, are “crucial opportunities to discover or deepen one's faith and discern one's vocation.”

The second opportunity to reform university chaplaincies, Cardinal Tolentino said, is deeper engagement with culture. This is why, he explained, Pope Francis recently merged the Vatican’s Culture and Education departments: the idea is to “search for more synergies between the two, risking even more.”

The upcoming conference, Cardinal Tolentino writes, will therefore aim to “reinforce our programs of university pastoral care with new methods and emphases … rendering them open to what is new and to the demands of today’s cultural circumstances.”


The conference – which will begin on Thursday 23rd November – will last a day and a half, coming to an end around midday on Friday.

On Thursday morning, Cardinal Tolentino will address the conference. He will be followed by Fr Antonio Spadaro, the longtime editor of Jesuit review La Civilita’ Cattolica and newly appointed to the Dicastery for Culture and Education.

Thursday will also see a round-table discussion on the subject of “culture and young people” and  presentations from those working in university pastoral ministry in the Ivory Coast, France, Brazil, Chile, South Korea and the US.

The aim of these sessions, Cardinal Tolentino writes, is not just to “analyse and reflect on the aim and mission of university pastoral care”, but also to “listen to what is happening in your own situation and share best practices in the field.”

On Friday morning, participants will gather in St Peter’s Basilica for Mass, before a private meeting with the Pope.

The event schedule
The event schedule

Registrations for the conference are open until the 31st October. See here for more details.

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16 October 2023, 15:03