This year the Celebration of the University and of the Grand Chancellor which takes place every year at the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome (PUA) was enriched by a special anniversary: the centenary of the foundation of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem (SBF) , today the faculty of Biblical studies and Archaeology.
After the audience with the Pope in the Vatican, on 16 January, a conference dedicated entirely to the SBF of Jerusalem was held in the Aula Magna of the PUA: the large attendance as well as the heartfelt contributions by the speakers made clear the special meaning of this centenary, not only for the University but also for the Franciscan Order and for the whole of the Universal Church.
Historical reinterpretations, words of praise, memories, encouragements, projections on the future: all this contributed to making this day an important occasion to meet and remember the hundred years of this institution.
Excavating the text and the stones
The greeting by Prof. Augustin Hernandéz Vidales, Magnificent Rector of the Pontifical University Antonianum welcomed the Custos of the Holy Land, Fra Francesco Patton, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor and the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical University Antonianum Fra Massimo Fusarelli and all the academic authorities invited invited to the conference, coordinated by Fra Matteo Munari, lecturer at the SBF.
“Providence has decreed that we are the ones to celebrate the centenary of our beloved school,” Fra Rosario Pierri, Dean of the SBF began with great sentiment. “On 7 January 1924, the Custos Father Ferdinando Diotallevi, in his inaugural speech, wrote: “The school is opening with few teachers… and few students… But who can judge the afternoon from the first sunrise? Perhaps not all the summits have been illuminated.”
Excavating the text and the stones
Armand Puig i Tàrrech, President of AVEPRO (the Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of the quality of Ecclesiastical Faculties) emphasized “the great intellectual power of the Studium which has been able to excavate the text and the stones,” and the attention to research together with the quality of the studies that make this institution an academic excellence in the panorama of biblical and archaeological studies.
Cardinal José Tolentino De Medoça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, spoke of the inseparable bond of the Studium with the Holy Land “for the way in which historically it is linked to it and for how it effectively makes it not only circumstantially a place of education but the declared object of study.” He was not the only one to refer to the role that the Studium can bring to the Holy Land for a future of fraternity and peace “where the practice of hospitality becomes the architecture of a society in which the reciprocal collaboration of everyone and the choice of converging on the common good become reality.”
Prof. Giuseppe Buffon, Deputy Rector of the PUA, gave a keynote lesson entitled “Excavating God” in which he attentively recalled the history of the Foundation of the Studium in the Custody, with a particular focus on the roots linked to the archaeological need and its quid as an institution which, from its very beginnings, has had as its basic subjects biblical archaeology and geography and the history of the tradition around the shrines in Palestine.
After this, the account of Guest Professor Blazej Štrba, a former student at the SBF, preceded the moving speech by Fra G. Claudio Bottini (his full speech here), emeritus professor of the Studium as well as the living memory, essential to remember the first steps of the Studium. “One hundred years of a path marked by the vital and indissoluble bond with the Custody of the Holy Land, the collaboration with the Government of the Order and with the Antonianum,” Fra Claudio Bottini said, who in his reflection, accentuated some characteristics which have allowed the Studium to reach the centenary of its foundation: concreteness and realism, the combination of teaching and research, the involvement of the Provinces and, last but not least, the bond with the Antonianum since 1927, the year when the Studium was annexed to St Anthony’s College.
The search for happiness as the ultimate goal of studies
Fra Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical University Antonianum, addressed a last word of praise and encouragement to the Studium, hoping that it can continue to be projected “towards a full life and the perfect flavour of happiness,” quoting St Bonaventure in recalling the ultimate goal of biblical research, which has to “exceed itself if it really wants to be rigorous, always included in the horizon of faith.”
Afterwards, Fra Rosario Pierri gave the academic authorities present the commemorative medal of the Centenary: it has the column of the Flagellation on which an open book of the Bible is placed and the cross of Jerusalem on the retro, enriched by the lantern as a symbol of archaeological study and the fishermen’s net, a reference to the apostles, but also a clear allusion to the work of research and deep investigation.
Lastly, all the participants attended the inauguration of the Exhibition on the Centenary of the Studium Biblicum: the person who conceived it and its coordinator, don Giannantonio Urbani, guest lecturer of Christian Archaeology and Excursions in the Holy Land, then illustrated the whole historical journey and the documentation on display in the crypt of the Basilica of St Anthony.