On Monday 11th November 2019, the Auditorium of Loppiano hosted the solemn opening ceremony of the 12th academic year of the Institute. The Metropolitan Archbishop of Florence and Grand Chancellor of the Institute Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, the Vice Grand Chancellor of the Institute and President of the Focolare Movement Emmaus Maria Voce, the Metropolitan of Italy and Malta co-owner of the “Patriarch Athenagoras – Chiara Lubich” International Ecumenical Chair Gennadios Zervos took part in the ceremony, among others.
On this occasion, the Dean of the Institute Piero Coda outlined the future developments of Sophia’s journey in the academic year 2019/2020. Firstly, he presented four new Master’s Degree courses with their related Doctorate courses (Culture of Unity, Trinitarian Ontology, Political Sciences, and Economics and Management). Then, he referred to the enhancement of the Community life. This is made by the everyday experience of encounter and interpersonal and intercultural sharing laying its foundations on the original Educational Pact of the Institute. On behalf of the students, Alexander Simoen from Belgium stated: «This is the main feature of Sophia, which core is the Educational Pact. Through the free participation of everyone, here a common space is created. This is a source of knowledge that is always new and generative.
This is a light that transforms. This light encourages an active and tangible attitude to achieve the common good». Then there is a third new scenario: the opening of the local seat of Sophia in Latin America and the Caribbean. It will be opened in 2020 as an experimental project. It will specifically deal with “Integral Ecology” and “Interculturality”. As Maria Voce affirmed, «Our Institute expands on a geographical level too». She also pointed out the presence of the group dealing with this initiative in the hall. «This is a small yet honest, hopeful and trustful answer to the challenges that Latin American peoples have to face». It provides conceptual and cultural mediation instruments to enable the charisma of unity to play a significant role in the social transformations of the continent.
Then, there was the most longed for and heartfelt moment: the conferment of the doctorate honoris causa in Culture of Unity to professor Juan Carlos Scannone SJ. He could not participate in the ceremony because he fell ill before leaving for Italy. His brother, the Dean of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Córdoba (Argentina) Daniel Lopez received it on his behalf. He also read the Lectio magistralis that Scannone had written for this event on his behalf. Such speech was an extraordinary reflection about unity reflecting the journey of a lifetime starting from the Trinitarian faith.
The Dean Piero Coda said «We are sure that he is here with us today in an extremely special way. He is here with his usual joy, in a more sacred way». Then he added: «Father Scannone’s human, spiritual and intellectual uniqueness together with his academic and cultural performance show that he was a prophet and a champion in the Culture of Unity».
Also, the Grand Chancellor Giuseppe Betori talked about him. He praised his «thinking characterized by the novelty of the communion paradigm supported by Pope Francis. Such thinking can build new bridges between different cultures and religions and to take care of our common home».
Finally, he explained why the doctorate honoris causa was granted to Scannone: «Because of his untiring and enlightened commitment to building bridges of dialogue between philosophical, theological and social sciences in the light of Wisdom. Because of his prophetic service for a new paradigm based on communion to achieve brotherhood between peoples, justice and solidarity in the global society, the encounter between different cultures and religions and the care of the common home».
Pope Francis wrote a letter to congratulate Professor Scannone, which Cardinal Betori read “Dear brother, I praise the recognition the Sophia University Institute decided to grant you for your work. […] The doctorate honoris causa is the award to a life where one’s intellectual skills have been placed at the service of men. You remind us that this service is only possible when we help the poor, the outcast and, eventually, the people”.
The Dean Piero Coda also announced the participation of the Institute in the Global Compact on Education launched by Pope Francis. This event will be held on 14th May 2020 at the Vatican. Sophia will host one of the preparatory events on 6th and 7th April 2020 for students and representatives of other universities. The title will be: “Educational InPact”.