Inauguration of Cardinal Spidlik Center for Ecumenical Understanding

News Story: November 8, 2006

Special convocation in Rome marks the founding of the Cardinal Spidlik Center for Ecumenical Understanding

Sacred Heart University will bestow the degree Doctor of Theology, honoris causa, upon His Eminence, Cardinal Tomás Špidlík, S.J. at a special convocation at the Italian Parliament in Rome, on November 7, 2006.

This special convocation will inaugurate Sacred Heart University’s Cardinal Špidlík Center for Ecumenical Understanding. This new Center will be dedicated to promoting greater ecumenical understanding and cooperation through dialogue, research, education, publications and artistic collaboration among the Western and Eastern Churches. 

The convocation address will be given by Cardinal Špidlík on “The Relation between Western Incarnational Theology and Eastern Eschatological Theology.” In addition, the video “Arte e teologia. Dalla Redemptoris Mater in Vaticano alla chiesa ortodossa della Trasfigurazione a Cluj ad opera dell’Atelier del Centro Aletti” will be premiered.

“The outstanding contributions of Cardinal Špidlík, to Roman Catholic and Eastern Christian dialogue, are an inspiration to all of us who seek greater unity among Christians,” said Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, president of SHU. “I pray that the new Cardinal Špidlík Center for Ecumenical Understanding will build on his profound efforts and will promote greater understanding among Western and Eastern Christians.”

Cardinal Špidlík is affiliated with Rome’s Centro Aletti, a center for study and research attached to the mission of the Society of Jesus at the Vatican’s Pontifical Oriental Institute. He is a Jesuit priest and scholar who has spent more than 50 years pursuing dialogue and greater union between the Western and Eastern “branches” of Christianity.

Tomás Špidlík was born in 1919 in Moravia. In the 1938, he entered the Department of Philosophy at the University of Brno, in what is now the Czeck Republic. In the following year, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and after many interruptions in his education due to World War II, he was ultimately ordained a priest in 1949. A year later, in Florence, he finished his long formation period as a Jesuit.

In 1951, Father Špidlík was called to Rome by Vatican Radio. The programs broadcast to the countries behind the Iron Curtain were a precious aid to a freedom in danger of being slowly but inexorably suffocated. From this work with Vatican Radio sprang a special mission that would always accompany him and that made him known in lands despite their communist domination.  Among others, he met with Aleksandr Dubcek, the former president of Czechoslovakia, and the current president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. Father Špidlík’s Sunday homilies in the Czech language have been translated and published into various languages including Polish, Romanian, and Italian.

In June of 1955, he defended his doctoral dissertation at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. That year marked the beginning of his university career as a professor of Patristic and Eastern Spiritual Theology at various universities in Rome as well as around the world.

For 38 years he has been the spiritual director of the Pontifical Nepomuceno Seminary, the old Boemo Seminary. However, his duties do not stop him from being a man of study; in fact, Cardinal Špidlík has become known as one of the greatest experts of the spirituality of Eastern Christianity today.

Cardinal Špidlík’s work is the fruit of diligent research and reflection, accompanied by a strong artistic sensitivity for contemporary culture.

Cardinal Špidlík is a prolific author and has been equally acknowledged in the academic and international field. He has been chosen “Man of the Year, 1990” and “the most admired person of the decade” by the American Bibliographical Institute of Raleigh in North Carolina, was received at the Kremlin, led the spiritual exercises of Pope John Paul II and his Curia, and was decorated with the medal of the Masaryk Order, one of the highest honors of the Czech State, by President Václav Havel.

Father Špidlík was created Cardinal by Pope John Paul II on October 21, 2003.