Church studies: Vatican fosters research, welcomes scholars
Published: September 13, 2012
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every year, the Vatican conducts research on church law and practice, offers scholarships to Orthodox and Muslim students, designs academic programs for church workers and maintains vast libraries and archives consulted by scholars from around the world. Jesuit Father Norman Tanner, dean of church history at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said no one should be surprised by the range of the Vatican's scholarly interests or its interest to scholars. After all, he said, Jesus was interested in everything about human life and the world; and St. Paul's letters show he not only preached to the ancient Greeks, he knew their culture and philosophy. A variety of studies conducted by the Vatican or about the Vatican are highlighted in "The Activity of the Holy See," an annual publication of reports from every Vatican congregation, council and office. The Vatican Secret Archives are a mecca for scholars of church history, and during the 2010-2011 academic year, the archives issued 1,321 entrance permits to scholars from 54 countries. But other Vatican offices also make their archives accessible to researchers. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reported that 97 scholars consulted its archives last year. The most popular topics of research included: bioethical questions; Christianity and Islam; censorship and the Vatican's Index of Forbidden Books; the relationship between the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions; sainthood causes and relics; and the Jewish community in the Papal States. Father Tanner said the church sees no reason to hide some of the less illustrious moments in church history from serious scholars or from itself. "The church is a church of sinners; even though we have God's grace and guidance, we remain fragile human beings," he said. Study, reflection and prayer can help future generations of Christians "see a false path from a good path."
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