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March 25, 2024 — A delegation of leaders from Santa Clara University (SCU) and its Jesuit School of Theology (JST) visited Rome from March 17-19 to meet with various senior Vatican leaders and leaders of the Society of Jesus.

The purpose of the delegation’s visit was to deepen ties and engage in wide-ranging discussions on global Jesuit higher education; the ethical use of artificial intelligence; advancing a synodal Church; and meeting the needs of the changing Catholic Church through theological education and formation.

The delegation included: SCU President Julie Sullivan; JST Dean Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ; incoming rector of the JST-SCU Jesuit Community Fr. Thomas Smolich, SJ; SCU Board member and Chair of the JST Board of Directors Agnieszka Winkler; rector of the Santa Clara Jesuit Community Fr. Luis Calero, SJ; and SCU Board of Trustees Chair Larry Sonsini and his wife Ashley Sonsini.

On March 18, the delegation discussed with Vatican leaders the importance of the ethical and responsible use of AI for the betterment of humanity, and President Sullivan had a private audience with Pope Francis.

During the audience, Pope Francis shared a hardbound copy of his 2018 apostolic exhortation, “Gaudate et Exsultate, on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World,” with Sullivan. The publication contained a passage, which the two of them discussed, about joy and humor.

Pope Francis “is an extremely joyful person who exudes an extraordinary light and magnetic human connection,” said Sullivan. “I came away feeling so uplifted by who he is as a person and the way the Holy Spirit powerfully radiates from him.”

Pope Francis also signed a copy of SCU’s strategic plan, Impact 2030, joking that he will “sign anything that is not a check.” He urged Sullivan to continue Santa Clara’s focus on educating the entirety of each student.

“He’s very expressive,” Sullivan said of Pope Francis. “He was touching his head, his heart and his hands. And he said often education is about filling the head. And it really needs to be about finding harmony between the head, the heart and the hands,” she said.

The delegation also met with Cardinal Mario Grech of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, the head of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. The meetings covered topics such as how to be a synodal Church in mission and how SCU can serve as a strategic partner to help meet the needs of the changing face of the Catholic Church.

The delegation discussed programming underway at the Jesuit School of Theology to advance the goals of Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality. During this year between two Rome-based synod gatherings, JST is hosting “Synodal Journey,” a series featuring speakers and events to invite meaningful discussions on key themes from the Synod. The delegation invited Cardinal Grech to be the keynote speaker at Synodal Journey Spring 2025 conference.

On March 19, the delegation also met with leaders of the Society of Jesus, including Father General Arturo Sosa, SJ, and Mark Ravizza, SJ, a member of Jesuits West who serves as assistant to Fr. General for formation.

Source: SCU

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