More than 400 students, from around 40 different countries around the globe and various religious beliefs and Christian denominations have been enrolled in Sophia University Institute during the past ten years. This year, as announced in this general academic proposal for 2017-2018, the university decides to offer two new degree titles. To understand the changes and the perspectives the president, Piero Coda, a member of the International Theological Commission and the Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church and consultant to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was interviewed by Stefania Tanesini, published in the weekly Tuscany Today. Reported below is the first part of the interview.
President, what is the initial assessment in terms of results?
To date, we have conferred 112 master’s degrees (Laurea magistrale) and 11 PhD degrees. In general the results achieved are encouraging, sometimes even excellent, for example the publication of some of the doctoral research works and academic and professional qualifications of our graduates. But certainly, there cannot be a quantitative measurement of the cultural, or I would say, anthropological and social formation with which men and women are equipped here to face today’s world not only vigorously but also with vision and mercy (as Pope Francis says). Last year, a student from Ukraine expressed to me, "if I were to tell someone why choose Sophia, I would ask him: 'do you want to know the world?' and I would respond: 'then go to Sophia!' ". Also, the Cardinal Betori, who is the great Chancellor of the institute, has repeatedly referred to it as an existential space of encounter, the incarnation of the divine wisdom and human knowledge. He said, "The personal commitment to live the closeness and reciprocity, in various moments of the day in a multitude of cultural activities, makes Sophia a place where divine Sophia (wisdom) and human pursuit of knowledge become one".
This University Institute was born in the wake of a "charismatic" idea of Chiara Lubich. What does it consist of and how it has been lived in these years?
It is based on the "idea" of an innovative university; although at the heart of this institution lay the challenges of our time: it is a space where all kinds of knowledge meet and permits the pursuit of wisdom that gives meaning and orientation to life. It is an idea revived for example by John Henry Newman and Antonio Rosmini. Concretely, during the projection of Sophia we tried to overcome fragmentation of knowledge in order to lead them back to this original vocation, much necessary today – as Pope Francis says – a new paradigm is necessary for living what "is not simply an era of change but change of an era."
In the tenth year since its erection, Sophia activates two new master's degree courses and related PhD, in addition to the one in "Culture of Unity." These are Economics and Political Sciences and Trinitarian Ontology. What are the reasons for this development?
At the beginning we proposed degree in “Culture of Unity” to express the convergence of knowledge, in accordance with their respective objects and methods. This degree along with its doctoral program has some specializations: economics, politics, philosophy and theology. However, now, guaranteed the background of a culture of unity with some of interdisciplinary and cross-cutting courses, thanks to the growth of academic quality and the number of teachers and the experiments done so far, two distinctive titles are being introduced this year besides the one in Culture of Unity: one in Economics and Political Sciences, and the other in Trinitarian Ontology (that is philosophy and theology). These titles are academically more qualified and professionally more expendable.
What is the specificity and the added value of Sophia?
Sophia offers an academic qualification that combines the unitary dimension of the sense of today’s human adventure with the competent dimension of a scientific qualification for the integral growth of persons and the society in a context vital for 360° experimentation and dialogue.