The Benedict XVI Endowed Chair of Religious, Cultural, and Philosophical Studies is housed at the Faculty of Humanities at Notre Dame University-Louaize and aims to safeguard and deepen NDU’s stated identity, mission, and vision by organizing local and international seminars, conferences, lecture series, symposia, workshops, media roundtables, for students and faculty, and through book and proceedings publication.
On October 9th 2015, NDU President, Father Walid Moussa, inaugurated the Benedict XVI Endowed Chair of Religious, Cultural, and Philosophical Studies at the NDU Opening Mass for the Academic Year 2015-2016 presided over by His Excellency Most Reverend Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, the Apostolic Nuncio in Lebanon.
After the Holy Mass, NDU’s President announced that this Endowed Chair is to be held by Edward J. Alam, a Full Professor in the Faculty of Humanities, pointing out that Dr. Alam had been nominated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 to be a Consultor on the Pontifical Council for Culture and appointed to this position by Pope Francis in July 2014, adding to his credentials to hold this newly established Chair.
Lebanon was the last country that Pope Benedict XVI visited, signing the final magisterial document of his pontificate as Holy Father. During his visit, Benedict XVI stressed, as did John Paul II before him, that Lebanon was “more than a country” and indeed a message of peaceful coexistence to the world. This insight is commensurate with his entire intellectual heritage witnessed by his prolific career as distinguished Professor at four prominent German Universities, and attested today by the two associations of Ratzinger’s former students (Schülerkreis), associations with which the Benedict XVI Chair closely collaborates.
Society of NDU Professors
The Benedict XVI Society of NDU is comprised of one representative professor from each of NDU’s 7 Faculties. These professors meet monthly to discuss academic articles devoted to building bridges between the category of faith and the respective disciplines of the Faculties. Membership in this society is extended to other interested faculty members, staff, and students. This society and its activities build a truly interdisciplinary institution by bringing genuine unity to the university, while respecting the diversity and authentic autonomy of each academic discipline.
The Academic Orientation of this Chair takes as its point of reference primarily, though not exclusively, the three masterpiece Encyclicals issued during Pope Benedict’s pontificate, which plumbed the depths of the Theological Virtues in the context of a profound meditation on the relationship of these Virtues to Philosophy and Catholic Social Teaching. In this regard, two monumental magisterial teachings take pride of place and are the focal points around which all other studies revolve. Significantly, both teachings are intimately connected to the teaching and pontificate of Pope Paul VI, and developed in the pontificate of John Paul II. The first appears in Paragraph 53 of Caritas in Veritate: “Pope Paul VI noted that ‘the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking’. He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity . . . rather than marginalization. Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man’s transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.” The other teaching, which appears in Paragraph 8 of the same Encyclical, states: “I express my conviction that [Paul VI’s] Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity.” In the light of these two central magisterial teachings it is clear that although the unifying disciplines to be pursued are Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies, they shall be pursued in such a way as to include serious engagement with the Social Sciences; this latter engagement is cultivated so as to encourage and effect concrete application of Catholic Social Teaching in a spirit of interreligious openness, especially between Christians and Muslims. A final qualification with respect to this academic orientation (as related to Theology) and in the spirit of Pope Benedict’s insistence that Theology not be limited to Papal Utterances, this orientation shall be open, supple, and receptive to a variety of theological approaches that complement the original genius of Ratzinger’s Theology, in particular, the Theology of Hans Urs Von Balthasar.
This Benedict XVI Chair cooperates with select diverse academic, religious, and cultural institutions in Lebanon and around the world; above all, with the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (CRVP
), in view of its exemplary experience since 1980 in promoting research into the way philosophy emerges from cultures and for documenting in an impressive multi-volume book series how cultures are deeply rooted in religious experience.
A high-profile advisory council comprised of local and international experts gives guidance and support to Chairholder regarding timely and momentous themes and activities.
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