Celebrations at Bellarmine Institute as faculties are restored at Heythrop

A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols in the Maria Assumpta Chapel at Heythrop College yesterday evening (20 January 2014). The event marked the re-establishment of the ecclesiastical faculties of theology and philosophy, together known as the Bellarmine Institute. Now the faculties have been re-activated, the College will award in its own right ecclesiastical bachelors (STB, BacPhil), licentiate (STL, PhL) and doctoral degrees in Philosophy and Theology alongside existing degrees of the University of London.

In addition to the Archbishop of Westminster who will be made a Cardinal by Pope Francis next month, the 30 concelebrants included Archbishop Kevin McDonald and Bishop-elect Mark O'Toole, both of whom are governors of Heythrop College. Bishop William Kenney, a former student of the Pontifical Athenaeum at Heythrop, then located in Oxfordshire, also concelebrated.

In his homily, Archbishop Nichols, the Visitor of the College and Patron of the Institute, spoke of the contribution which the College's new ecclesiastical status can make to the missionary character of the Church emphasised by Pope Francis and its significance in the intellectual life of the University. He ended, 'I pray that the presence of this Institute within the University will be a great blessing for all the endeavours of the University, a beacon of true humanity and a light of divine grace'.

The Institute will offer courses in theology and philosophy at bachelors, licentiate and doctorate levels. It is dedicated to St Robert Bellarmine, the patron of the College since 1926. Bellarmine (1542 -1621) was an Italian Jesuit and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was one of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation. He was canonised in 1930 and named a Doctor of the Church.

The chapel was packed to capacity with a congregation of 175 which included staff and all the seminarians from Allen Hall, the Jesuit scholastics, superiors and members of other religious congregations, including those studying at the College, representatives from other priestly formation centres in Britain and Ireland as well as staff, present and former students and friends of the College and the Religious of the Assumption.

At the end of the service, the Jesuit provincial, Fr Dermot Preston SJ, read the decrees from the Congregation for Catholic Education reactivating the ecclesiastical faculties first established at Heythrop in November 1964. Fr Peter Gallagher SJ has been appointed Dean of Philosophy, Fr Michael Kirwan SJ dean of Theology and Fr Michael Holman SJ Rector of the Robert Bellarmine Institute.

This year Heythrop College is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation in Louvain by the Jesuits. 'For the Greater Glory of God and the More Universal Good' will be the title of a series of special events to mark the anniversary in June. More details are available from www.heythrop.ac.uk