John Garvey, right, president of The Catholic University of America, toasts Greg Craven, vice chancellor of Australian Catholic University, in Washington Jan. 29 after they signed a memorandum of understanding for their universities' new Rome Center. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

'Three-continent endeavour' results in universities' joint Rome Center

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  • February 4, 2015

WASHINGTON - What the president of The Catholic University of America called a "three-continent endeavour" has resulted in an agreement by the university in Washington and the Australian Catholic University to share a campus in Rome.

Called the Rome Center, it is located about a mile from the Vatican.

John Garvey, of Catholic University, and Greg Craven, vice chancellor of the Australian university, signed a memorandum of understanding at a ceremony Jan. 29 in Washington.

With similar missions "to bring to life Catholic higher education in our respective countries, ... we can learn from one another, and what better place to do it than at the epicentre of Western civilization in Rome?" said Garvey before signing the document Jan. 29 at Curley Hall.

About 30 deans and administrators from the two universities had gathered for the ceremony.

"In a partner, naturally what we look for is a university who believes that the concept of a Catholic university is a compound noun, that not only is there no contradiction between the two words but each are perpetually mutually reinforcing," said Craven.

Australian Catholic University, which this year is marking the 25th anniversary of its founding, is larger than Catholic University in Washington. It has seven campuses throughout Australia.

But the Australian institution consciously patterned its name and initials -- ACU -- after those of its Washington counterpart, popularly known as CUA, according to Craven.

"In terms of the character of the (Rome) center ... this is two universities embedding themselves as universities in the heart of the church, and I think that's never been done before," he added.

The joint operation of the Rome Center is the second such venture between the two universities. Since 2009 the Catholic University's School of Nursing has had a reciprocal student exchange with the Australian Catholic University School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine.

Craven said the Rome Center "has created enormous excitement in Australia," and for Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, as well.

When the cardinal heard the news, "he was so excited, he immediately jumped in his car and drove to the center to inspect the property," Craven added.

Cardinal Pell recently stepped down as chairman of the Australian university's board of trustees; he was appointed to his Vatican post last year by Pope Francis.

When it opens in September, the universities' Rome will offer newly renovated living quarters for undergraduates, a wing for graduate students, apartments for visiting faculty, a studio for architecture majors, a chapel, and a garden, among other amenities.

The Catholic University of America has signed a six-year lease, with an option to renew for another six years. Australian Catholic University will jointly participate in the lease.

Under the partnership, Catholic University's current Rome Center, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and annually hosts 150 to 200 students, will move to the new site.

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