BY NICK HOLDSWORTH
YEARS of conflict over the running of the Catholic Theological Faculty at Prague's Charles University were brought to an end earlier this month with the appointment as dean of a leading Jesuit priest and scholar,
Czech-born Ludvik Armbruster, 74, who taught for many years at Tokyo's Sophia Catholic University, said he planned to concentrate on raising standards and regaining full academic accreditation at the faculty, which last year was put under direct university administration.
Professor Armbruster takes over from Jaroslav Pole, who stepped down in December last year after a period of bitter struggle between faculty members and university rector Ivan Wilhelm.
Dr Pole and other lecturers at the faculty, which until last year only admitted young men intent on the priesthood, had long been criticised for poor academic standards and theological conservatism.
The dispute came to a head in December 2001 when the Czech education ministry threatened to remove its accreditation unless key curricular and teaching issues were addressed.
In January last year, Rector Wilhelm put the faculty's management directly under university administration, ending its traditional independence and drafted in Czechborn Mikulas Lobkowicz, the former vice-chancellor of the German Catholic University of Eichstaett, to help with the faculty's modernisation.
Women students were admitted from last autumn and new courses, staff and priorities introduced.
Dr Armbruster's appointment was confirmed last month by the Congregation for Education in Rome, following a vote by the university senate council.
Dr Armbruster said he intended to concentrate on what he considered the faculty's exclusive role of educating students and stressed that seminaries, not academic departments, were the proper places for preparing those who intended to become priests.
"We want to produce well educated citizens, not only candidates for the priesthood," Dr Armbruster said.
Prague's archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the faculty's chancellor, welcomed the beginning of a new era.
This finally settles once and for all the problems that had accompanied the faculty for almost 10 years," Cardinal Vlk, who had championed modernisation of the faculty, said.