Page 5, 30th March 2007

30th March 2007
Page 5
Page 5, 30th March 2007 — Mystery hangs over sacking of Pope's friend

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Locations: San Francisco, Rome


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Mystery hangs over sacking of Pope's friend


AN AMERICAN JESUIT close to Pope Benedict XVI was sacked by a university then reinstated a day later.

A day after he was asked to resign his post as provost and leave the campus, Jesuit Fr Joseph Fessio agreed to continue to have a role at Ave Maria University, including teaching and serving as a theologian in residence.

A statement last week by the university said Fr Fessio accepted the school's offer that he continue his relationship with Ave Maria in a nonadministrative capacity.

The university's announcement that Fr Fessio had been asked to resign as provost cited "irreconcilable differences over administrative policies and practices".

Fr Fessio, 66, had served as chancellor or provost of the Catholic university in Florida since its founding in 2002. He also has continued to serve as editor of Ignatius Press, a San Francisco-based Catholic publishing company he founded in 1978.

Fr Fessio told reporters that he was not given a reason for his dismissal. The university's statement said: "There has never been any difference in our commitment to our mission or to the Magisterium of the Church. Nor is there any diminishment of our commitment to maintaining the highest quality of scholarship."

The statement repeated that "the separation of Fr Fessio from the university's administration had nothing to do with our shared commitment to our mission as a Catholic university ex corde ecclesiae". It was signed by Ave Maria President Nicholas J Healy. Er corde ecclesiae means "from the heart of the Church" and is also the title of Pope John Paul Ifs 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education.

The statement said that "as a sign of our esteem for his great gifts and abilities, we have asked Fr Fessio and he has agreed to continue a relationship with us".

Fr Fessio will be designated a theologian in residence and maintain a room on campus, it said. He will also teach a scheduled 2007 summer programme for high-school students and, in the spring of 2008, will assume as yet undefined teaching responsibilities at the university.

Fr Fessio also will investigate the possibility of starting a teaching programme in Rome "and how our Austrian semester-abroad programme might be continued".

It is expected that in developing plans for study abroad programmes Fr Fessio will be spending a significant amount of time in Europe.

Fr Fessio said he had no indication before the meeting in which he was dismissed that such an action was coming. "I asked for a reason but was not given one," he said.

As provost, Fr Fessio had duties that involved overseeing the university's academic functions.

In 2002 the priest's Jesuit superiors cut short his involvement with another fledgling Catholic school, Campion College in San Francisco.

The school, which has apparently closed, was to offer a twoyear humanities programme. It was started out of Ignatius Press to embody the spirit and curriculum of yet another school started by Fr Fessio, the St Ignatius Institute.

The institute, started in 1976 when Fr Fessio was on the faculty at the University of San Francisco, emphasised traditional Catholic values and Jesuit teaching methods.

In 1987 the institute severed its ties with Fr Fessio and Ignatius Press and continues to operate as a four-year programme of the University of San Francisco.

Ave Maria University was founded by Tom Monaghan, founder and former owner of Domino's Pizza.

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