In the last few days, Heythrop College has received copies of decrees of the Congregation for Catholic Education dated 17 September 2013 re-activating the ecclesiastical faculties of Philosophy and Theology.
Since the 1920s, Heythrop has been dedicated to St Robert Bellarmine, the sixteenth century Italian Jesuit, Cardinal and Doctor of the Church. The ecclesiastical faculties together form a specialist institute of the College known as the "Bellarmine Institute". The decrees were signed on St Robert Bellarmine's feast day.
The ecclesiastical faculties were first approved almost 50 years ago in November 1964 when the College was located near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. On joining the University of London in 1970, the College focussed on the award of University degrees rather than on teaching for ecclesiastical programmes and the ecclesiastical faculties have since then been in suspension.
More recently, those in the Heythrop student body preparing for the Catholic priesthood and engaged in ministry, who are an increasingly international group, have looked for civil and also church qualifications which enable them to teach in seminaries and Catholic universities. Consequently, the College has for some years offered the 60 or so Jesuit scholastics, seminarians and members of other religious congregations studying for the priesthood, the opportunity to prepare for an ecclesiastical bachelors degree (STB) in conjunction with the University of London Bachelor of Divinity (BD) programme. This has been possible through an arrangement with the Catholic University in Leuven and the Westminster diocesan seminary, Allen Hall.
Success with this initiative led the College to investigate how it might be extended. Now the faculties have been revived, students will be able to study for ecclesiastical bachelors (STB, BacPhil), licentiate (STL, PhL) and for doctoral degrees in Theology (STD) and Philosophy (PhD) in conjunction with degrees of the University of London.
The work of the Bellarmine Institute will be informed by responsible scholarship, fidelity to God's Word and the teaching of the Catholic Church. All programmes of the ecclesiastical faculties will be subject to the College's full quality assurance procedures.
A ceremony to mark the re-opening of the faculties will take place in January 2014.
Archbishop Nichols, the Patron of the Bellarmine Institute and Visitor of Heythrop College, University of London commented: "I am delighted that Heythrop College will once again be offering the full range of ecclesiastical qualifications alongside its existing University of London degrees. This development will give new opportunities to those training for the priesthood and those already in ministry to study for ecclesiastical licentiate and doctoral degrees in philosophy and theology."
Fr Michael Holman SJ, the Principal of Heythrop College said, "The mission of Heythrop College is to serve the Church and the common good. The additional ecclesiastical programmes and qualifications will enable the College to be of greater service to those engaged in ministry not only in this country but also overseas and that pleases us very much, not least as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of our foundation."