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New research centre honours Benedict XVI

By Sean Ryan - 15 May, 2016

Dr Stephen Bullivant

The fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI historic visit to England was marked last week with the opening of a new centre in his honour at one of Britain’s top Catholic universities.

St Mary’s University, Twickenham in London officially opened the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society on 5 May.

The opening ceremony included an address from Fr Friedrich Bechina, Undersecretary at the Congregation for Catholic Education, who gave the Centre his blessing and said the strong link between the Holy See and St Mary’s has been strengthened further by the establishment of the Centre.

St Mary’s Pro-Vice Chancellor Ruth Kelly welcomed attending guests and paid tribute to Fr Friedrich and Benedict XVI Centre Director, Dr Stephen Bullivant, who followed with an address about the Centre itself.

Professor Kelly stated that the ‘’Benedict XVI Centre will serve as an international hub for research and engagement activities in religion and social sciences.”

She revealed that current collaborative research projects include ‘The Scientific Study of Non-religious Belief’, in partnership with UCL, Coventry, and Queen’s Belfast (funded by the John Templeton Foundation); and ‘Humanae Vitae at 50′, a launch conference for which was held at Ave Maria University, Florida, earlier this year.

Dr Stephen Bullivant highlighted these principles in his speech at the launch. He said the centre would “bring the riches of the Catholic tradition of Catholic social thought, the riches of Catholic teaching on faith and reason, into the national conversation.”

The first report from the Centre’s Catholic Research Forum initiative, ‘Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales: A Statistical Report Based on Recent British Social Attitudes Data’ is by Dr Stephen Bullivant, and will be released later this month.

The report will be debated at an event in Westminster on the 24 May by an expert panel including Jon Cruddas MP, Dagenham and Rainham and Dr Siobhan McAndrew, Bristol University.

The University approved the creation of the Centre in 2015, the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to St Mary’s.

According Dr Bullivant, “The Pope Emeritus has for many years been a leading contributor to both public and academic debates surrounding the topic ‘religion and society’, not least with his famous 2004 dialogue with Jürgen Habermas, and his 2010 address in Westminster Hall.”

“In early 2016, we were honoured to receive confirmation via the Papal Nuncio, HE Archbishop Mennini, that the Holy See’s Secretariat of State had approved our naming the Centre in honour of the Pope Emeritus.”

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