Studying in Rome: a guide to pontifical schools

The city of Rome is the world’s largest open-air museum. It is
also the most important centre of ecclesiastical studies in the world,
characterized by a great variety of disciplines and specializations.

Students and professors come from every country imaginable, lay
and religious alike, making Rome the most important centre of preparation for qualified priests, nuns, lay people, and experts in various ecclesiastical disciplines

and related fields.

This preparation benefits nearly all the countries of the world
and is a tremendous boost to the Church’s diverse sectors of pastoral activity.

Situated in Rome, “under the dome of St. Peter,” this global centre
of studies necessarily assumes a special devotion to the Roman Pontiff and the
Magisterium of the Church.

Each year a handful of Catholic students from across North
America and beyond study in Rome for their baccalaureate and graduate degrees. While most of these students are seminarians, priests, and nuns, there are also a

growing number of lay students.

There they study the “sacred sciences” at any one of six pontifical
universities and three pontifical athenaea (colleges), located on various
campuses thorough out the city and elsewhere.

Courses are offered exclusively in Italian, except at the Angelicum, where in addition to the Italian section, there is also an

English-language section. 

These schools and courses of studies are all regulated by St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana, a magnificent and timely work on ecclesiastical universities and faculties,

promulgated in 1979.

Subjects of study include philosophy, theology, canon law,
social communications, Church history, bioethics, biblical studies,
ecclesiastical oriental studies, patristics, and much more.

These universities and athenaea include:

The Pontifical Gregorian University (Jesuit), which includes the
associated Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

The Pontifical Lateran University (for the Diocese of Rome) which in its Faculty of Theology includes the Alphonsianum Academy of Moral Theology

operated by the Redemptorist Fathers, and the Claretianum Institute of the

Theology of Religious Life operated by the Claretian Fathers.

In addition there are the Pontifical Urban University (for missionaries),
the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Dominican) also known as the Angelicum,
the Pontifical Salesian University (Salesian), the Pontifical University of the
Holy Cross (Opus Dei), the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm (Benedictine),
the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum (Franciscan), and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina
Apostolorum (Legionaries of Christ).

There are various other institutions of higher ecclesiastical
studies in Rome that include, but are not limited to:

The John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the Study of Marriage
and Family, created in 1982 at the Pontifical Lateran University and made an
autonomous institute in 1993, to help promote the Theology of the Body of Pope
St. John Paul II. 

The Pontifical Graduate Institute of Latin for classical
studies. Although it is under the special patronage of the Congregation for
Catholic Education, it is located at the Pontifical Salesian University, on the same level as all its other faculties and under the title of the Faculty of

Christian and Classical Literature.

The Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music has as its goal the
teaching of sacred and liturgical music in its principle sections: Gregorian chant,
sacred polyphony, the composition of sacred music, choral direction and organ, as well as the study of musicology, especially in reference to the sacred


The Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology, which mainly deals with research regarding the monuments and the institutions of early

Christianity, and with the teaching of these topics.

The Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure, operated
by the Friars Minor Conventual Franciscans. 

The Pontifical Theological Faculty and Pontifical Institute of Spirituality Teresianum, operated by the Discalced Carmelites, which offers academic degrees in theology with a specialization in spirituality as well as theological

anthropology. In 1987 it incorporated the Institute of Pastoral Health Care

Theology Camillianum, run by the Camillian Fathers.

The Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum, operated by the Order of the Servants of Mary. This faculty confers academic degrees with a

specialization in Mariology.

The Pontifical Institute of Arabic Studies and of Islam,
operated by the Missionaries of Africa. This institute has as its purpose, with an essentially pastoral perspective, the training of clergy and laity in Arabic language and literature as well as in a knowledge of the religion and

institutions of Islam.

The Pontifical Faculty of the Science of Education Auxilium, operated by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. In the past this was

incorporated into the Graduate Institute of Pedagogy of the Pontifical Salesian

University of Rome and is now governed by its own statutes.

The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, under the supervision of the Secretary of State of the Vatican. This unique academy prepares, by a

specialized course of studies, certain young priests chosen for the diplomatic

service of the Holy See. While it does not confer its own academic degrees, the students are required to obtain a doctorate in canon law, or at least a licentiate in canon law if the candidate already has a doctorate in


Lastly, there are several graduate institutes of religious
science connected to schools previously mentioned. These institutes were created to assure adequate theological and spiritual formation mainly to prepare nuns for evangelization work in missionary countries as well as for

assuming offices of leadership in their respective communities. 

After at least four years of study, these students are able to receive the academic degree of Magisterium in Scientiis Religiosis, which

enables them to teach religion in the schools of every level or grade except

university level. This academic degree can also constitute a preparation for
those training to be permanent deacons and catechists.

After an enriching time in Rome and upon completion of their degrees, students both lay and religious return home to the far ends of the earth to teach in response to the command of Christ in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore

go and make disciples of all nations.”

J.P. Sonnen is a tour operator and history docent with Vancouver-based Orbis

Catholicus Travel.