Historical profile of the
Fédération des Universités Catholiques d’Europe et du Liban (FUCE)

1. The transformation of the experience of Catholic universities in the Europe of the 19th century

During the nineteenth century in Europe, the European Catholics universities, together with the whole Church, are called to confront themselves to profound cultural and social transformations, linked to the development of the industrial revolution and modern politics. Processes of formation of the clergy and the laity were redesigned, implemented by national episcopacies, according to the guidelines of the pontificates of Pius IX (who promoted the Syllabus and the Vatican II Council) and Leo XIII (Pope of the Rerum Novarum and Thomistic philosophy). Old and new Catholic universities had to measure themselves with the aspirations of a constitutionalization of the existing states and the conflicts for forming new and independent national states. After the 1870 and the end of the Papal States, in particular, Catholic universities were involved in the mobilization of the European Catholic movement to back up the pope, while the anticlerical legislation promoted by governments, who saw in the cultural life a lever of acculturation and nationalization of the masses, sharpened.

2. European universities in national Catholicism and the proposal of an international federation: from Europe to the world.

Relations between church and state influenced the development of the national university identity until the First World War, which saw the Catholic world sharing the tragedy of the events of the war that saw Europe deeply wounded as a field of bloody conflicts. If the pain of the conflict favored the recognition of the important national role played by Catholics, the active action of care
and comfort of the Church emphasized the international dimension of the relations between different experiences of Catholic organizations, also for the interest in this sense of the Holy See for the creation of Catholic organizations on an international level. In this context, in the early twenties of the twentieth century more European Catholic universities who aspired to an international connection were built: in 1924 the first group of Catholic Universities promoted an international federation, convening in Paris in 1925 a first General Assembly. While after the 1929 the Holy See took a new institutional and international profile, Europe, increasingly divided between the cultures of freedom and totalitarianism, made increasingly difficult the life of Catholic universities and the organization of their relations.

3. European universities in FIUC (1949-1990)

Corresponding to the rethinking of international dynamics following the end of the II World War and the establishment of new international bodies, a Centre Catholique International de Coopération avec UNESCO (CCIC) was placed within UNESCO. From this path, in 1948 a Foederatio Universitatum Catholicarum was built, recognized by Pope Pius XII in 1949. Engaged in the early years to realize opportunities for interaction between universities (in a Europe divided by the Iron Curtain), at the end of the fifties a joint reflection on mission and identity of the Catholic University and the relations of the Federation with respect to Vatican congregations took place. The development of a Federation of Catholic Universities found new nourishment during the cultural debate that accompanied the Second Vatican Council: in 1963 a new statute was launched and in 1965 the Federation of Catholic Universities took the name of Fédération Internationale des Universités Catholiques / International Federation of Catholic Universities, recognized in 1967 by UNESCO. This worldwide federation entrusted to the mission of the Catholic university three major addresses: the education and training activities, scientific research, the service for the growth of civil society. Encouraged by the pontificate of Paul VI, in 1972 the FIUC promoted a Declaration on the Catholic University in the modern world. Particularly important for the life of the ecclesiastical universities and faculties was the promulgation in 1979 of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana by Pope John Paul II. During the eighties, while a "new world order" was beginning to take shape and the European integration process was strengthening, meetings of a regional nature, initially informally, were held, which led to the establishment of the regional groups in FIUC.

4. The establishment of FUCE / EFCU: from the world a new role for Europe (1991- 2004)

The profound transformation that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, in fact, facilitated the creation within the FIUC of groups divided for geographical area; while the processes of globalization were perceived, it was noted that the network of universities and Catholic and ecclesiastical faculties arose from the various cultural and social fabric that characterized regional areas and continents. In this context, the promulgation in 1990 of the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae of Pope John Paul II, which described the university as "an academic community which, rigorously and critically, contributes to the protection and development of human dignity and of cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered". The Fédération des Universités Catholiques Européennes (FUCE) was built in 1991 in the conviction of being able to offer renewed contribution to the network of Catholic universities, relying on the positive path of European integration, at that time close to achieving the European Union. In the late ’90s, FUCE conducted a comparative study that revealed the riches and the common points between the various Catholic universities in Europe. It showed, as well, the need to strengthen the existing ties even after the starting of the Bologna Process that from June 1999 intended to make comparable academic qualifications of European universities and foster the mobility of students, teachers and researchers.

5. FUCE between Europe and globalization (2004-2013)

The need to support the joint efforts of Catholic universities in the profound change of the millennium has brought FUCE to draft the Declaration of Eichstätt. In this way, recalling the importance of the autonomy of Catholic institutions, the freedom of scientific research and teaching, cultural dialogue and social commitment that has to go through the academic life. Inside the FUCE, there were attempts to consolidate the network between universities to promote a reflection on the elements that characterize the Catholic universities, to deal with any common technical problems, to support universities in the face of national and European governments. Catholic universities were also called to take charge of a dialogue with other cultures "to promote a continuous and fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and modern society." Simultaneously FUCE could offer support to the Catholic University of Central and Eastern Europe after the collapse of communist regimes, and a landing place to the Catholic universities of Lebanon, greeted in the federation in 2007. Thus, FUCE showed understanding, before other institutions, of the importance of strengthening the European culture with a dialogue with the Eastern European and the Mediterranean world. At the same time, in this context, FUCE returned to rediscover the profound reasons that make up the Catholic university in Europe; the 2013General Assembly, therefore, discussed "Which project for the Europe of tomorrow: the role of Catholic Universities".

Presidents of FUCE:

Michel Falise, 1991 - 1997
Jan Peters,1997 – 2001
Miquel Gassiot, 2001 - 2004
Patrick Valdrini, 2004 - 2006
Ruprecht Wimmer, 2006 - 2007
Michel Scheuer, 2007 -2013
Thierry Magnin, 2013 - 2019
Michael Mullaney, 2019-]