Fr. David Nazar, rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, is a Canadian Jesuit born to a family of Ukrainian origin. He is the former superior of Jesuits in Ukraine and former Provincial of the Jesuits in the English Canada Province.
The Pontifical Oriental Institute is a small university of higher studies entrusted to the Society of Jesus by the Popes, with a great number of accomplishments past and present, thanks to the grace of God and the hard work of the men and women of the Institute.
Our Institute has a history and tradition of rich research in the various fields of our two faculties, namely, Eastern Canon Law and Ecclesiastical Studies, all concerning eastern churches. From the beginning the work has been important: original research in ancient anaphoras and manuscripts of the early church, detailed studies of oriental liturgies, archeological analysis of church art and architecture, study and development of codes of church governance. While it continues in our day, we must add to this rich historical research new fields of study and analysis. The countries of eastern churches are troubled by wars and conflict that need sober reflection by people of living faith in order to give answer to the needs of people. We are presented with new challenges that require experts in history, politics, geography, and the history of religions, for solely in this way can we offer a concrete response that is transparent and just, one that respects the political and nationalist movements within the conflicts we hear of daily. The Church has a particular advantage in this because within its community are all the voices of the human community. At the Orientale we have no political affiliation but count among our friends, Christians and Muslims and Jews, religious leaders, diplomats and intellectuals, people on the front line of the conflicts, and students seeking to understand their vocation in these situations. With such a community of good will, we create a safe space for complicated conversations that aim to create a future of hope for peoples that have simply suffered too much…
There has never been a time in the history of our Institute when we have been asked by our friends to assist in collaborating toward such a solution. The tradition of the prophets seeking the wisdom of the Word of God to bring justice and mercy to his people–this is our inspiration. And the Orientale is uniquely positioned for such a vocation. Its alumni, its students, its research and intellectual capabilities, and its broad circle of friends allow it to respond in a concrete way to the contemporary demands of the countries of the Christian East. St. Luke, for example, lived in Antioch and wrote his gospel through the prism of the middle eastern world. His central theme, the mission Jesus entrusted to the disciples, was that of reconciliation. As the story of the Good Samaritan makes clear, forgiveness is not only a personal matter, but a cultural issue and a national concern. How do peoples forgive and reconcile? How can enemy nations not only forgive but serve one another? Just as for Luke in his day, we are called to sense how the Spirit of God is actively recreating the world in our day. This is a complex work that God alone can bring about, but not without his own trained collaborators. The Orientale is a place where young adults find the space to imagine this work of the Spirit to which we are called.
As a multicultural institution, we must begin to think of globalization in its positive and enriching aspects, a phenomenon of the contemporary world that offers opportunities for exchange and reciprocity. Ours is not a time of clearly defined plans and projects, nor a time of building up and tearing down; it is rather a time of research, of experimentation, of embracing change and “interculturality.” The world has need of creative witnesses that nourish an enduring hope. Our three Roman institutions have the potential to play a key role for the church today with two hundred universities of the Society of Jesus. The students of the Jesuit Consortium (namely, the Gregorian University, the Biblicum, and the Orientale) come from 120 countries, in large part from those of poorer and conflicted nations. The Orientale in particular feels the dramatic conflicts of the Middle East and Ukraine due to the numbers of students and alumni from those countries and from the very mission of the Orientale since its earliest days.
This year’s centennial celebrations, therefore, offer us a time of reflection on the mission of the Orientale from its inception, through its evolution, to the dramatic challenges of our day. There are many opportunities for deepening our mission with the full participation of the teaching faculty and the broader academic community, to render our Roman institutions a Consortium of technologically advanced centres of integral education. This will deepen the historic friendly collaboration with Patriarchal Churches and those of Major Archbishops, along with the entire Vatican, to imagine for the Orient a future of harmonious living more intimately serving the God who makes us one.
Fr. David Nazar, SJ