Rector and two deans removed at Rome pontifical institute

The rector and two deans at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome have been replaced in a sudden move by the Society of Jesus.

The heading for an article by Vatican commentator Sandro Magister described the move as an “earthquake”.

As of April 14, rector Fr James McCann and the deans of the faculties of ecclesiastical sciences and Eastern canon law, Philippe Luisier and Michael Kuchera, all Jesuits, were removed.

The interim pro-rector was named as Fr Samir Khalil, 77.

The order from the superior-general of the Jesuits was put up at the institute for a day, but was then removed.

According to Magister, the superior-general denounced the “uncharitable” spirit that has split the teaching community, with grave harm to the institute’s mission.

In recent months, Magister continued, some deans and professors had asked for the removal of Fr McCann, who is American, and who had been rector since 2010.

The Jesuits sent an inspector to the institute.

Tensions had been evident four years ago, according to Magister, as shown in a speech by Stefano Parenti, a professor of oriental liturgies at the Pontifical Atheneum of St Anselm in Rome.

“Unlike today, at the end of the 1980s, the Pontifical Oriental Institute was a place of excellence for the study of oriental liturgies and of the Byzantine liturgy in particular,” the professor said.

He also critiqued the precariousness of many contracts and what he described as the unusual ways of recruiting and promoting academic staff.

Magister wrote that subjects today are entrusted to “a ragtag group of professors on temporary leave from other universities, who are reduced to doing in a few weeks what should last a whole semester”.

And last year, one of the institute’s vice-rectors, Costantin Simon, left the Jesuits and was ordained as a Russian Orthodox priest.

To add to the institute’s problems, one of its professors, Fr Lanfranco Rossi, was found dead in a rural area outside Rome last week.

According to police reports, the priest, who also taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University, suffered several blows to the head and had been strangled.

The institute has about 400 students from 48 countries.


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