There is Nothing Standing in the Way. Eight Further Formal Professorial Appointments at the ITI

The formal opening of the Spring Semester 2020 at the ITI was marked by a special festive event: after a long period of canonical investigations on the part of the Roman Curia, the Congregation for Catholic Education granted nihil obstat to a further eight ITI Faculty members. Nihil obstat is a canonical term which literally means “there is nothing standing in the way” and which is a declaration from the Holy See that a person is eligible for a professorial teaching position in an ecclesiastical faculty. Resting on the decision of the Holy See, the ITI Grand Chancellor His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn conferred individual decrees to the eight faculty members with their professorial appointments at the ITI.*NB  


The ceremony began with the solemn entry of the Faculty, the Dean, and the Rector into Riley Hall, led by the Book of the Gospels carried by the ITI Chaplain. After a beautiful performance of the ITI’s anthem, Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus, by the student choir, the Rector of the ITI, Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau, opened the ceremony with a greeting. He then invited ITI Professor Rev. Dr. habil. Josef Spindelböck to give an academic address entitled “Challenges in Postmodern Bioethics for Christian Faith and Morality.” The lecture served as a wake-up call regarding the necessity of awareness of the challenges in today’s world particularly in the current much-promoted false understanding of human dignity and sexuality. It also served as an invitation to “all men and women of good will” to engage in this topic and debate, protect, and strengthen the awareness of “human dignity in the perspective of Divine love.” It gave an answer to the question of how to renew the understanding of human dignity in its divine origin and relation (read the full text of the lecture). 


SG student Ingvild Cecilia Aavitsland from Norway performed the Prelude from 2. Bach Suite for Solo Cello in D minor, BWV 1008, during the musical intermezzo, which gave the assembly a chance to ponder Dr. Spindelböck’s lecture and prepared them for the ceremony conferring the professorial appointment decrees.


The personal presence and participation in the ceremony of His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn was a wonderful surprise for the ITI community. In the wake of health problems and a long recovery from surgery, one of the Cardinal’s first outings was this trip to his beloved ITI. Auxiliary Bishop of Vienna His Excellency Dr. Franz Scharl accompanied his Eminence during his visit to Trumau. Cardinal Schönborn’s words of gratitude to Saint John Paul II for establishing the ITI after the Fall of the Iron Curtain, with the mission of becoming a unifying bridge between West and East, and his expression of deep trust in the Lord, who over nearly a quarter of a century has taken care of the Institute, served as a reminder that the ITI is a living reality only because of God’s providence. The ITI depends on God’s providence and is called to co-operate with His plan. He also emphasized that for any pontifical and Catholic institute it is essential to always remain loyal to the Holy Father, the successor of the Apostle Peter. His Eminence finished his address with a fatherly call to always remain faithful to the Doctrine of the Catholic Church and as professors, students and graduates of the ITI, to always speak about faith in an intelligible way that applies the knowledge acquired during our studies at the ITI.


The festive ceremony then continued, as the Grand Chancellor asked all the appointees for professorial appointments to stand up and solemnly recite the Oath of Fidelity. In front of the entire ITI faculty, administration and students they pledged to “profess everything that is contained in the symbol of faith, promise to always preserve communion with the Catholic Church, and preserve the deposit of Faith in its entirety, hand it on faithfully and make it shine forth.” Followed by a solemn signing of the Oath, the newly appointed professors received individual decrees from the hands of their appointer, the Grand Chancellor of the ITI. Each full and extraordinary professor also received a professorial beret from the ITI Rector, Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau, as a sign of being qualified to hold an academic chair. 


The culmination of the formal opening of the Spring Semester 2020 took place in the Byzantine Chapel, as the whole ITI community gathered there to celebrate the Eucharist, the Mystery of our Faith. On the feast day of Saint Scholastica and a chosen day of commemoration of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Patron of the Institute, whose feast day fell during the winter break at the ITI, the main celebrant of the Holy Mass, His Eminence Cardinal Schönborn, prayed with and for the ITI. Asking the intersection of the saints, he also prayed that each ITI Faculty member, student, and staff would receive the gift of wisdom from the Holy Spirit, and would also grow in wisdom as a virtue of common sense nourished by faith. 


At the end of the Holy Mass, the Grand Chancellor of the ITI and the Archbishop of Vienna conferred further decrees. Cardinal Schönborn officially appointed Rev. Fr. Juraj Terek as a Rector of the Byzantine Chapel of the ITI, Student Chaplain, and a Priest responsible for the Greek-Catholic faithful from Slovakia in Austria. The celebration ended with a festive lunch for faculty, staff, and ITI guests in Cyril and Methodius Hall.


*NB: His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the Grand Chancellor of the ITI, 

conferred the following professorial appointments:


Dr. Bernhard Dolna - Full Professor for Ecumenical and Jewish Studies


Dr. Michaela Hastetter – Full Professor for Pastoral Theology and Religious Pedagogy


Dr. Michael Wladika – Full Professor for Christian Philosophy: Metaphysics and Natural Philosophy


Rev. Dr. Jean-Yves Brachet – Extraordinary Professor for Moral Theology and Social Ethics


Dr. Gundula Harand – Associate Professor for Fundamental and Spiritual Theology


Dr. Timothy Kelly – Associate Professor for Dogmatic Theology


Dr. Andrei Gotia – Associate Professor for Interdisciplinary Sources (Latin and Greek)


Dr. Vincent DeMeo – Associate Professor for New Testament


Sincere Congratulations to All!