The International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) was officially inaugurated at Deusto University (Bilbao). The ceremony was attended by the King of Spain, Felipe VI; the president of the Basque Government, Iñigo Urkullu; and Father General Arturo Sosa, SJ. Also present were 300 delegates from Jesuit universities around the world who are currently attending a conference in Bilbao, under the theme “Transforming Our World Together.”

Addressing all the participants gathered in Deusto’s classical main hall, Father General Sosa, emphasized that “we have the opportunity to take a gigantic step in the service that the Society of Jesus and its universities give to the Church and the world, if we grow in collaboration among ourselves and if we are able to unite in a common horizon and idea of the immense work that universities around the world are already doing.” In Father General’s view, Jesuit universities should “delve deeper into our common commitment without losing any of our roots in each of the places.” The goal is “to help the Church in its discernment of the service of reconciliation, between human beings, with Creation and with God.”

Speaking earlier, Deusto University rector,Fr José María Guibert, recalled a letter that St Ignatius sent to the Spanish king at his time: “All the goodness of Christianity and of the whole world depends on the proper education of youth.”

King Felipe VI of Spain shared memories of his student years at Georgetown University. With Jesuits, he learnt that “academic excellence must always go hand in hand with values like effort, responsibility and the common good.” Felipe VI stressed that Jesuit universities have a specific model in which “values ae at the core.” He also mentioned the Jesuit intellectual apostolate, saying that it is all the more important today, in a world that faces challenges like inequality, violence, human rights violations or environmental damage.

The inaugural address of the Assembly, entitled “Catholic Social Teaching and the Role of the Jesuit University Today”was given by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology.