Archbishop of Canterbury awarded doctorate by Catholic university

Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was one of four eminent scholars who today received honorary doctorates from the Catholic University of Leuven. They are awarded once a year to selected individuals of exceptional scientific, social or cultural distinction, on the Patronal Feast of the University, 2 February.

Founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V, the Catholic University of Leuven bears the double honour of being the oldest existing Roman Catholic university in the world and the oldest university in the Low Countries.  

The Archbishop said of his award: "When I was a student at Cambridge reading a book about the history of Leuven, I never imagined that I'd be honoured in this way...The association of Leuven with so many great theologians and philosophers—not least in the last century—is very important to me."

A church service was held at Saint-Peter's Church before the ceremony, during which the Archbishop preached on of the important role of universities as intellectual communities which strive 'to place truth above ease or self-pleasing'. He said: "All universities have the vocation of challenging again and again the various ways in which cultures can trivialise or ignore the desires of the mind – not least of challenging the consoling images offered by the pressures of marketing and consuming, by self-interested politics seeking for scapegoats, by all the different displacements of the critical intellect that modernity and postmodernity indulge so generously, the second-bests and the casual spare areas of human energy."

"The university is and should be, not a community that is iconoclastic for its own sake, but one that tests and scrutinises the images of a society or an era."

Speaking about Christian universities in particular, the Archbishop said: "The Christian intellectual community is an environment which honours the belief that the most basic level of human eros is the desire for communion with God.  And that means that the Christian university is more, not less, passionate about the critique of idolatry and fantasy. And that means that the Christian university is more, not less, passionate about the critique of idolatry and fantasy.  At its heart, whatever the diverse individual convictions of its members, lies a set of convictions about what is due to the full dignity of human beings made in the divine image.  And to be faithful to this requires a persistent and constantly renewed questioning of all that diminishes and distorts or trivialises humanity at every stage of its existence, from womb to grave. "

Honorary doctorates were also awarded to Professor Timothy Garton Ash, Professor Claudio Magris and Mrs Maria Nowak

For more information and the full text of the Archbishop's sermon see:

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