The John Paul II Institute in Melbourne is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary following its opening in July 2001 by Cardinal Alphonse Trujillo.
The Institute offers Graduate Diplomas in marriage and family studies and bioethics, Masters degrees in the same fields, as well as the PhD degree. Subjects are offered both in a semester length format, and also intensively, so that many students are able to study part-time. The Institute is fully accredited by the State of Victoria and has endorsement from the Commonwealth Government.
When the first Institute was founded by Pope John Paul II on the 13 May 1981, the day of the assassination attempt on his life, his intention was to found not only the Roman session, but an international network of Institutes to cater for the needs of students in different lingistic and geo-political groups.
There are now John Paul II Institutes in Rome, Washington (USA), Valencia (Spain), Mexico City and Guadalajara (Mexico) Cotonou (Benin), Salvador da Bahia (Brazil), Changanacherry (India) and Melbourne (Australia).
The Melbourne Institute was set up to cater for the needs of students in the South-East Asia and Oceania regions, and some students have already come from Taiwan, New Zealand and the Pacific Island of Tokelau. However one surprise has been the number of students coming from Canada and the United States.
These students are attracted to the Melbourne Institute because they want an experience of overseas study in a city with a temperate climate and low crime rate, and they are also attracted by the range of subjects offered, especially in the field of bioethics.
The Bioethics program of the Institute is overseen by Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini and was heavily influenced in its foundation by Bishop Anthony Fisher and Rev Dr John Fleming (now President of Campion College). Every year Dr Tonti-Filippini organ- ises a major bioethics conference, co- sponsored by the Knights of Malta, who have a special interest in the field of healthcare. The newly founded Victorian Catholic Doctors' Association has close links with the Institute and with the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
The Bioethics courses are attracting students from the medical, nursing and teaching professions as well as those with a theological, philosophical or pastoral background. The Bioethics research institute also serves as a resource for a number of other contributions to Government Committees and to Church organisations. Dr Tonti-Filippini is a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee and several sub-committees.
Many students come to the Institute not because they want to be professional theologians or because they want to work in a Church agency, but because they want a sound intellectual formation in their faith, especially in those areas which are necessary for their spiritual survival.
One of the most popular subjects offered by the Institute is the Theology of the Body. It is focused on John Paul II's teaching on the meaning and purpose of human sexuality. Professor Jose Noriega from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome will be conducting a mid-Winter intensive on the theology of the body in the first two weeks of August. Students may enrol for this course either for assessment, or simply for audit.
Other special interests of the scholars associated with the Institute are the theological anthropology of John Paul II, the theology of Benedict XVI, Mariology and Liturgy. Dr Isabell Naumann ISSM is a recognised international authority in the area of Mariology, and the Dean, Tracey Rowland, is a member of the editorial board of Communio, the theology journal founded by Benedict XVI and Hans Urs von Balthasar in 1972. She is one of 25 scholars from around the world invited to take part in an international colloquium on the philosophy of history and the thought of Benedict XVI at the Institut Catholique de Paris in June, 2006.
The Director of the Institute, Monsignor Peter Elliott, is a graduate of the John Paul II Institute in Rome who combines an interest in liturgical issues with his experience as a scholar-diplomat with the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The philosophy courses are co-ordinated by Professor Hayden Ramsay, author of books on virtue and the philosophy of leisure and an in-house philosopher on the staff of Cardinal Pell. Also from Cardinal Pell's personal staff is the Institute's social science lecturer, Dr Michael Casey.
Events to be sponsored by the Institute in the coming months include: a student and faculty lunch-time seminar with visiting Professor William T. Cavenaugh from the University of St Paul, Minnesota, author of Theo-political Imagination, a student and faculty luncheon and a public lecture (the annual Harman Lecture) with Professor Kenneth Schmitz, an international authority on the philosophical anthropology of John Paul II and a public lecture with Professor Joseph Fessio SJ, who founded Ignatius Press in the United States and studied under Benedict XVI.
The Fr Fessio event will be co- sponsored by the Institute and the Australian Catholic Students Association and the luncheon with Professor Cavenaugh has been made possible by the Helder Camara Lecture Trust.
Dr Rowland has said that in the next phase of the Institute's life it is hoped to increase the range of subjects offered in the fields of early childhood development and psychology and to get a Foundation up and running so that the Institute can receive tax deductable donations, and from these funds employ more full-time Professors.
For details about courses offered at the Institute, questions should be sent to the Registrar, Lieutenant-Colonel Toby Hunter, at firstname.lastname@example.org