U.S. Catholic Colleges Reach Out to Israel
13 Jul 2012 by Judith Sudilovsky
JERUSALEM (CNS) — Calls for academic
boycotts against Israeli institutions of higher learning run counter to the tenets of academic freedom and dialogue,
said the presidents of two American Catholic universities.
Louis Agnese, president of the University of the
Incarnate Word in San Antonio, and Jesuit Father
Lawrence Biondi, president of Saint Louis University,
said the university setting offers opportunities for
differing views to be discussed and debated in an
Both academic leaders joined eight other
university presidents and chancellors July 1-9 at the
University Presidents Seminar sponsored by Project
Interchange of the American Jewish Committee in
Jerusalem to explore collaborative academic and research
projects with Israeli institutions.
The whole idea of a university is where different
schools of thought come together and where people can
argue from different vantage points, Agnese told
Catholic News Service July 4.
He explained that as the largest Catholic
university in the U.S. Southwest, the University of the
Incarnate Word plays a strong role in supporting the faith
of its students, including Jews and Muslims who study
together, often in departments that have been sponsored
by Jewish donors.
While a boycott can be a legitimate form of
protest, it doesnt make sense in an academic setting, Father Biondi said.
Agnese also said the trip helped him better
understand the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I have a better understanding of why the peace
talks collapsed in 2000, he said. The Palestinians do not want to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state.
Father Biondi noted that in the meetings with his
Israeli counterparts, he had garnered a lot of interest for joint research in the areas of cancer, cardiology, infectious diseases and bio-terrorism, one of the special areas of expertise of St. Louis University researchers.
Agnese said he was hopeful of signing
agreements with universities in Israel in an effort to
develop joint projects in pharmaceutical, opthomological
and biotechnical research fields.
These are areas Israel excels in, he said. There is a lot of potential
The presidents also visited holy sites in Israel and
in Bethlehem and were scheduled to meet with Israeli and
Palestinian academic leaders.