CS&T Staff Writer

VILLANOVA- Villanova University is taking seriously Pope Benedict XVI’s call to learn from and celebrate the life and works of St. Paul.

The university has organized a year-long campus celebration that began with a well-attended symposium on St. Paul featuring two of the world’s leading biblical scholars, Jesuit Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer, professor emeritus at Catholic University of America and Dominican Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, professor of New Testament at Ecole Biblique of Jerusalem.

The university honored the two priests with a special Mass and awarded them honorary doctorates celebrating their foundational roles in shaping biblical scholarship, said Barbara Wall, Villanova’s special assistant to the president for mission effectiveness.

“These two scholars have done so much to advance biblical scholarship as well as being mentors and teachers to so many others who are now teaching Scripture throughout the world,” she said.

The University’s Office for Mission Effectiveness is the sponsor of Villanova’s Jubilee Year events and its purpose is to enhance the school’s Catholic Augustinian identity.

“We focus on the importance of providing an ethos on campus where people can come to know the richness of the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition,” Wall said.

“The year-long celebration is one way to do that.”

In addition to the symposium, a speaker series that began on Oct. 1 and runs throughout the school year explores more deeply St. Paul’s life and works, the relevance of his legacy and the importance of biblical scholarship in today’s world.

The series also features an ecumenical group of the world’s most distinguished Pauline scholars such as Mark Nanos, one of a handful of Jewish scholars in the country with expertise in Paul; David Aune, professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Notre Dame University and editor of “Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification,” and E.P. Sanders of Duke University, a world-renowned New Testament scholar and author.

The ecumenical component was important because “so many traditions share the Scriptures and the writings of Paul,” Wall said. “There has been an enormous amount of extraordinary scholarship in the Catholic and non-Catholic biblical world. We thought it was very important that people have some experience of that.”

The series aims to celebrate all Christians’ shared admiration for Paul who is looked upon as a credible witness of truth and a true Christian example, Wall added. “We hope that the scholarship generated by our speakers will provide a better understanding of the times and formation of the early Christian community and its relevance in our lives today.”

All the events are open to the public and admission is free. For a list of speakers or more information about the series, visit .

CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at or (215) 965-4614.