Benedict ally back in favour at Florida uni

Days after he was sacked as provost of Florida's controversial Ave Maria University, theological ally and former student of Pope Benedict Jesuit Fr Joseph Fessio is returning to the private university as "designated theologian in residence".

Catholic News Agency reports that following a whirlwind of activity in southern Florida, Fr Fessio seems to have resettled at Ave Maria University, established by Dominos Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan.

In a short statement released on Thursday the University announced that, "As a sign of our esteem for his great gifts and abilities, we have asked Father Fessio and he has agreed to continue a relationship with us."

According to the local paper Naples News, Fr Fessio and Ave Maria have agreed that he will maintain a room on campus, assume some teaching responsibilities, and will make further plans for student study abroad program.

"I'm back and I'm glad," said Fr Fessio, who is a former doctoral student of Pope Benedict.

The priest told local media that as Ave Maria leadership "began to focus more on what's going to be best for the students and the university as a whole", they decided that he should stay on-board in some capacity.

Fr Fessio said that Ave Maria University founder Mr Monaghan and President Nick Healy, who announced yesterday that he was fired for, "irreconcilable differences over administrative policies and practices," realised that such differences did not mean he should be completely removed from responsibilities with the school.

"If we disagreed on the administration process, then send me from administration," the priest said, adding that he will not now be involved in "major policy decisions".

Ave Maria has been adamant in stressing that they have no ideological differences with Fr Fessio, who is known for his strong defence of and faithfulness to the Church's theological and moral teachings.

With the reappointment Fr Fessio, who is also the founder of Ignatius Press and publisher of the Catholic World Report, expressed his continued support of the school.

"This is an extraordinary undertaking of the university for the students," Fr Fessio told Florida's The News-Press. "I was removed yesterday, but had so much admiration and respect for the role I played here. We call Catholic priests father for a reason. It really is a family."

"I think it would have been better to have foreseen a little more clearly. It wouldn't have been so much turmoil. But all's well that ends well," he said.

Father Fessio said that he still has not been given a reason for his precipitous dismissal, although he conceded that he has had strong disagreements with other top administrators at Ave Maria. Informed sources on campus have said that the most important disagreements involved the campus ministry.

Jesuit superstar back at Ave Maria University (Catholic News, 23/3/07)
Ave Maria retains Father Fessio in new capacity (Catholic World News, 23/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Reflections on Benedict XVI | An Interview with Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ (Ignatius Insight)
Fr Joseph Fessio, S.J. (Wikipedia)
Ave Maria University (Wikipedia)
Ave Maria University website

No shift in Church's position on evolution, Jesuit says (CathNews, 7/9/06)
Pope drops papal crown from coat of arms (CathNews, 29/4/05)

26 Mar 2007

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