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Loyola University Chicago expands global Building Bridges Initiative across Asia Pacific

June 10, 2024

Loyola University Chicago’s innovative Building Bridges Initiative will expand to the Asia Pacific region this month on Thursday, June 20 at 7 a.m. CT with students participating from Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and beyond.

Inspired by the call of Pope Francis to synodality and in collaboration with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, Institute for Pastoral Studies, College of Arts and Sciences Department of Theology, and Office for Global and Community Engagement launched Building Bridges North-South in February 2022, bringing students across the Americas into direct dialogue with Pope Francis. 

Following the resounding success of the first event, the University embraced a leadership role in serving as a hub for additional dialogues across Africa and South Asia, with Building Bridges Across Asia Pacific representing the fourth global dialogue in the series. Loyola facilitates local universities in each geographic region in accompanying students as they engage in listening, dialogue, and discernment around shared social concerns, before inviting representatives to a live-streamed dialogue with Pope Francis where they are able to share their group’s experiences and hopes directly with him. Institutions participating in this dialogue include:

  • Ateneo de Manila University (Manila, Philippines)
  • Australian Catholic University (Brisbane, Australia)
  • Fu Jen Catholic University (Taipei, Taiwan)
  • Sogang University (Seoul, South Korea)
  • Sophia University (Tokyo, Japan)
  • Universitas Sanata Dharma (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

Reflecting on the sustained interest in the initiative, Peter L. Jones, PhD, interim dean of the Institute of Pastoral Studies, reflected on the diversity of the group of students represented in this fourth dialogue. “The Building Bridges Initiative represents a very deliberate effort to partner with the Holy Father in walking alongside young people to learn more about their experiences, perspectives, dreams, and challenges. Building Bridges Across Asia Pacific is a unique opportunity for students in a highly religiously diverse region to enter authentic dialogue. Christians represent about one percent of the population in some of the participating countries such as Thailand and Japan, while comprising a significant majority in others like the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. This uneven distribution contributes to remarkably varied experiences among young people of faith. We hope that this experience has the power to center those diverse experiences, but also to find points of joyful commonality that build bridges within the Asia Pacific region and beyond—especially among our other Building Bridges regions including South Asia, Africa, and the Americas.”

In short, your face-to-face or virtual meetings here are precious moments to build bridges—when they do not yet exist—or to reinforce bridges—when, existing, the need to strengthen it is felt...You are now in this meeting to become a bridge.

— Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça , Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education