The seats filled up very quickly and when the lecture began and many had to sit on the floor or stand at the back of the conference hall. Late comers simply could not get in and had to contend with listening from the hallway.
The event was the Annual Schillebeeckx Lecture and the venue was the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila. ACU theologian Dr. Edmund Chia was invited to deliver the 2016 keynote lecture on 22 April.
Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, who went to his reward at 95 several years ago, was a Dominican priest and Santo Tomas is run by Dominicans. The university recently inaugurated an annual lecture series to celebrate Fr. Schillebeeckx’s vast contribution to the field of theology. Last year’s speaker was Professor Mathijs Lamberights, the Dean of the Faculty of Theology of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.
This was where Fr. Schillebeeckx began his teaching career shortly after World War II. A decade later he moved to Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen in the Netherlands and taught there until his retirement in the 1980s. Dr. Chia studied at Nijmegen, where he specialised on Schillebeeckx’s theology and befriended the theological giant who was then already in his late 80s. Fr. Schillebeeckx even attended the public defense of Chia’s doctoral thesis.
At the UST Lecture, Chia spoke on how Schillebeeckx’s hermeneutical method has helped him understand Asian Theology and also appreciate Laudato Si’ and Misericordiae Vultus, two documents recently promulgated by Pope Francis.
The former is on the Care of Mother Earth while the latter to launch the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The audience, coming not only from UST but also from universities and seminaries around Metro-Manila as well as the provinces, appreciated Chia’s efforts of contextualising Schillebeeckx’s theology and making it relevant for the contemporary culture.
UST (founded in 1611) is one of the oldest and most prestigious university in Asia, has more than 40,000 students and confers ecclesiastical degrees.
From dawn to dusk students are seen by the hundreds popping in at the university’s chapel for brief moments of personal prayer before classes. Its community will play a significant role in preserving the legacy of Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, whose theology has shaped much of the post-Vatican II church around the world.