The Catholic University of America

Catholic University's Special Relationship
With the Holy See



The Catholic University of America is a pontifical university, conferring ecclesiastical degrees, which are accredited and certified by the Holy See. The University received its papal charter in 1887 from Pope Leo XIII.

In all of U.S. history a pope has visited an American university campus on only four occasions. Two of those — Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 — were to the campus of Catholic University.


Cardinal Wuerl Reveals Pope's Washington, D.C., Schedule

Holy Father's Itinerary Includes the White House, Congress, and CUA


After the Vatican announced the confirmed schedule for Pope Francis’s apostolic visit to the United States this September, which includes stops in Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and chancellor of The Catholic University of America, met with members of the media at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington to discuss the Washington, D.C. itinerary for the Holy Father’s visit.

Also present at the media event were Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; Frank G. Persico, vice president for university relations for The Catholic University of America; Monsignor W. Ronald Jameson, rector of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle; Monsignor John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington; Monsignor Salvatore A. Criscuolo, pastor of Saint Patrick’s Church in Washington; and representatives from the apostolic nunciature.

“Pope Francis has captured the imagination of people around the world and touched the hearts of all of us,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and University chancellor. “We look forward to our Holy Father’s visit here as it will be a time of God’s grace at work among us in a unique way and an opportunity to be confirmed more fully as missionary disciples of our Lord.”

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University to Welcome Pope Francis

Holy Father to Celebrate Mass at Basilica on Sept. 23, 2015

Papal Visit Updates

John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America, has confirmed that during his upcoming visit to Washington Pope Francis will celebrate Mass from the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where the University holds its Commencement exercises each year. The congregation attending the Mass, which will take place on Sept. 23, will assemble in the area surrounding the steps of the Basilica, including the 3.6-acre University Mall.

“We are overjoyed that Pope Francis will not only be coming to Washington but will be on the campus of our pontifical University,” said President Garvey. “I know that it will be a great thrill for our students, faculty, and staff to see the Holy Father and to know that as he looks out over the congregation during the Mass, he will also be seeing the pathways and buildings that members of our community frequent every day on their way to and from class. We look forward to working with the Archdiocese of Washington, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in all the necessary preparations for the Mass," said Garvey.

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Catholic University President’s Statement on New Pope

    Pope Francis bowing
    In his first address from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis said, "Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me." He bowed, and St. Peter's Square fell silent as those gathered prayed for the new Pope.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected Pope on March 13 by the cardinal electors gathered in the Sistine Chapel. Below is a statement from John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America, about Pope Francis.

“The Catholic University of America is proud to congratulate Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on his election as Pope. The Holy See and the University, which was founded in 1887 by the U.S. Catholic bishops under a papal charter issued by Pope Leo XIII, share a unique relationship. As the national University of the Catholic Church in the United States, we have been blessed to host two papal visits: one by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and one by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. We are excited to move forward under the leadership of Pope Francis and we pray that the Catholic Church will grow under his guidance in wisdom and Christ’s grace. And we hope to welcome him to our campus some day.”


Eight of the 11 American Cardinal Electors at the Conclave Graduated from The Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America was well represented among the cardinals who will attend the conclave to choose the pope in March 2013. Of the 11 cardinal electors from the United States, eight were CUA graduates.

  • Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and former archbishop of St. Louis, earned a B.A. in philosophy in 1970 and an M.A. in philosophy, 1971.
  • Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, received a B.A. in philosophy in 1971 and an M.A. in philosophy in 1973.
  • Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, archbishop of New York, earned his M.A. in Church history in 1981 and his Ph.D.  in Church history in 1985.
  • Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I., archbishop of Chicago, earned an M.A. in philosophy in 1965.
  • Cardinal Roger Michael Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, received an M.S.W. in social work in 1964.
  • Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Boston, earned an M.A. in religious education in 1972 and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature in 1978. He also taught at Catholic University from 1969 to 1973.
  • Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, earned an S.T.B. (bachelor in sacred theology) in 1961.
  • Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, earned a B.A. in philosophy in 1962 and an M.A. in philosophy in 1963.

Another cardinal elector at the conclave, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, gained his doctorate in sacred theology at Catholic University in 1991.

In addition to these cardinals, many other prominent leaders in the Church were educated at Catholic University, including 102 active and emeritus bishops and archbishops. They have served or are serving not only in the United States and the Philippines but also in such countries as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Sudan.

The University's Board of Trustees includes five cardinals, eight archbishops, and 10 bishops. 


Book from CUA Press Explores
Pope Benedict XVI's Vision for Catholic Higher Education

A Reason Open to God

On Universities, Education, and Culture

By Pope Benedict XVI
Foreword by John Garvey; Ed by J. Steven Brown

Book cover

With clarity and wisdom, Pope Benedict XVI sets out his vision for Catholic higher education in this first and only collection of his major addresses on the topic. What is the mission and identity of a Catholic university? What are the responsibilities of administrators, teachers, and students in Catholic institutes of higher learning? Where does the central theme of "love of God and others" fit into academia?

The pope's most important statements on the nature of the university and its cultural and educative tasks are brought together in this volume.

> Order this book



Commemorative Booklet Recalls Pope's 2008 Visit to CUA

Papal booklet



Bringing the theme of "Christ Our Hope" to The Catholic University of America, Pope Benedict XVI visited the University on April 17, 2008.

This booklet, in PDF format, tells the story of this historic papal visit. It is a beautifully illustrated record of the  preparations to welcome the pontiff, the celebration of his presence on campus, and the impact of his message.

> View booklet (PDF)
> View photo gallery of papal visit

Related Links



President John Garvey met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Sept. 28, 2011, during a retreat for the Catholic University Board of Trustees.

Pope greets CUA president

On March 26, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI greeted then Catholic University President Father David O’Connell in St. Peter’s Square.
(Photo by L'Observatorio Romano)