Beyond Basketball: Villanova at The Vatican


Photo Courtesy of Vatican Media

Jack Judge

Two years ago, former Editor-in-Chief of The Villanovan, Claire Hoffman ‘18, published an April Fools satirical article parodying the notion that Pope Francis was a vehement supporter of the University’s basketball team. 

This past Saturday, however, this whimsical thought became actuated as Pope Francis welcomed basketball coach Jay Wright, who presented the Pope with a basketball signed by this year’s championship team. 

Although the Pope is recognized as an ardent soccer fan, it was clear that the gift was more than welcomed. This act was more than a celebration of the success of the University’s basketball accomplishments. Rather, it was a precursor for the future direction that the Holy Father envisions for the Catholic faith. 

Wright traveled with University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D. as well as the University’s Board of Trustees for their spring board meeting. Their trip culminated with a visit to the Eternal City, where they were able to not only visit The Vatican but also receive special attention from Pope Francis. 

Pope Francis delivered a special address to the delegation, but his remarks were directed at the University and its mission. He celebrated the University’s history, saying  “As an heir to the great Augustinian tradition of learning inspired by the pursuit of divine wisdom, your University was founded to preserve and pass on the richness of the Catholic tradition to new generations of students, who, like the young Augustine, seek true meaning and value in true life.” 

He continued to say that he hoped the University will persevere in its efforts to “communicate the intellectual, spiritual and moral values that will enable young people to participate wisely and responsibly in the great debates shaping the future of society.”

After praising the University for its guiding principles, Pope Francis urged the educational direction of the University to expand on its efforts to support research and study by fostering an environment in which members of the community can “address the complex ethical and cultural challenges raised by the epochal changes affecting our world today.” 

The vision that Pope Francis laid out for the University also served as a call to develop a Catholic unity that is committed in its efforts to solve the injustices and inequalities that currently plague the world. 

He specifically referred to the legacy of Saint Augustine and praised the example which is translated in the University’s mission. 

Ultimately, Pope Francis shared many positive remarks about the University and recognized the outstanding work it has done as a model for other institutions to follow.

Notably missing from the Pope’s address were any congratulatory remarks about the success of the basketball team. Certainly, the tremendous achievements of the basketball program has elevated the platform for the University to influence the area outside of Villanova, Pa. 

However, the address by the Pope recognized the potential for the University to be a trailblazer in fulfilling the vision Pope Francis sees for the world.

As the University concludes its “For The Greater Great” campaign and grounds itself  in its new foundations, it finds itself with the capacity to fulfill the aforementioned vocation that Pope Francis identifies.