Dear Professors, Students and Technical and Administrative staff,

The rapid spread of the Covid-19 contagion is progressively touching our lives; indeed, it affects the academic community and the entire country in a global scenario where we face an unprecedented situation of a significant pandemic. Efforts to deal with the new circumstances by reorganising didactic schedules in line with government advice (believing that the disruption would be short-lived) were successful, however, the situation has exacerbated and the whole of Italy must now adhere to very restrictive rules in order to contain and defeat the spread of Coronavirus.

As an academic community we are now called upon to feel even more united and supportive, both amongst ourselves and with the entire country. This health emergency imposes limitations on us but also instinctively entrusts in our skills and expertise. Indeed, our Faculty of Medicine and Surgery the A. Gemelli University Hospital are leaders in the field and, at the Rome campus, staff are coping with the effects of Coronavirus in the Lazio area with great scientific expertise and extraordinary healthcare assistance. The A. Gemelli Hospital has transformed the Columbus health centre into a specialised Regional Covid Hospital and, first and foremost, we wish to express our solidarity and our gratitude to all those operating on the most advanced frontline of health protection in all the Italian health structures and, in particular, in our University hospital.

The spread of the contagion has resulted in the postponement of attended lectures and, consequently, also the dispersion of our academic community. To avoid transmitting the virus our movements have been increasingly limited, up to the latest Decree which obliges all citizens to stay at home with the exception of urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies or health reasons. Thanks to the wholehearted commitment of the Rector and the governing bodies, the university’s IT infrastructure has successfully provided online continuity for educational and research purposes. Despite the inevitable inconveniences we should perceive the various distance learning technologies as an opportunity for growth and innovation.

In addition to supporting this tangible online mode of operation, it is important that our community continues to foster feelings of belonging and sharing in order to combat equally serious pathologies such as isolation, the sense of loss and mistrust. As a society we are already inclined towards the pervasive processes of individualism and indifference. The current situation can exacerbate these sentiments but it could also become the occasion for a significant turnaround or, better said, with a word not unrelated to the Catholic culture of our University, a real personal, social, cultural and spiritual conversion.

The virus does not come from God but support and comfort can certainly come from God, according to the psalmist's touching words: «He will deliver you from the fowler's snare, from the destroying plague... You will not fear ... the pestilence that roams in the darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon» (Sl91, 3-6). The purpose of the university experience is to educate everyone to a complete sense of life and to offer ourselves for the common good. In this uneasy on-going scenario, education not only doesn’t go into quarantine but actually rises to the occasion. Each one of us is called upon to develop resilience, reactive creativity not passivity, solidarity by taking care of each other's needs - also thinking of our families and people who need it most - and trust to overcome the huge challenges of this moment also thanks to the wealth of skills in many sectors that the University is able to put at the service of the country.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the next University Cattolica Day addresses the theme "Allies for the future". We had visualised a beautiful and positive future scenario, also linked to the University’s centenary celebrations, instead we find ourselves facing a destabilizing event that is fraught with consequences. But history, even that of our university, teaches us that difficult times always kick-start our energy to overcome the challenges,creating space for the strongest antibodies develop. This will certainly be the case once again especially if we follow Pope Francis' invitation to the faithful «to live this difficult moment with the power of faith, the certainty of hope and the fervour of charity» and make it our own.
(Angelus, 8 March 2020).

Claudio Giuliodori
General Ecclesial Assistant