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Looking Back
‘Royal and Pontifical’

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:28:00 08/13/2008

Filed Under: history

When I made the mistake of asking Teodoro Agoncillo a what-if question on history, he winced. Normally, that would have been followed by a crisp expletive but instead he advised, ?Why waste your energy on something that did not happen, when just establishing what really happened is a fulltime job.?

Sometimes, I replied, what did not happen is more interesting than what happened.

Setting the defunct Colegio de San Ignacio founded by the Jesuits in 1590 against the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas, the oldest existing university in the Philippines, that carries the honorific title ?Royal and Pontifical,? drew kind comments from the eminent Dominican historian Fidel Villaroel who emailed last July 31, the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, to invite me to join him in tracing some historical steps as follows:

?The Colegio de San Ignacio was founded in 1590, and opened in 1595, 16 years before the Colegio de Santo Tomas, founded in 1611. San Ignacio was given ?the faculty to confer university degrees? in 1621 when a papal brief of Paul V granted that privilege to all the Jesuit colleges in the Indies. In 1619, the same Pope granted the same faculty to all Dominican colleges of the New World. Both papal decrees arrived in Manila in 1625. And both colleges here began to confer degrees. With regard to Santo Tomas, in 1645, Pope Innocent X reinforced that privilege by a papal bull elevating the college to the rank of academia, which the Dominicans interpreted a university, against the interpretation of the Jesuits. I am not sure whether San Ignacio received a similar bull at that time.

?God knows how many long and useless discussions were held between the two schools. What is certain is that in 1734, both schools became universities of ?General Studies? in the strict sense, when both established a non-ecclesiastical faculty of Jurisprudence or Civil Law. Since then, two real universities co-existed in Manila. But not for a long time, because the University of San Ignacio disappeared 30 years later when the Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines in 1768.?

Tracing the Ateneo de Manila University to the Colegio de San Ignacio was confusing, so Father Villaroel said: ?The Jesuits did return in 1859 to resume their old and glorious mission here, but the Ateneo does not go back to the Colegio de San Ignacio. It goes back to a modest primary school, Escuela Pía de Manila, initiated in 1803 by a certain Don Pedro Vivanco and taken over by the municipality in 1817 (and renamed Ateneo Municipal), which the city entrusted to the Jesuits in 1859. San Ignacio as a pontifical university needs a little more discussion. In your column you stated twice that the Jesuit colegio [of San Ignacio] was also the first to be granted the exalted title and status of ?royal and pontifical university? before UST; and also that ?it [San Ignacio] became in 1732 the first royal and pontifical university in the Philippines.?

?A look at the list of the present pontifical universities will illustrate the singular privilege granted to the University of Santo Tomas by the apostolic constitution Quae Mari Sinico in 1902. Anuario Pontificio, the annual official directory of the Holy See, in its edition for the year 2000, lists all the Catholic and or Pontifical institutes of higher learning, grouping them into two categories: Roman Ateneums and Catholic Universities. Only 24 are called Pontifical, and of these 24, six are located in Rome (Gregorian University, Lateran University, Urbanian University, University of Santo Tomas [known as The Angelicum], Salisian University and Holy Cross University); three are in Europe; fourteen in Latin America; and one in Asia, this one being the University of Santo Tomas of Manila.

?The oldest university to be denominated by the Holy See as Pontifical is the Jesuit Gregorian University in Rome. Although founded in 1551, it was Pope Pius IX who, in 1873, permitted the school to assume the title of ?Pontifical University.?? All the other abovementioned 23 universities received the title of Pontifical in the 20th century. The University of Santo Tomas of Manila (UST), the oldest of them (founded in 1611), is second only to the Gregorian University to be declared Pontifical by the apostolic constitution Quae Mari Sinico in 1902.

?Was UST called Pontifical much earlier than 1902. In fact, references to it as ?Royal and Pontifical? are frequently seen in printed speeches and sermons delivered by Dominican rectors and professors to the Pontifical University. The same title is given to it in the official ?Estatutos de la Real y Pontificia Universidad de Santo Tomas de Manila? drafted in the years 1734, 1785 and 1859. It also appears in almost all the 12 seals used by the university through the centuries. But in all those instances, the title of Pontifical was self-given, from below (from the university) not from above (from Rome). The papal documents before 1902 always referred to the institution as universitas, or academia or lyceum, etc. of Santo Tomas, not as Pontificia or Pontifical. It was not until 1902 that Leo XIII endowed it with the official title of ?Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.? From these premises any reader can draw conclusions about the ?pontifical? title of San Ignacio, a nonexistent institution since 1786.?

* * *

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu.

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