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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Father John O'Malley S.J.: Honoring an Enduring Commitment to Scholarship and Service

Philodemic Room
Georgetown University
September 23, 2008


Thank you Fr. Boroughs. And thank you all for joining us this afternoon. It is truly a privilege to have with us today one of the most distinguished members of the Georgetown community…an exceptional scholar, teacher, and theologian…an extraordinary historian and humanist…and an excellent example of the finest intellectual and spiritual tradition of the Jesuits: Fr. John O’Malley.

As most of us are aware, through his previous scholarship, Fr. O’Malley has influenced our view of the theological richness of Renaissance Rome…
…He has enhanced our appreciation of the spiritual in art and architecture…
…He has heightened our understanding of the Jesuits in history and today…
…And he has deepened our knowledge of the styles of thought and expression that are flourishing side by side in what we call Western culture.
It is no wonder that Anthony Grafton has called him “the dean of American historians of Christianity&hellip.

In his newest work, What happened at Vatican II, Fr. O’Malley provides the very first book—firmly based on official documentation—that gives a detailed, yet extremely accessible, account of the Council from the moment it was announced until its closing. It captures the discussion, drama, and dynamics of the Council. It shows how the Council allowed the Church to modernize—while still maintaining its heritage. It outlines what the Council hoped to accomplish…and what it did achieve. And it illuminates not only the meaning of the Council—but why it still matters.

John XXIII said that he convened Vatican II in order to open the windows on the Church. Through his rich account and rigorous analysis, Fr. O’Malley has certainly opened a window on Vatican II—and we are all privileged to enjoy the captivating glimpse he provides.

In this book—as with all his previous works—Fr. O’Malley’s overriding concern is the pursuit of truth. This ideal is certainly at the crux of Jesuit tradition…and of all that we do at Georgetown. It was one of the many reasons that long before Fr. O’Malley became a member of our community, we awarded him an Honorary Degree in 1998.

That degree also recognized his lifelong dedication to the twin pillars of Jesuit education—scholarship and service. After attending Loyola University, Fr. O’Malley received his doctorate in history from Harvard, and has taught and lectured at a number of institutions, including Harvard and Oxford. Before coming to Georgetown, he was Distinguished Professor of Church History at Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

One of the most well known and widely respected church historians in North America, Fr. O’Malley has held a number of prestigious fellowships including ones from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additionally, he has won life-time achievement awards from the Society for Italian Historical Studies, and the Renaissance Society of America.

He is past president of the American Catholic Historical Association, and of the Renaissance Society of America. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995, and to the American Philosophical Society in 199.

He is also the author and editor of more than a dozen books—many of them award winning. Among his most celebrated works are Trent and all That; Four Cultures of the West; and The First Jesuits—which has been translated into ten languages.

It is truly an honor to have him with us today to share his thoughts, insights, and reflections on What Happened At Vatican II. And while we celebrate this newest book, today—we are grateful, everyday, to have him as part of our community. It is now my pleasure to introduce Fr. John William O’Malley…

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