Last Friday, September 9, 2022, St Irenaeus Institute was officially inaugurated in its new home, Radboud University Nijmegen.
Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium and Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, co-president of the Orthodox representative body, performed a small blessing of the waters. The other co-president, Bishop Polycarpus (Syrian Church), delivered a prayer and a blessing. The dean of the faculty, Prof. De. Heleen Murre-Vandenbergh, hosted the Institute at the University. Father John McGuckin delivered a lecture titled “St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 378-444): The Conciliator of Church Family Feuds.” Then, he was made an honorary member of the Institute. The Rector of the Institute, Father Michael Bakker, gave an overview of the Institute’s programs and projects. Finally, the chancellor of the university addressed the general public, present in the room or via a livestream.
The establishment, on April 8, 2020, of the “St. Irenaeus Orthodox Theological Institute” opened a new chapter in the nascent history of Orthodox theology at university level in the Netherlands by succeeding the Center for Orthodox Theology in Amsterdam. (ACOT). The institute falls under the Orthodox Sending Authority, the body representing around a quarter of a million people of Orthodox background in the Netherlands. The co-presidents of ACOT are His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium and Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and His Excellency Archbishop Polycarp (Syrian Church).
Ten years ago the Center for Eastern Orthodox Theology Amsterdam (ACEOT) was founded with Fr Michael Bakker (director) and Fr Andrew Louth as staff members, who was willing to cross the English Channel every month, as a visiting professor after his retirement. and graduating emeritus from Durham. Five years ago, Minister Bussemaker honored the request for an Orthodox ministerial course, and we were able to start developing it. To emphasize that the institute serves both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox families, it was decided at the time to drop the “E” of Oriental from the name. Moreover, Orthodoxy has long ceased to be limited to the East.
The staff has been expanded to include Father John Behr, holder of the Metropolitan Kallistos Ware Chair of Orthodox Theology, and Father Joan Lena, who teaches liturgical theology. Meanwhile, 15 students have completed the Pre-Masters/Minor in Orthodox Christianity, three students have completed the Orthodox variant of the Masters in Spiritual Care, and one student has completed a Ph.D. Currently, the third group of pre-master/minor students has graduated and several other master students are completing their studies. On August 29, 2020, a new group of students started their pre-master or minor.
Both developments in recent years and plans for the future call for a next step. A solid foundation in the form of an independent institute and the continued safeguarding of pan-Orthodox identity became necessary. The establishment of Saint Irenaeus aims, among other things, to achieve this.