Pope Francis appoints Notre Dame theologian to International Theological Commission

Author: Carrie Gates

Yury Avvakumov

Yury Avvakumov, an associate professor in the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology and a faculty fellow in the University’s Medieval Institute, has been appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s International Theological Commission.

The commission, established under Pope Paul VI in 1969, is tasked with examining doctrinal questions of great importance and advising the pope and the Holy See through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The International Theological Commission has counted among its 30 members some of the most distinguished Catholic theologians in the world, said Timothy Matovina, professor and chair of theology.

“The appointment of Professor Avvakumov to this commission is a great honor for him, the Department of Theology and the University of Notre Dame,” Matovina said. “Yury will bring a wealth of wisdom and expertise to the commission with his extensive knowledge of Catholic and Orthodox theological traditions.”

A Byzantine Catholic from the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, Avvakumov said he is humbled by the appointment and sees it as a sign of Pope Francis’ mindful attention to Eastern Christians.

“Eastern Catholic Christianity is an indispensable part of the world Catholic community,” he said. “Sharing the same cultural heritage as the Orthodox, Eastern Catholics preserve communion with the Bishop of Rome and thus make visible the truly catholic, universal dimension of the Catholic Church.”

Avvakumov, a historian of Christianity, specializes in the late Medieval and early Modern periods and focuses his research on the historical relationship between the papacy and Eastern Churches. He looks forward to contributing to the commission’s discussion of current ecclesiological and ecumenical challenges.

“Our knowledge of the past is indispensable for understanding the world in which we live today and for responding to contemporary challenges,” he said. “The recent 20th-century history of Catholic churches in Eastern and Central Europe offers us examples of true devotion, courage, martyrdom and struggle under communist totalitarianism, as we witness a troubling return to authoritarianism and new threats to democracy.”

Also a fellow in the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, Avvakumov is particularly proud to represent the University of Notre Dame in this role.

“Since coming to Notre Dame in 2010, I have been privileged to enjoy this uniquely cooperative, incredibly stimulating academic environment,” Avvakumov said. “I am heartened that Notre Dame, with its Medieval Institute and rapidly developing Byzantine studies program, is becoming one of the leading centers of Eastern Christian studies in North America."