Blessed Paul VI Higher Institute of Religious Studies
Who we are
The Blessed Paul VI Higher Institute of Religious Studies of Villa Cagnola was founded at the behest of Noble Guido Cagnola, who in 1946, donating his Villa in Gazzada, wished a center to be founded that would unite scientific intentions of promoting the “study of religious problems” and practical purposes of training “the clergy and laity” to elevate the “religious and spiritual life of the Italian people.”
This “beautiful design,” suggested by Fr. Luigi Bietti to his friend Cagnola and pondered by him for a long time before his convinced adhesion, found lively interest in Giovanni Battista Montini who, first as substitute at the Secretariat of State and then as archbishop of Milan, favored the donation and enhancement of the cultural service of Villa Cagnola as an instrument of dialogue, confrontation and inner maturation.
The role of culture in the Church’s dialogue with the contemporary world, already clear in Montini’s first contacts with Villa Cagnola, resulted in the creation on June 2, 1960, of the Higher Institute of Religious Studies as a meeting place and study center for the promotion of dialogue between different cultures and religions. In 1976 a second institute “the Paul VI Ambrosian Foundation” was established to which until 2017 was entrusted with the study and research activities for the organization of most of the Conferences of Religious Studies (the so-called European Week, a project whose proposal was appreciated and considered suggestive by Pope Paul VI). In 2017 The Ambrosian Paul VI Foundation was incorporated into the ISSR, which took on the new name of ISSR Blessed Paul VI and continues the activity that has distinguished it as a qualified laboratory for research and elaboration of Catholic culture for more than half a century.
In their 58 years of activity, the Villa Cagnola Institutes have promoted a variety of research initiatives on topics of pastoral interest and ecumenical meetings, study projects on topical issues related to the relationship between Christianity and contemporary civilization. They have conducted conferences, seminars and interdisciplinary research on nodal themes of Christian culture, boasting the participation of distinguished scholars from many European countries. In particular, the “unique” original initiative of “European Religious History Weeks,” directed at studying and documenting the decisive contribution of Christianity to the establishment and growth of the identity of different peoples. Among the most important publications are the “Religious History” series, 48 volumes in all, which analyze the complex issues of dialogue between cultures and religions, ranging from the Lombardy Dioceses and all the way to the peoples of the entire Euro-Mediterranean basin, the Balkans and Africa, and the North American continent.