The Pontifical Oriental Institute or “Orientale” is the premier center for the study of Eastern Christianity in Rome, Italy. The pontifical institute was established in 1917 by Pope Benedict XV. Pope Pius XI entrusted the Institute to the Society of Jesus in 1922, and with the 1928 encyclical “Rerum Orientalium” encouraged bishops to send students to the Institute to be formed as future professors in eastern church studies. In that same year, Pius XI associated the Institute with the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Biblical Institute, thus forming the Gregorian Consortium.
In 1971, the Faculty of Eastern Canon Law was erected alongside the already existing Faculty of Eastern Ecclesiastical Studies. The Faculty of Eastern Canon Law had a crucial role in the production of the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches. The Institute has been located across from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore since 1926. It is separated from the Collegium Russicum by the Church of Saint Antony. According to article 16 of the Lateran Treaty, signed in 1929 between Italy and the Holy See, the property of the Oriental Institute enjoys a certain level of extraterritoriality, with the Holy See having all rights over the infrastructure without interference from the Italian State, and free from all Italian taxation.
Since 1993, the Grand Chancellor of the Oriental Institute has been the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and in 2016 was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, while the Rector was Fr. David Nazar, S.J.
The first president of the Institute was Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, Abbot of St. Paul and the Archbishop of Milan. Benedict XV first gave the Institute the authority to grant academic degrees in Theology. With “the grand design to build a bridge between the East and the West “, Schuster expressed that, “the Pontifical Oriental Institute had to be an academy dedicated exclusively to the study of various theological subjects cultivated in the East” (Benedict XV on The Union of Churches Conference held at the Catholic University in 1940).
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