In an unprecedented engagement aimed at deepening ties and fostering discussions on pivotal global issues, leaders from Santa Clara University (SCU), nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, embarked on a significant visit to the Vatican from March 17-19. This visit highlighted the intersection between faith, education, and modern technological challenges, notably the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI).

The delegation was led by SCU President Julie Sullivan and included luminaries from both the university and its Jesuit School of Theology (JST), reflecting the institution’s commitment to Jesuit values and the pursuit of holistic education. The visit encompassed a series of meetings with senior Vatican and Jesuit leaders, underscoring SCU’s role in addressing the needs of the changing Catholic Church and its contributions to global Jesuit higher education.

A highlight of the visit was President Sullivan’s private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis on March 18. Pope Francis, known for his humble demeanor and forward-thinking views, shared insights from his 2018 apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate, on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World,” focusing on the themes of joy and humor. Sullivan described the meeting as profoundly uplifting, reflecting on Pope Francis’s ability to radiate joy and connect on a deeply human level.

The central theme of the delegation’s discussions with Vatican leaders revolved around the ethical and responsible use of AI. This topic echoes Pope Francis’s message for the World Day of Peace and resonates with Silicon Valley’s tech-driven ethos. The meetings aimed at reinforcing the importance of harnessing AI to enhance humanity’s well-being, an area that aligns with SCU’s strategic vision, “Impact 2030.”

Moreover, discussions extended to the role of Santa Clara University in advancing a synodal Church and explored partnerships to enhance Catholic education at various levels. Initiatives to integrate AI literacy among K-12 Catholic school educators underline the need for a dialogue between faith and technology. The meetings with Vatican Dicastery leaders also delved into how SCU can support the Catholic Church’s mission and contribute to social teaching and pastoral theology.

Looking ahead, SCU’s engagement with Jesuit leaders on Tuesday signals an ongoing commitment to global theological education and the development of future leaders attuned to the Church’s evolving needs.

The delegation’s visit is testament to Santa Clara University’s ambition to fuse its Jesuit heritage with the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley. It showcases a concerted effort to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by AI, while fostering an education system that balances intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth. In a world grappling with rapid technological advances, such engagements are crucial to ensuring that ethics and human values remain at the heart of educational and technological developments.