Notre Dame to confer honorary degrees at academic convocation to be held at Rome Global Gateway

Author: Notre Dame News

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At an academic convocation on Jan. 29 at its Rome Global Gateway, the University of Notre Dame will bestow honorary degrees on three distinguished leaders: Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums; Bishop Brian Farrell, L.C., secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity; and Roberto Benigni, an internationally acclaimed actor, director and poet.

“The University is honored to recognize these three outstanding leaders in their respective fields,” said University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “By virtue of her faithful and trailblazing leadership, Barbara Jatta has made lasting contributions to the Church and to the world of art conservation. Bishop Farrell’s tireless work to build ecumenical relationships has enriched the Church’s expressions of faith and compassionate love. And Roberto Benigni, through his groundbreaking and candid storytelling, has invited all who experience his art into a deeper relationship with humanity and the divine.”

“All three serve as inspiring role models for the global Notre Dame community.”

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Barbara Jatta (doctor of fine arts)
Jatta broke new ground in 2016 when Pope Francis appointed her as vice-director and, in January 2017, as the first female director of the Vatican Museums — the second-most visited museum in the world behind only the Louvre in Paris. As one of the most prominent female Vatican administrators, she is responsible for an immense and invaluable collection of artwork that includes the iconic Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Jatta has participated in prominent diplomatic and interreligious exchanges, including an art exchange with China and a joint exhibit with the Jewish Museum of Rome. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she led a transition to offering digital experiences, including seven new virtual museum tours and a video series that brought the Vatican’s collections to new audiences.

Prior to her Vatican Museums position, she was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to roles at the Vatican Apostolic Library. Jatta holds a degree from Sapienza University of Rome and also completed a three-year specialist course there. She received her archivist diploma from the Vatican School of Paleography, Diplomacy and Archives, and has studied conservation. She has been awarded the Order of the Star of Italy, an honor that recognizes national prestige abroad and the promotion of friendly relations and cooperation between Italy and other countries, and was named to Forbes’ 50 over 50 list in 2022.

Bishop Farrell

Bishop Brian Farrell, L.C. (doctor of laws)
Born in Dublin and ordained bishop by Pope St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica in 2003, Bishop Farrell is a distinguished leader in promoting ecumenical and interreligious engagement within the Catholic Church. Through his scholarship and advocacy work, he has served as an outspoken voice condemning antisemitism and emphasizing the need for interfaith dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

After his ordination to priesthood, Bishop Farrell worked to establish the Legionaries of Christ in the United States, a congregation driven to lead others to “transform their hearts, their families and their world” with the love of Christ. He completed a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and, afterward, entered the Secretariat of State. In the 1990s, as department head of its English language section, he accompanied Pope St. John Paul II on many apostolic journeys to various parts of the world. He is the brother of Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.

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Roberto Benigni (doctor of fine arts)
An Italian actor and director lauded for his comedic work, Benigni is widely known for the film “Life is Beautiful,” which he directed and starred in. Inspired by his father’s experiences in a World War II labor camp, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and awarded the Oscar for best foreign language film, best original dramatic score, and best actor for Benigni — the first win for a male performer in a non-English-speaking role.

In 2014, Benigni achieved great public acclaim with “The Ten Commandments,” a TV program quoted in the “Te deum,” Pope Francis’ last homily for 2014. Benigni also contributed his work to support the 2016 launch of Pope Francis’ book “The Name of God is Mercy.”

He has appeared publicly and met privately with Pope Francis for multiple projects. An improvisatory poet, he is renowned for his insights on and recitations of Dante’s “Divina Commedia” from memory. Benigni is the recipient of 10 honorary degrees from universities around the world. In 2021, he was given the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award, an honor for those who have made important contributions to cinema.


Originally published by Notre Dame News at on December 19, 2023.