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A group of forward thinking men united by strong commitment to culture and the Church came together in 1919 to put into effect their intent to found a Catholic university that would exercise an important and necessary role in the nation’s culture. Father Agostino Gemelli, Ludovico Necchi, Francesco Olgiati, Armida Barelli and Ernesto Lombardo faced many challenges but successfully set up the founding organization and authority, Istituto Giuseppe Toniolo di Studi Superiori, in February 1920. On 24 June of the same year, the then Minister of Public Education, Benedetto Croce, signed a decree approving the project. In the meantime, Pope Benedict XV gave the project an ecclesiastical endorsement, calling it a “victorious accomplishment for the Catholic movement, and for the entire ecclesial community in Italy.”
Inauguration of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore took place in Milan on 7 December 1921 with a mass concelebrated by Father Agostino Gemelli and Cardinal Achille Ratti, Archbishop of Milan, who was to become Pope Pius XI three months later. The first seat of the university was in the Canonica Palazzo, Via Sant’Agnese 2. In October 1932, the university’s seat was moved to the historic Saint Ambrose Monastery where it has remained to this day. In 1921, there were 68 students enrolled on the first two courses: Philosophical Sciences and Social Sciences.
Cattolica is the largest private university in Europe and the largest Catholic University in the world.