THE DOMINICAN order has withdrawn “temporarily” from administering the first Catholic university in Ethiopia, citing “several complications” with Ethiopian bishops.

The bishops’ conference of Ethiopia is now in-charge of the Ethiopian Catholic University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Ecusta) 10 months after its opening in September last year.

The Varsitarian had reported that Ecusta was supposed to be owned by the Ethiopian bishops’ conference, but run by the Dominicans. The former sought help from Dominican Master General Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, O.P. to establish the university six years ago.

In a letter early this month updating members of the Order of Preachers on activities of the Dominican headquarters, Fr. Edward Ruane, O.P., vicar of the Master General, announced that the Dominicans had withdrawn from the project.

Ruane said: “Unfortunately, there were several complications that set in with the development of the university, and the Ethiopian Bishops Conference.”

“After many consultations with the (Ethiopian Bishops’) Conference, the General Curia, and our brothers, it was decided that the brothers should withdraw from the university, even if only temporarily,” he said in the letter. “We are indebted to our brothers, espeicially Fr. Rogelio Alarcon, who worked so well and diligently on this project.”

Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, O.P., prior provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province, explained this was because the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Order and the Ethiopian bishops expired last October.

“We started the MOA in October 2003, and it was good for five years. We could not agree on the terms of the renewal of the MOA between the Order and the Ethiopian bishops,” Pedregosa said in an inteview.

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In August last year, the Varsitarian reported that Fr. Virgilio Aderiano Ojoy, O.P., former UST vice rector, would be the first Ecusta rector.

Pedregosa clarified that Ojoy was included in the selection process but did not receive an official appointment. Instead, Alarcon who was part of the group of Filipino Dominicans appointed by the Dominican curia to start the project, was named rector.

Alarcon could not be reached for comment.

Ojoy, for his part, said he did not proceed to Ethiopia over certain “conditions.”

The project fell through over management questions and appointments, he said in a separate interview.

The brothers mentioned in the vicar’s letter were Alarcon, Fr. Greg Gregory, O.P., who served as treasurer, and Bro. Raymundo Bayaras, school chaplain, Ojoy said.

Pedregosa said Ojoy was considered for the post but only as an alternative to Alarcon, who had been eyed for the post since 2004.

“We just don’t tell people that ‘You will be rector.’ In the Order, we always dialogue. In appointments, we ask, ‘Do you want to accept the job? If no, it’s okay, but we also have to tell you we are also talking to other people’,” said Pedregosa, who is UST vice chancellor.

The Ecusta was a highly anticipated project of the Dominican Order known for its missionary and educational work.

The foundation of Ecusta was highlighted in the acts of the 2007 general chapter of the order in Bogota, Colombia, which noted that Filipino Dominicans had started a community in Addis Ababa, the House of St. Augustine of Hippo, and that the opening of the new university, with five faculties temporarily at Nazareth High School, was “imminent.”

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The chapter also cited the fact that the university would be an undertaking of the entire Dominican family, noting that the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, which runs Siena College, had been invited to join.

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