October 15th 1917 - The Orientale in Rome
Pope Benedict XV founded the Orientale as a link between east and west. It had the task to promote by scientific activity the knowledge of the eastern Christianity in east and west, and to waken interest. It should particularly train those Latin priests who were chosen for the apostolate among the eastern Christians. But it should also take up those Orientals who are united with Rome, and who wanted to deepen their knowledge in Rome.
The first President of the institute was Father Anton Delpuche from the Society of the White Fathers, who had been active in Jerusalem heretofore. He was soon followed by the Abbot of Sankt Paul before the Walls, the later Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Ildefons Schuster OSB. Specialists from different religious orders were called as professors; among them were also three Jesuits.
In 1920 the institute got the right to bestow the academic degrees. But the enterprise would not prosper. At the instance of President Ildefons Schuster the government of the institute was 1922 entrusted to only one order, the Society of Jesus. Father Michael d'Herbigny SJ was appointed director of the institute, who was followed in 1931 by Father Emil Herman. In the year 1928 Pope Pius XI attached the Orientale and also the Biblicum to the Gregoriana. But both institutes remained autonomous in their administration.
The accommodation of the Orientale could take place in the first years only provisionally, first in a convert's hospice near the Vatican, then occasionally in the top floor of the Biblicum. Only in the year 1926 the Orientale got a lasting possession at the Piazza Sancta Maria Maggiore, after the pope had purchased a large complex of buildings there. In many respects the popes remained helpful counsellors of the Orientale. Pius XI instructed also two experts to travel to the Near East, in order to buy books for a modern specialized library. That journey was extremely productive. They could find amazingly many rare books which otherwise are to get with difficulty only. A Spanish benefactress had made a generous donation for those purchases.
The Orientale flowered. The number of the professors grew internationally. With much energy Father General Ledóchowski proved to be a good promoter of that institute.