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Building on Nostra Aetate: 50 Years of Christian-Jewish Dialogue, with Cardinal Koch
The John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue hosted its fifth annual John Paul II Lecture on Interreligious Understanding, featuring Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the pontifical council for promoting Christian Unity and the commission for religious relations with the Jews. His topic was “Building on Nostra Aetate: 50 Years of Christian-Jewish Dialogue.” (full text)
The lecture was the highlight of a busy week for the Center, with a series of meetings and receptions around the Russell Berrie Fellowship and the relationship of the Angelicum University and the Russell Berrie Foundation, which is made manifest in the John Paul II Center. About 150 people attended, including the president emeritus of Ireland, Mary MacAleese, ambassadors to the Holy See from several countries, the U.S. Special Envoy for combating anti-Semitism, the new rector of the Angelicum Fr. Miroslav Adam, and Cardinal Walter Kasper.
His Eminence addressed the topic in seven sections. Nostra Aetate itself, he summed up with “YES to our Jewish roots, NO to anti-Semitism”, and as the ‘magna charta’ of Jewish-Catholic dialogue. That Nostra Aetate took up this question and set an unambiguous position that “in the Catholic Church, [Jews] have a reliable ally in the struggle against anti-Semitism.” It affirms, as Pope John Paul II said during his 1986 visit to the Roman synagogue, that
“The Jewish religion is not something ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism we therefore have a relationship we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and in a certain way it could be said, our elder brothers.”
With regard to the reception history of Vatican II, he says that “one can without doubt dare to assert that Nostra Aetate is to be reckoned among those Council texts which have in a convincing manner been able to effect a fundamental reorientation of the Catholic Church following the Council”. This statement, incidentally, points to a hermeneutic that clearly holds that the purpose of the Council was a reorientation of the Catholic Church.
He outlined the historical and theological reasons for including the dialogue with Jews in the Council for Christian Unity rather than the one for Interreligious Dialogue:
“The separation of Church and Synagogue can be considered the first schism in the history of the church, or as the Catholic theologian Erich Przywara has called it, the ‘primal rift’, from which he derives later progressive loss of wholeness in the Catholica.”
This was followed by a survey of post-conciliar documents building on Nostra Aetate, the most recent from the Commission being the 1998 We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, and then a similar treatment of global international dialogues and their development, the result of which is that,
“Confrontation has turned into successful collaboration, the previous conflict potential has become positive conflict management, and the coexistence of the past has been replaced by a load-bearing friendship.”
While he acknowledges that the real papal impetus for dialogue began with Paul VI, he points out that this engagement by the leadership of the universal Catholic Church was only really apprehended by the wider public in the form of Pope John Paul II, who “had a refined sense for grand gestures and strong images” as compared to, for example, Pope Benedict XVI, who “relies above all on the power of the word and humble encounter.”
Of Ratzinger, Koch highlighted the theologian Ratzinger’s understanding of the bible as one single book, with the old testament inseparable from the new. He likewise highlights the German Shepherd’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, in which he clearly reiterates Church teaching that the biblical report of the trial of Jesus cannot serve as the basis for any assertion of collective Jewish guilt: “Jesus’ blood raises no call for retaliation, but calls all to reconciliation. It has become as the letter ot the Hebrews shows, itself the permanent Day of Atonement of God.”
He concludes by engaging open theological questions and prospects. The question of the role of Christ in the salvation of the Jews, given the enduring covenant of God: What is the mission to the Jews, if there is one? How do we reconcile these two truths without offering a parallel path of extra-Christological salvation?
Cardinal Koch sees anti-semitism, anti-Judaism, and Marcionism as still-present challenges which the Catholic Church must and does denounce as a betrayal of Christian faith. An expression of this question is found in the recently revised Good Friday prayers for use in the ‘extraordinary form’ of the Latin liturgy, which itself raises questions about “lex orandi, lex credendi”, when we have seen four versions in forty years. Liturgically, he also critiqued both preachers who omit the old testament readings from their reflections, and presiders who “change the mass” omit the original Hebrew meanings of the prayers.
Settimana di Preghiera per l’unità dei Cristiani 2012 in Roma
If you ever thought that Rome was not interested in ecumenism, you should think again. The calendar below is an unofficial list of everything going on during these days that has been advertised in connection to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, or the preceding Day of Reflection on Jewish-Christian Dialogue.
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
SETTIMANA DI PREGHIERA PER L’UNITÀ DEI CRISTIANI
ROMA + 18 – 25 JANUARY 2012
“Tutti Saremo Trasformati dalla Vittoria di Gesu Cristo, Nostro Signore”
“We will all be transformed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Tuesday, 17 January
1730 Giornata di Riflessione Ebraico-Cristiana: La Sesta Parola: «NON UCCIDERAI»
S. E. Mons. Benedetto Tuzia Commissione diocesana per l’Ecumenismo e il Dialogo
Ecc.mo Rav Riccardo Di Segni Rabbino Capo della Comunità Ebraica di Roma
Prof. Mauro Cozzoli Professore Ordinario di Teologia Morale, Pont. Università Lateranense
Pontificia Universitá Lateranense, Aula Pio XI
Wednesday, 18 January
1730 The Encounter of the African Traditional Religions, Islam and Christianity in Northeastern Nigeria:
Toward a Contextual Theology of Interreligious Dialogue
Doctoral Defense of Rev. John Bogna Bakeni, Russell Berrie Alumnus
Pontificia Universitá San Tommaso, Aula X
1830 The Venerable English College – Celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
1900 Celebrazione, Consulta delle Chiese Evangeliche Romane
Pastore Herbert Anders, Chiesa Luterana
S. E. Mons. Benedetto Tuzia Commissione diocesana per l’Ecumenismo e il Dialogo
Chiesa luterana, via Toscana 7
Thursday, 19 January
1600 Celebrazione ecumenica finlandese, festa di S. Enrico di Finlandia
S.E.R. Mons. Teemu Sippo, vescovo della diocesi cattolica di Helsinki.
Rev.mo Seppo Hakkinen, vescovo della diocesi evangelico-luterana di Mikkeli.
Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
1630 Impulses of the Spirit: Promotion of Human Rights, Justice, and Peace since Vatican II
Rev. Drew Christiansen, SJ, editor-in-chief of America Magazine
Ecumenical Celebration of the Word
Canon David Richardson, ChStJ, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See
Monsignor Mark Langham, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Centro Pro Unione, Via del Anima 30 (Piazza Navona)
1830 Veglia Ecumenica Diocesana di Preghiera
Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere
Friday, 20 January
1730 Vespri ecumenica
Rev.mo Seppo Hakkinen, vescovo della diocesi evangelico-luterana di Mikkeli
S.E. Teemu Sippo, vescovo della diocesi cattolica di Helsinki
S.E. Mons. Brian Farrell e Mons. Mathias Türk.
Chiesa di S. Brigida, Piazza Farnese 96
Saturday, 21 January
1000 Abdullahi An-Na’im Human Rights Theory and Jacques Maritain’s Natural Law: A Comparative Study
Doctoral Defense of Dott.ssa. Paola Bernardini, Russell Berrie Alumna
Pontificia Universitá San Tommaso
Sunday, 22 January
1100 Catholic Eucharist with guest preacher,
Canon David Richardson, ChStJ, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See
Oratorio di San Francesco Saverio del Caravita
1830 Ecumenical Prayer Service/Churches Together in Rome
Prof.ssa Donna Orsuto, DSG, Preaching
Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church, Piazza di Ponte Sant’Angelo
Tuesday, 24 January
1245 Anglican Eucharist with guest preacher
Rev. Kenneth Howcraft, Methodist Representative to the Holy See
Anglican Center in Rome, Piazza del Collegio Romano 2
1830 Dialogo Interreligioso in Chiara Lubich e nel Movimento dei Focolari
Dott. Roberto Catalano, Centro Dialogo Interreligioso
Istituto Tevere – Centro pro Dialogo, Via di Monte Brianzo 82
Wednesday, 25 January
1730 Vespers at the Papal Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura
Pope Benedict XVI Solemn Closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
2000 Veglia di preghiera ecumenica
Mons. Charles Scicluna
Chiesa Santa Brigida, Piazza Farnese 96
Thursday, 26 January
1800 Chiesa Cattolica: Essenza – Realtà – Missione
Presentazione: Dott. Rosino Gibellini
Intervento: S.E.R. Cardinal Walter Kasper
Responso: S.E.R. Cardinal Kurt Koch
Centro Pro Unione, Via Santa Maria dell’Anima 30
Year in Review
As the Year of Grace 2011 ended, I reviewed my “to write” file for the blog, and found no less than 22 pages of notes on events and ideas I had not had time to develop into full posts. Here is a list of some highlights from the last year, with links to posts if I have them and as I develop them!
- Mom visits Rome!
- Christmas at Caravita; generosity of hosts for Christmas Eve (Cindy) and Christmas Day (Jill)
- Lay Centre Board member Ralph Dwan called home to God
- Interdisciplinary Conference on Sharing Sacred Spaces
- Lord Jonathan Sacks lecture
- Lay Centre 25th Anniversary and Papal Knighthood for co-founders
- Chicago CTU Board in Rome, new Alliance with Lay Centre
- my step-sister wins a new car!
- Cardinal Kasper in the classroom: Unity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity of the Church
- Colloquium on Anglican Patrimony in Light of the Apostolic Constitution: Liturgical Perspectives – Bishop Stephen Platten of Wakefield; Canon Jonathan Goodall; Fr. Keith Pecklers, SJ
- Board of Governors of the Anglican Centre visit the Lay Centre
- Canon Nicholas Sagovsky lecture, “Being an Anglican in 21st century”
- Embassy DVC on Religion in Foreign Policy with ND
- Angelicum Rector Charles Morerod, OP nominated bishop of Fribourg, Lausanne, and Geneva
- Casa Internationale Giovanni XXIII: The other lay collegio in Rome
- Pilgrimage of Peace, Pilgrimage of Truth: 25th Anniversary of Assisi gathering of World’s Religious Leaders
- Tom Ryan, CSP in Rome
- Russell Berrie Orientation: Shabbat Shopping during Sukkot
- Lay Centre Orientation: Yom Kippur and an Israeli’s first Mass
- Ambassador Miguel Diaz helps launch Religion in Foreign Policy initiative
- Short visit home in the Pacific Northwest
- Cascade Covenant Church
- Helping my sister move: 16 hours on the road, 45 minutes unpacking the truck
- My brother’s new house
- Netherlands: visiting Eveline, Clare
- New York/New Jersey: visiting Courtney, Liam, Rob
- Lay Centre 25th Anniversary Colloquium: My paper on the laity and ecumenism
- Archbishop Sartain of Seattle in Rome for Pallium
- EuroPride in Rome – monastic perspectives from the hill
- Notre Dame Chorale Concert at Sant’Ignazio: Michael and Kerri Castorano
- Eucharistic Procession with Cardinal Marc Ouellet
- Notre Dame Glee Club and Fr. Michael Driscoll in Rome
- Lay Centre alumnus Theodosius Kyriakidis debuts his documentary film on Greek Christians in Asia Minor; another alumnus Mustafa Cenap Aydin of Turkey responds
- Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald and Leijla Demiri present on Interfaith Dialogue of life
- Beatification of JPII
- Fr. Michael Casey, O.Cist. visits Lay Centre
- Assisi and Florence with Courtney and co.
- David Ford and Stephen Kepnes: The Future of Theology
- Annual JPII Lecture David Ford on Scriptural Reasoning
- Paschal Triduum in Rome
- Culture Week in Rome
- Meeting with Fr. Norbert Hofmann
- Cardinal Walter Kasper, “Why I am a Man of Hope” lecture at Lay Centre
- Dame Mary Tanner at Anglican Center
- Colloquium on Anglican Patrimony in light of the Apostolic Constitution: A Canon Law Perspective
Earlier unwritten posts:
- Cardinal Levada visits the Lay Centre
- Springtime of Faith Summit in Rome – local presenters include two cardinals, two professors, and me!
Ideas, ongoing or upcoming:
- Liberal and Conservative in the Church (see june 26, Feb 2)
- Nostra Aetate, Dabru Amet, and Common Word
- ARCIC III and Personal Ordinariates
- Clericalism and Anti-clericalism
- Laïcite, laity, secularism, and secularity
- Vocations: discernment or recruiting office?
- Catholic Education beyond parochial schools
- “Catholic” vs. “Roman Catholic”: What’s in a Name?
- The Bologna Process and Pontifical Universities
- Papal honors as ecclesiological indicator
- Liturgy Wars: Episode V – The New Translation
- Call for a Common Easter
- The Big Sort
- Ecumenical Updates: Where have we got with all this dialogue?
- Wikipedia as Courtyard of the Gentiles: A call for biographical articles on great ecumenists and other theologians
- A Parable: The Kingdom of God is like the Electromagnetic Spectrum and it is Easier for a Colorblind Man to Pass Through 400-789 Terrahertz than to Enter it…
- Upcoming article in Koinonia
- Upcoming article and presentation for Assisi 2012: Ecclesiological Investigations Network conference
And finally: “The Diaconate in the International Ecumenical Dialogues: Toward an Understanding of the Deacon as Minister of Unity.” a tesina to be submitted for the License in Sacred Theology…
Bishop-elect Charles Morereod, OP
The first priest I knew to be made a bishop was my look-alike Daniel Jenky, CSC from Notre Dame (now Bishop Daniel of Peoria). My first professor to become a bishop was Bishop Donald Bolen of Saskatoon. But this is the first time a Facebook friend has been named a bishop.
Fr. Charles Morerod was instructor of a course I took in my first year on the “Philosophical Elements in the Catholic-Protestant Dialogue”, and has been Rector Magnificus of the Angelicum University for a little over two years. He has doctorates in both philosophy and theology, and serves as the secretary general of the International Theological Commission, as well as teaching at three universities.
News of his appointment leaked via Swiss news radio on 2 November, though the official VIS announcement was made the following day on 3 November.
Though it has since been retracted, it is interesting to note that on the same day, the Society of St. Pius X seemed to indicate its rejection of the doctrinal preamble offered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as a requisite for the restoration of full communion of the schismatic sect with the Catholic Church.
Interesting to note, I say, because Bishop-elect Charles was one of three theologians appointed by the CDF two years ago to engage the SSPX in dialogue in an effort to close the only formal schism that resulted from Vatican II, along with Archbishop Luis Ladaria, Secretary of the CDF and Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, vicar general of Opus Dei. Moreover, his new diocese is the home of the SPPX seminary and the place of its short-lived status as a legitimate Catholic organization (SSPX was a diocesan ‘pius union’, what would now be called an ‘association of the faithful’, from 1970-1975).
But back to the good bishop-to-be. I keep running into him these days at the Angelicum, and he leaves this weekend for his home diocese, where he will be ordained and installed on 11 December. The following seems to portray his humility rather well:
Cari [fratelli e sorelle],
…Io pensavo d’essere nella nostra cara Università fino alla pensione (o alla morte). La lascio con grande tristezza, e timore per quel che trovo davanti a me. Ma non ho pensato di poter dire di no, perché non avevo motivi gravi d’andare contro una richiesta diretta del Santo Padre. “Quando il Papa ha visto i nomi, ha detto che doveva essere Lei. Perché la conosce.”
… Cosa rispondere, lo prendo come ho sempre preso la mia vocazione: umanamente ho paura, ma mi fido della volontà divina che non delude. E vedo bene qualche urgenza pastorale in Svizzera: da questo punto di vista sono felice di poter aiutare un po’.
Sono davvero triste di dover rinunciare al nostro lavoro comune… Cercherò di trovare qualche modo d’aiutare l’Angelicum a distanza. Preghiamo gli uni per gli altri.
My translation, with some help from Google:
Dear brothers and sisters
… I thought to be in our beloved University until retirement (or death). I leave with great sadness, and fear of what I find before me. But I did not think I could say ‘no’, because I had no serious reasons to go against a direct request of the Holy Father. “When the Pope saw the names, he said it had to be you. Because he knows.”
… With that answer, I take it as I have always taken my vocation: As a human, I am afraid, but I trust God will not disappoint. And I can see some pastoral urgency in Switzerland: From this point of view I am happy to help a little. ‘
I am really sad to have to give up our joint work … I will try to find some way of helping the Angelicum from a distance. Let us pray for one another.
Fr. Charles has been a guest at the Lay Centre each year, and one of the main supporters of the the new John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Angelicum in the past year, and of the Russell Berrie Fellowship. He will certainly be missed!
The Angelicum community bids Bishop-elect Charles a fond farewell on Friday, 11 November, with a reception at 12:15.
The official bio:
The Rev.do P. Charles Morerod, OP, was born in Riaz (diocese of Lausanne, Genève et Fribourg) October 28, 1961. He studied philosophy and theology at the Faculty of Theology, University of Fribourg, concluding with a degree in Theology. In 1983 he entered the novitiate of the Order of Friars Preachers Swiss province and has made his vows in 1987.
He was ordained April 30, 1988 in Geneva.
From 1987 to 1989 he served in pastoral ministry, first as a deacon and then as viassociate pastor of the parish of St. Paul in Geneva. From 1989 to 1992 he was Assistant at the Faculty of Theology, University of Fribourg from 1991 to 1994 and chaplain of the University of Fribourg. In 1993 he received his doctorate in theology and a licentiate in philosophy in 1996.
From 1994 to 1999 he was adjunct professor of Fundamental Theology at the University of Fribourg and since 1996 professor at the Pontifical University of St.Thomas Aquinas. Since 1997 he is editor of the edition in French of Nova et Vetera Magazine.
In 1999 he became full-time professor at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. From 1999 to 2002 he also taught at the Faculty of Theology of Lugano. He was Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Theology from 2003 to 2009 and Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. In 2004 he obtained his doctorate in philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Toulouse. Since 2008 he is also Director of the Roman Catholic Studies Program at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.).
In April 2009 he was appointed Secretary General of the International Theological Commission and Consultant of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in September 2009, also Rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Assisi 2011: The pilgrims
The Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, in collaboration with the new Pope John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue, planned a day trip to Assisi on 27 October 2011 to join Pope Benedict XVI and world religious leaders – and a few secular agnostics – in a day of pilgrimage toward peace.
Our group included seven from the Lay Centre, six Russell Berrie Fellows and alumni, and one who could count for both. Additionally, we were joined by Rev. Tom Ryan, CP, of the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Anna Maria Kloss, wife of the Austrian Ambassador to the Holy See; and seven other pontifical university students, including two from the Gregoriana’s late Interdisciplinary Center for the study of Religion and Culture.
We were 24 people representing 16 countries, including: Austria, Belarus, Bosnia i Herzegovina, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Turkey, the U.S., and Venezuela.
Our day began at 0500, enough time to get up and ready for an 0600 departure by tourbus, for the 3 hour drive to Assisi. At a coffee break on the way, we ran into the Turkish Ambassador to the Holy See. After arrival in Assisi we met up with our local guide and Lay Centre alumna, Lori King; Dr. Marian Diaz and staff of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
The schedule of the day was relatively light. At 1030 the morning session at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in the valley below Assisi proper, lasted for a little under two hours. We then made our way up the hill to a restaurant near the Basilica of Santa Chiara (St. Clare) for lunch. After lunch a leisurely stroll took us to the other end of town, to join a World Youth Day in miniature going on in the lower piazza before the delegates arrived. The closing event started at 1630, and was over in time for us to get a quick pizza and be on the road to Rome by 2000.
Assisi was, if anything, quieter than many of my visits. Expecting large crowds for the event, most who did not have tickets stayed away, so in fact there was just a right amount – those with tickets admitted into the venues, and then only locals from Assisi and nearby towns lining the roadways or in the piazza outside the church. It was a welcome change from the unruly hordes that accompany papal events in Rome. Inside the basilica in the morning, we were seated barely 15 meters from the platform, though at an obscure angle. In the afternoon, the lowere piazza was filled, but it is not very large, and we were seated at just the place where the pope, patriarch, and archbishop disembarked their shuttle.
At one point, just before the delegates arrived for the afternoon program, one of our company had gone looking for water. We wanted to find him before it was too late to re-enter the piazza, but were barred from exiting by security as the delegates who were coming on foot were about to arrive. As we watched the nearly 300 religious delegates enter the piazza, wondering where Muhammad had gone, there he comes in the middle of the delegates procession, engaged in deep conversation with a professor from Sarajevo! It looked so natural, that security did not even think to stop him. It was classic, and again, left me wishing I had had a working camera with me!
In the end, the trip came together wonderfully, especially in that most of it was put together in only a week. It is a once in a decade event, made well worth it with the companionship of friends and colleagues in dialogue.
Return to Rome
Time Flies. Two years on the Russell Berrie Fellowship in Interreligious Studies have come and gone. For those who know me well, it is unsurprising that my two major goals here – learn Italian and write my thesis – are still works in progress, despite a number of other accomplishments.
I am returning for a third year to the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, Rome’s pre-eminent collegio for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free lay students. Which is, basically, anyone who cannot play on a pontifical university football (soccer) team for the annual Clericus Cup – but I digress.
Only two of us, aside from director Donna Orsuto and assistant Robert White, are back for a third consecutive year: the other being my newly-wed friend and next-door neighbor from Morelia, Mexico, David. Others who were here last year, or at least part of the year, include Muhamed (Bosnia), Marija (Croatia), and Julia (Hong Kong).
In total, we have citizens of 16 countries this year:
Belarus, Bosnia, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, and the U.S.A.
Religiously we are:
- 1 Secular Jew
- 3 Muslims (2 Sunni, 1 Shi’a)
- 4 Orthodox Christians (Belarusian, Georgian, Romanian, and Serbian Churches)
- 13 Catholic Christians (12 Latin, 1 Syro-Malabar)
This year I also start a new role continuing the relationship with the Russell Berrie Foundation, through the Institute for International Education, in the form of a graduate assistantship at the new John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue, housed at the Angelicum.
The first month back in Italy consisted of jet lag, a severe cold, orientation week for new Lay Centre residents, and then orientation week for new Russell Berrie Fellows. The tesina awaits. There are a few highlights I will be, ah, highlighting shortly.
Sarajevo 2010: Fundamentalist or Responsible Citizen?
For the last week, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be in Sarajevo with a great group of young people from all over Europe. We gathered for a conference entitled Fundamentalist or Responsible Citizen? The Contribution of Religious Communities to the Formation of European Citizens. The sponsoring agencies included the Ecumenical Youth Council in Europe (EYCE, affiliated with the WCC), the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO), and the Council of Europe. This summit marked the culmination of a three-year Campaign to Overcome Fundamentalism spearheaded by EYCE.
I should note that “youth” means something different here than in the U.S., as anyone involved in World Youth Day would be aware. At home, especially when speaking of “youth ministry”, we are talking of teens in middle school and high school, age 12-18 or so. Over here, “youth” means university age, in its broadest implications, so the participants ranged from 20 to 35. After almost a decade of involvement in National Workshops on Christian Unity and some NCC events in the States, it was striking to be one of the older people in the room rather than one of the youngest.
About 45 people were gathered, roughly twenty each were Christian or Muslim, and only four or five were Jewish. I think only four of us were Catholic, with Orthodox, Protestant and even pre-protestant communities represented (i.e., Moravians, Czech Brethren, and Waldensians). Most European states were represented, with the Iberian countries being the only noticeable absence. I was the only non-European, but for my European credentials I was ‘representing’ the Vatican as a pontifical university student – that is, quite unofficially.
The highlight of the week was the other participants. My roommate was a student from Lithuania. I spent time at a British pub called “Cheers” with a theologian-staffer to the Icelandic bishops’ national office, a protestant pastor’s kid from Northern Ireland living in the Republic, and a Romanian seminarian friend who lead the planning of the whole event (and just turned 22). One of my first conversations was with a Palestinian Briton about the situation in the Holy Land, and my experiences there with the Russell Berrie Fellowship. I shared shisha with a Turkish Muslim woman living in Cairo, and burek with two Albanians from Macedonia and a Latvian who has seen more of the world than I likely ever will! And the list goes on.
Despite having studied in Rome for the last year, this was the first time to really talk about Europe per se with Europeans – really to listen and observe as they discussed it themselves – especially on such a relevant issue as the role of religion and secularity in nation, state, and European society. (Most of my classmates are African, Asian, and some from the Americas and what Europeans there are mostly from the east, and a minority.)
While not an academic conference exactly, the presentations were on topic and promoted good discussion. We had a welcome from the Mufti of Sarajevo and President of the Interreligious Council (IRC), a panel with Muslim, Orthodox, and Catholic representatives of the Bosnian IRC, and presentations from Bashy Quarishy of Denmark, Hasan Patel and Imam Ajmal Masroor of the UK, and Dirk Thesenvitz of Germany. At the end of the week, a subcommittee of participants collated the week’s comments and discussion and drafted a Final Statement, which was signed by all the participants. As part of that committee, I wish we had had more time, as there were a few areas that we felt could have been better phrased, but considering the actual drafting was done in about three hours, by committee for approval by the whole, it seemed to come together rather well.
Dignitatis Humanae and an aside
The final full day of our Russell Berrie Fellowship Orientation program began with a trip to the Centro Pro Unione, the historic library and ecumenical center that sits above the Piazza Navona. Director Fr. James Puglisi, who also serves as director of the ecumenical section at the Angelicum and Minister General of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, lead a presentation on the academic responsibilities and processes of the section in addition to an introduction to the Centro.
This was followed by a roundtable discussion on Dignitatis Humane with our previous guests Thomas Casey, SJ and Miguel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ and introducing Maltese Dominican Joseph Ellul, who is an expert on Islamic thought and its encounter with eastern Christianity. The rest of the day was spent in administrative issues and a group discussion around the praxis of interreligious dialogue, and a closing celebration of the Eucharist.
One of the interesting aspects of the week was the number of priests living in the house. Obviously, the Lay Centre only has one or two priests for Eucharist, whoever has been invited to preside. It is always a little strange to have as many concelebrants as other members of the assembly! This provided an interesting side discussion with one of my cohort, a presbyter. If a priest is celebrating the Eucharist, must he do so as presider or concelebrant, or may he do so as a member of the assembly – “in choir” in other words. And if so, does it “count” if the priest feels an obligation to celebrate mass daily?
There is clearly a movement that seems recent which indicates a priest should vest and actively concelebrate every time he is at mass. At the same time, one need look no further than papal liturgies at St. Peters to see that often, most priests and bishops are attending in choir only, not concelebrating. As at home, it seems some are asked to concelebrate for certain occasions, but it should not be assumed – and it certainly does not necessitate a private mass to be celebrated later!
I know it is not about interreligious dialogue, but, thoughts, anyone?
Official Catholic Dialogue with Judaism and Islam
The second full day of our orientation began with a celebration of the Eucharist at the Vatican Basilica, in the Chapel of the Patrons of Europe just a few yards from the heart of the basilica, underneath the high altar. It was dedicated by Pope John Paul II in 1981 to the three first-millennium co-patrons of Europe: St. Benedict of Norcia and Sts. Cyril and Methodius of Thessaloniki. (The three second-millennium co-patrons, all women, were named in 1999.) The presider of our liturgy was Father Jess Rodriguez of the Jesuit curia, newly arrived in Rome to serve the English Secretariat of the Church’s largest religious order.
Noted art historian Elizabeth Lev joined us after the liturgy to give us a brief, but informative, insider’s tour of the basilica of St. Peter. Even for those who have been in Rome for years, something new was gleaned from her rich presentation. For me, it was the answer to one of the Eternal City’s eternal questions: “Hey Bernini, what’s with the twisted columns on the baldacchino???”
A short walk down Via della Conciliazione brought us to the offices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which for largely historical reasons, also houses the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and a presentation from German Salesian Norbert Hofmann on the “Official Catholic Dialogue with Judaism”.
An afternoon of technical details broke for two more presentations: “Analysis of Nostra Aetate: Doctrine and History” by Thomas Casey, SJ and “The Official Dialogue of the Catholic Church with Islam” with German Jesuit Felix Körner of the Gregorian University’s ISIRC. The final discussion of the evening was a dinner dialogue with U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, theologian Miguel Diaz, his wife and fellow theologian Marian Diaz, and the Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See, Anne Leahy. Their topic, understandingly, was “Diplomacy and Interreligious Dialogue”. We were joined by Drs. Armando and Adalberta Bernardini, president and vice-president of the International Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Education – and Fellow Paola’s parents.
Back home in Rome
What a week! I returned to Rome on Sunday, 26 September with time enough for lunch and a nap before beginning an intensive orientation week for the Russell Berrie Fellowship. Though I started the program last year, the orientation and several other aspects are new this year, and we welcome the third cohort, as the first has finished their course of study (I am in the second).
The new Fellows include priests from Poland, Ruanda, Nigeria and India and lay scholars from Chile, Ukraine, Gambia, India and the U.S. (including one seminarian, one religious sister, and one Muslim). In addition to the Latin Church (“Roman Catholic”), three of the Catholics are Eastern: the Ukrainian Greek, Syro-Malabar, and Syro-Malankara Catholic Churches are represented. More had studied in Rome previously than with my class, and I was reminded how little my Italian has advanced in the last year.
The Lay Centre served as the ‘base camp’ for our orientation, and there is something about sharing my home in Rome with friends and fellow Fellows that gives a special joy. This truly is a place of hospitality and dialogue, of retreat and study, and it is only a pity that more of the Fellows are not also residents the rest of the year! Insha’Allah…
It was an impressive schedule. Our first evening’s introductory remarks were from Dr. Donna Orsuto (Lay Centre Director, Pontifical University Gregoriana) and Dr. Adam Afterman (Shalom Hartman Institute, Tel Aviv University).
Owing to the schedule, I am back-filling some of my notes, but dating them as though they were real time. I hope it makes sense!