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A decade after my arrival in Rome as part of the first internationally recruited cohort of Russell Berrie Fellows in Interreligious Studies, the program was still going, stronger than ever, in fact.
Despite the pandemic, last year’s cohort managed to make the best of their experience, and I just recently came across a blog they prepared.
In the midst of last week’s events surrounding the Fifth Annual John Paul II Lecture on Interreligious Understanding, delivered at the Angelicum by Cardinal Kurt Koch, i was asked to stay on another year as the graduate assistant at the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Angelicum. So, another year in Rome, at least!
Coincident with the big event – that being the lecture not my assistantship renewal – the Center rolled out a new website, that will continue to expand its content: http://jp2center.org/
While my academic focus has remained ecumenical, the interreligious piece, especially with the Abrahamic faiths, has grown ever entwined in every aspect of my life. It is hard to believe how much time has passed in Rome already, but there is always more to see and do. Please check out the website, and also the Center’s Facebook page.
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.
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.