The University of Notre Dame, in partnership with Catholic universities in Italy and Lebanon, has established a consortium for the study of Muslim-Christian relations.
Notre Dame joins the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome, the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan and Saint Joseph University of Beirut in creating a graduate student exchange program that will provide mentorship and research opportunities for doctoral and master’s degree students in theology.
The consortium not only offers students further occasions for growth and development, but also supports Pope Francis’ vision of interreligious dialogue, said Gabriel Said Reynolds, the Jerome J. Crowley and Rosaleen G. Crowley Professor of Theology.
Reynolds, who was appointed by Pope Francis to the commission for Catholic-Muslim dialogue in 2020, noted that the pope’s visits to Egypt in 2017 and Iraq in 2021 reflect a true commitment to discourse with Islam.
“Pope Francis is clearly signaling to Catholics that part of charity is welcoming the other, offering hospitality toward the other and extending the friendship of Christ to non-Christians as well,” Reynolds said. “In establishing this consortium, we sought to build bridges that will allow us to think together about fruitful ways to engage with Islam and support the Church.”
The exchange program will begin this fall, with theology students spending up to a year at their selected institution. Each of the four universities has unique advantages for students seeking to deepen their understanding of Muslim-Christian relations, immerse themselves in a new culture and hone language skills in English, Arabic or Italian, Reynolds said.
“The Pontifical Institute offers coursework in both Italian and Arabic to students who come from all over the world, while Saint Joseph University has a highly diverse student body in a majority-Muslim country,” he said. “And Sacro Cuore in Milan has historical connections to the communion and liberation movement within the Catholic Church, as well as a robust, thriving program in Muslim-Christian relations.”
At Notre Dame, the consortium is supported by the Department of Theology’s World Religions World Church program, in which faculty and students research world religions in all of their dimensions, as well as the Church and its theological expressions in diverse cultural settings.
Like the consortium, that program seeks to follow Pope Francis’ counsel that “an attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterize the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions,” Reynolds said.
“Our hope is that through this student exchange, we will help further the Church’s thinking about how to be a positive dialogue partner with the Muslim community.”