Ten scholars – five Christians and five Muslims – recently met for an interreligious dialogue at Catholic University of America. Dr. Rita George-Tvrtković, the author of an upcoming book on Mary in Christianity and Islam, says if dialogue partners have developed trust and friendship over time, “they might be ready at some point to deal with their differences.”Share:[Dr. Rita George-Tvrtković is associate professor of theology at Benedictine University, where she specializes in medieval and contemporary Christian-Muslim relations. Recent books include A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce’s Encounter with Islam, and the forthcoming Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History (Paulist Press, 2018). She is former associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and currently lives in Chicago with her husband Zoran and their children, Luka and Anya Lucia. She spoke to Charles Camosy after participating in an interfaith discussion held Oct. 22 and 23 at Catholic University of America, which brought together five Christian and five Muslim scholars from around the United States.]Camosy: How and why did you get involved in Catholic-Muslim dialogue more generally? George-Tvrtković: I’ve been involved at the grassroots level in Chicago since 1997. From 1999-2002, including during the drama of 9/11, I was Associate Director of Archdiocese of Chicago’s Ecumenical & Interreligious office. Then I studied theology and medieval Catholic-Muslim relations at Notre Dame.Now I’m associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in the suburbs of Chicago, where over 25 percent of our student body is Muslim. I’ve always combined scholarship and grassroots dialogue.As a Catholic, I am exhorted by Nostra Aetate [the Vatican II document on the relation of the Church with non-Christian religions – Ed.] and other teachings to engage in dialogue with people of different religions. Furthermore, my institution, Benedictine University has a special calling to interreligious hospitality, which is rooted in Ch. 53 of the Rule of St. Benedict (On the Reception of Guests), which itself is rooted in Christ’s call to welcome the stranger.There are several Catholic-Muslim dialogues happening already, both locally and nationally. What makes this one different?All the scholars in the group are involved in a variety of dialogues: Local (with students, parishes), regional, and national (U.S. bishops’ conference). But as experts in the field and lovers of texts, we were longing to have a deeper dialogue.The dialogue which took place at the Catholic University of America last week is the first of a series of semi-annual dialogues; we will alternate between CUA (fall) and John Carroll University in Cleveland (spring). We want membership to be consistent and build trust over time, but also be small so we can delve deep. Therefore, we began with five Muslims and five Catholics, and plan to expand perhaps to seven and seven, but no more than that.
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