Opening Remarks for Deepening Inter-Religious Dialogue and Community Alliances

February 17, 2016

Deepening Inter-Religious Dialogue and Community Alliances

Good evening, and welcome to the University of San Diego, as we have a wonderful opportunity to explore ways in which to deepen inter-religious dialogue and community alliances.  We are very fortunate to have with us this evening the Most Reverend Robert McElroy, Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, and Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s office of interfaith and community alliances.  This is certainly a timely and enduring topic that resonates with current national and global issues and challenges facing our world.  Forums, such as the one we have planned for this evening, enable us to build upon our network of collaboration, understanding mutual self esteem and respect.

There are wonderful reflections that members of our campus community have shared with me about the vision of USD’s founders, Bishop Charles Buddy and Mother Rosalie Hill.  They envisioned this university on the hill as a beacon of light for the Catholic intellectual tradition. That tradition is grounded in free inquiry, and enriched by the contributions of all religions and cultures.  It is an intellectual tradition that not only tolerates, but even welcomes the creative tensions that exist within the Church between the leadership of the bishops and Pope and the scholarly investigations of theologians; and beyond the Church as it explores truth that can be found in all religions.

We know that in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, Catholic scholars were influential in the development of the university concept with the goal of pursuing all types of learning and knowledge.  One deep expression of that learning throughout the centuries has been that knowledge through reason and knowledge through faith are equally valid and ultimately compatible.

That premise is supported by an exploration and appreciation of Islamic and Jewish scholars, who recognize that God is Truth, and therefore, doors are opened to raise honest questions and search out truth in all areas and from all sources.  The Catholic intellectual tradition has always welcomed and been enriched by the contributions of other faiths, other philosophies, and other ways of living.

It is the fulfillment of the vision of the University of San Diego’s founders, and through the collaboration of the Diocese of San Diego, the Kroc School of Peace Studies and the Islamic Society of North America, that brings us together this evening for this dialogue that is a natural expression of our tradition and what we should expect at one of the nation's great Catholic universities.

I want to thank Bishop McElroy and Dr. Marquez, our Dean of the Kroc School of Peace Studies, for organizing this event and assembling such a distinguished panel of experts.  I am sure you share in my excitement and anticipation in hearing from Bishop McElroy, Dr. Syeed, as well as our own Kroc School of Peace faculty members Dr. Ami Carpenter and Fr. Bill Headley, as together we share perspectives on how inter-religious dialogue, community resilience and public engagement can be effective channels to building understanding and peace in our own communities, in communities across the country and around the world.

James T. Harris III, DEd