British Expert in Islam to Lead Catholic Dialogue with Other Religions

Bishop Michael Fitzgerald Named to Pontifical Council

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2002 ( In appointing the new president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, John Paul II chose a renowned expert in Islam.

Bishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, the new president, is replacing Cardinal Francis Arinze, 69, who was appointed as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The British bishop, now archbishop, has been secretary of the pontifical council. He is one of the Church’s top experts on relations with Islam.

His formation is especially timely. Since Sept. 11, 2001, John Paul II has reiterated the importance of dialogue between civilizations and religions, particularly with Muslims.

Born in Walsall, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, on Aug. 17, 1937, Michael Fitzgerald entered the Congregation of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) and was ordained a priest on Feb. 3, 1961. He was appointed secretary of the interreligious dialogue council in December 1991, and ordained a bishop by John Paul II on Jan. 6, 1992.

The pontifical council was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1964 to promote dialogue between believers of other religions, in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, as reflected especially in «Nostra Aetate.»

The council has three fundamental tasks: to promote mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of other religious traditions; to encourage the study of religions; and to promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.

(Relations with other Christians and with Jews are under the jurisdiction of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which oversees the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism.)

The Council for Interreligious Dialogue, together with the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with the Monotheist Religions, forms part of the Islamic-Catholic Dialogue Committee which promotes the dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Al-Azhar University, in Cairo, Egypt, is the most prestigious study and research center of the Islamic world.

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