On 17 January 2022, a day dedicated to the deepening and development of dialogue between Catholics and Jews, the “John Paul II Prize for Catholic‒Jewish Studies” was awarded for the first time.
The award was presented by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, to Reverend Ryan Muldoon, a priest from the Archdiocese of New York and student of the Angelicum, for his study entitled “The Land of Our Fathers in Faith: The Theological Role of the Land of Israel for Contemporary Jewish‒Catholic Dialogue”.
The John Paul II Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies, which aims to reward licentiate and doctoral theses addressing issues related to Catholic‒Jewish dialogue and to encourage students to engage in such research, is a joint initiative of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas and the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue.
Recalling the words of John Paul II during his historical visit to the synagogue in Rome in 1986, Cardinal Koch affirmed in his concluding remarks that " for us Christians, Judaism is not simply one of the many non-Christian religions, and the relation of the Catholic Church to Judaism is not simply a special variant of inter-faith dialogue”. This is because “[t]he relationship with the covenant people of Israel is so very much part of the Church’s intrinsic self-understanding that the Church cannot understand itself without reference to Judaism”.
Rabbi Jack Bemporad, founder of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue located at the Angelicum which annually sponsors about ten scholarship holders to deepen Jewish-Christian and interreligious dialogue, presented the winner of the award and underlined the relevance of his research. “This is a difficult and controversial topic”, commented the Rabbi, and “being able to write a thesis that both Jews and Christians can read and in which they feel appropriately represented is a great achievement”.
During the online ceremony, Reverend Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, Director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies, also spoke, as well as Reverend Muldoon, who outlined the sources of his research and reflected on its importance for relations with Judaism today.