June 22, 2016 
Rev.  STIPE  JURIC,  Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the  Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas ("Angelicum"):

"Russell Berrie Fellows are the 
n ext generation of religious leaders, whose task is to build bridges of interreligious dialogue, based on spiritual dignity, respect for all cultures and love for whole humankind. 

The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Urbe responds to the desire of the Church to join the already existing ecumenical movement, whose aim continues to be the restoration of unity among Christian Churches and communities, as well as the development of dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions. 

This is the precise context of the studies at the Angelicum and the Russell Berrie Fellowship of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue. Honestly, I have a very good personal experience of interreligious dialogue and also like a Dean of the Faculty of Theology in  " Angelicum," especially connected with Russell Berrie Program. This dialogue is based on a real friendship between representatives of different religious and cultural traditions, on human relationships, on respect of each other's dignity, and on our common love to God. " *

*On February 20th 2016, our current Fellow Lidiia Batig 
(Cohort VIII, Ukraine), interviewed Fr. Juric. To read the whole interview, please click

News and Upcoming Events

Russell Berrie Alumni Grant Program -Applications are now open for 2016-2017!

Since 2008, through the Berrie Fellowship Program, almost 70 fellows have pursued studies at the Angelicum and participated in programs of The John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue. Now, the John Paul II Center aims to support and promote the work of Russell Berrie Alumni as they engage in interreligious dialogue, teach interreligious dialogue in academic settings and implement interfaith action projects in their communities.

The goal of the John Paul II Center Russell Berrie Fellowship Alumni Grant Program is to foster outstanding, innovative, creative, high-quality interreligious dialogue (IRD) and interfaith action projects, academic research, and other activities that will have a positive impact on improving interreligious understanding in their own communities, with other communities, and in this field overall.

Russell Berrie Alumnus Receives a Prestigious Award for Interfaith Activities

Webinar by Rabbi Jack Bemporad: "A Jewish Perspective on Violence"

We are sending our most heartfelt congratulations to Richard James Babao (Cohort II, the Philippines) for winning t he second prize for the World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrations in 2016! 

His organization, Uni-Harmony Partners Manila, has held more than 20 activities in which 23 organisations and thousands of people participated.  

Read more about the award here.

On April 19th, Rabbi Bemporad held a third webinar-lecture for the alumni and fellows of the Ber rie Interfaith network. This webinar was based on the 
presentation  given by Rabbi Jack Bemporad at the Centro Pro Unione in Rome on May 13, 2015.

On this subject, you can also read an excerpt from a book World Religions and Norms of War that Rabbi Jack contributed to here.

Doctoral Defense
On June 15, Fr. Xavier  Kanatt (Cohort IV, India)  successfully defended his doctoral dissertation with a summa cum laude degree:  The Multi-Religious Context of the Eparchy of Kalyan and the Propsects for a Spirituality of Interreligious Dialogue We are sending our heartfelt congratulations to Fr. Xavier.  The thesis was moderated by Prof. Michael Fuss.

Alumni Appointments
Sarah Farnes (Cohort VI, U.S.A.) was appointed as 
Program Manager of the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A. Her appointment was effective from January 2016.

You can follow up with the activities of the Center at:

In November 2015,  Elena Dini  (Cohort VII, Italy) started working for the  Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. 
Her duties include news covering of interfaith dialogue activities , conducting interviews with religious leaders and writin g articles in the field of IRD.  Among her recent interviews are interview s with Rabbi Abraham Skorka an d with Rabbi David Rosen. She also wrote a few articles on the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate and on interreligious activities in the Holy Land. 

To find more information about the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, please visit their web-site at: 

Alumni Activities: Greece, Rwanda, U.S.A.


Interfaith Meals and Music Festivals

Upon finishing his studies in Rome, Fr.  Ioan Robert Reikli (Cohort I, Romania)  was appointed to Corfu (Greece) to conduct his pastoral ministry at a parish. In 2015, he started an interfaith initiative aimed at promoting interfaith literacy among his parishioners. One of the events he has helpled to organize was celebration of various Jewish holidays. For example, the community tried to recreate 

the Jewish Passover with some  members of the local Jewish community. Together with active contribution of  other priests the community tried to recreate the original feeling of this event. The shared dinner menu was an attempt to recreate the Passover meal. During the supper, the meaning of every prayer and gesture was explained to the non-Jewish participants. This event was very well received and they hope to repeat it again in the future.

Another important event, in collaboration with Caritas Udine, took place in August in 2015. This involved musicians from Israel whom the Diocese was hosting during the annual summer school camp. These musicians, together 

with others from Greece and Italy, performed a concert 'Music improves the world' in the main Cathedral in Corfu. It was performed with the intention of bringing young people together and getting to know each other through their music.  The possibility of hosting this event came about through a previous performance arranged by Udine in which they twinned Italian and Israeli high school students with the purpose of sharing a cultural exchange. And, also, in a joint process of Reflection and Peace education, enabling them to share educational activities and experiences of everyday life.


Ecumenical Celebration of Vatican II

Fr. AndrĂ© Mujyambere (Cohort III, Rwanda) took part in  the Ecumenical Celebration of the Golden Jubilee of DEI VERBUM, the dogmatic constitution of the II Vatican Council. The event took place at St. Paul Pastoral Centre of the Archdiocese of Kigali in Rwanda from the 9th to 14th of November 2015. It was organized by the Biblical Centre of Africa and Madagascar (BICAM), a structure of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. This international event was attended by bishops, experts, biblical scholars and coordinators of biblical apostolate from Rwanda, Ghan a, Nigeria, Congo Brazza, France, South Soudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Togo, Germany, Italy, and Kenya.

There were many participants  from other Christian confessions as well. The symposium evaluated the impact of the document on spiritual, theological, pastoral and ecumenical mission of the Church in Africa. The participants pondered on the contemporary cha llenges in Africa in the biblical and pastoral field.
A Catholic bishop made the introductory prayer and enthronisation of the Word of God. A pastor from the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church in Rwanda explained the biblical passages prepared for this  occasion . The choir from the Catholic Major Seminary animated the party.  Conferences focusing on dialogue and biblical apostolate, liturgy, ecumenism were given by various scholars. The event allowed different people involved in the pastoral and biblical field in Africa to meet and exchange their exp eriences.  


Coping with the Syrian Crisis Through Interfaith Work

Since returning to the U.S. from Rome in June 2014,
Allyson Zacharoff (Cohort VI, U.S.A.)  has been working as Coordinator of the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees in New York. MFA is a coalition of faith-based and secular groups working to help those suffering as a result of the Syrian crisis. This interfaith allianc e works to raise funds to help victims, as well as awareness of the crisis in the general population. The organization's membership consists of almost 60 organizations from many different faith backgrounds, and is focused on helping those who are affected by the crisis now. In addition to raising awareness and raising funds, MFA is fostering important dialogue in the Middle East by encouraging new partnerships between Syrians and neighboring nations. This vital interfaith and intercultural dialogue is helping plant the seeds for a more peaceful Middle East in the future.

Allyson has been also involved  in a program called ACWAY, or A C ommon Word Among the Youth. It is a new program that brings  toge ther 100 young people, ages 18-35, from all around the world to work on interfaith projects. It is modeled on the A Common Word project.  I n December 2015 , the group met in Rabat, Morocco  for  their  first conference, and  they are  all committed to working on interfaith projects.

The website for the program can be accessed here:  http://www.acway.org/

Fellows Activities

The Passover Seder Experience

This spring, the Russell Berrie Fellows of Cohort VIII gathered to commemorate the Passover Seder. Courtney Hartmann 
(U.S.A.) shared her reflections about this experience:

There was a heartfelt sense of community and fellowship as we took our seats around an expansive, beautifully set  table with white cloth and special guests. Our event was led by Rabbi Jack Bemporad to honor the passage of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt into a new life of freedom. We took the time to remember that God desires true freedom for all people, in all circumstances. Rabbi Jack explained that as we commemorate the Exodus event, we cannot forget that this freedom came at the expense of human lives. Therefore, as each of the ten plagues were read, we each placed a drop of red wine on our plate. Some were attending their very first Seder and were surprised at the tradition of drinking four glasses of wine or grape juice during the meal. 

As the evening progressed, Rabbi Jack paused to explain the significance of each step including candle lighting, kadaysh (blessing of the wine), karpas (parsley), yahatz (breaking the middle Matzah) and the four questions. Voices blended as all sang together the traditional hymns "Go Down Moses" and "Dayenu".  As the celebration approached conclusion, and after a relatively short search, the hidden Afikomen was successfully found by the youngest attendee. All cheerfully expressed the traditional Seder exclamation, "NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!" In reflecting on the evening, Matthew Doeing (Cohort VIII, U.S.A.) said that he "appreciated the richness of the event and the time we took to cherish the connections we made throughout the year."

Interfaith Resources
In their surveys and during the interviews, our alumni showed a great interest toward the topics of Jewish mysticism and spirituality. As the majority of our alumni are Christian, learning about Jewish mystical tradition becomes an interreligious learning in itself. In this issue of the alumni newsletter, we propose an article by Dr. Adam Afterman, "Time, Eternity and Mystical Experience in Kabbalah" (his article is from a book Time and Eternity in Jewish Mysticism, Edited by B. Ogren, Brill: Leiden & Boston, 2015, pp. 162-175).
In his article, Dr. Adam Afterman focuses on the nexus between mystical cleaving, unio mystica, and the experience of time in several Kabbalistic sources. First, th e author  examines the philosophical mysticism of the 
thirteenth-century Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, in which union with God happens above and beyond time. The second mystical system he will turn to is that of classic theosophical kabbalah as represented in the Zohar, in which sacred time is the focus of mystical cleaving and union with the divine. In the author's view, this distinction marks a substantial difference in the religious experience that each mystical path has to offer.
To read or to download the full article, please click  here .

We would like to hear from you! If you would like to share your interfaith activities or publications, please contact us!

Contact Information

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Taras Dzyubanskyy | Alumni Coordinator | +380 67 88 32 009 |

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About the Russell Berrie Alumni Network
The Russell Berrie Alumni Network is a global community of Russell Berrie Fellows who have graduated from an interreligious study program at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.