Michael L. Fitzgerald

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Styles of
Michael Fitzgerald
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Archbishop
Posthumous style none

Michael Louis Fitzgerald (born 17 August 1937) is a Roman Catholic archbishop. Until retirement in 2012 he was the papal nuncio to Egypt and delegate to the Arab League. He was previously the head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Early life and ordination[edit]

Michael L. Fitzgerald was born in Walsall, United Kingdom, on 17 August 1937, into a Catholic family of Irish descent, and attended Queen Mary's Grammar School. Desiring from an early age to become a priest and a missionary, he joined the junior seminary of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) at the age of twelve, first in Scotland, then in the south of England. He studied philosophy for two years, the first in England and the second in Ireland. He made his novitiate in the Netherlands from 1956 to 1957 and pursued his theological studies from 1957 to 1961 in Tunisia, where he began learning Arabic and acquiring some knowledge of Islam. Cardinal William Godfrey, Archbishop of Westminster, ordained him priest in London on 3 February 1961 as a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers).[1]

Theological work[edit]

Upon ordination in 1961 he was sent to Rome to study Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Among his teachers was Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan. This was the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) which provided the opportunity of attending lectures by theologians such as Karl Rahner and Yves Congar. He completed his doctorate in Theology in 1965 on the missionary intention in the writings of the Latin Apologists. In 1965 he started a BA in Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, graduating in 1968, whereupon he became a lecturer at the IPEA (Institut Pontifical d'Études Arabes), later renamed Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI).[2]

Interfaith work[edit]

After one year lecturing at the PISAI, he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Makerere, Kampala, Uganda, where he taught courses on Islam to Muslim as well as to Christian students. In 1971 he returned to Rome to pursue his teaching and scholarly interests at the PISAI. From 1972 to 1978 he was Director of the PISAI. During this period Fitzgerald was involved in the creation of Encounter, Documents for Christian-Muslim Understanding, a periodical publication on Islam, and supervised the launch of Islamochristiana, a scholarly journal specialised in Muslim-Christian relations and interreligious dialogue. In 1972 he became consultor of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, then known as Secretariat for Non-Christians.

Parish work[edit]

In 1978 he returned to Africa to carry out parish work in the Sudan, in the town of New Halfa (Archdiocese of Khartoum). His duties included ministering to the Christian population while also cooperating with the Muslim community. In 1980 he was elected to the General Council of the Missionaries of Africa in Rome, where he spent six years in administration and animation.[3]

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue[edit]

In 1987 he was appointed Secretary of the Secretariat for Non-Christians (renamed in 1988 Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), an office then led by Cardinal Francis Arinze and at the direct service of Pope John Paul II. In that capacity Fitzgerald was involved in drafting Dialogue and Proclamation, one of the Catholic Church's documents concerning the relationship between dialogue and evangelisation.

In October 2002 he succeeded to Cardinal Francis Arinze as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.[4]

Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald is one of the leading experts on Islam, Muslim-Christian relations and Interreligious dialogue among the senior hierarchy of the Catholic Church. His publications include Dieu rêve d'unité. Les catholiques et les religions: les leçons du dialogue. Entretiens avec Annie Laurent (Paris, Bayard Presse, 2005) and (with John Borelli) Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, (SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006), both translated into Italian.

Bishop, Archbishop, and Nuncio[edit]

On 16 December 1991 Michael L. Fitzgerald was appointed titular bishop of Nepte (Nefta or Nafta, Tunisia) and was ordained bishop at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican by Pope John Paul II on 6 January 1992, the Feast of the Epiphany.[5]

On 1 October 2002 he was raised to the dignity of Archbishop when he became President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

On 15 February 2006 he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt and Delegate to the League of Arab States, his first diplomatic posting. Archbishop Fitzgerald is one of the few nuncio's who did not attend the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. His departure was criticized by liberal Catholics, who were worried about a series of purges in the Roman Curia during the papacy of Benedict XVI. He resigned in November 2012 and will stay at the Missionaries of Afrika in Jerusalem.

Views on interreligious dialogue[edit]

According to Fitzgerald, the impetus for interreligious dialogue in the Catholic Church stems from the Second Vatican Council, in particular the declaration Nostra Aetate ('In our Time') on relations with other religions, especially Judaism but also Islam. In conveying for the first time a positive assessment of other religious traditions, the declaration emphasises dialogue between people rather than systems.[6]

In addition, dialogue is made necessary by the fact of religious plurality, and the increasing contact between people of different religions. The theological basis for both dialogue and evangelisation on the part of the Church is the Christian belief in God as love, and God's love for humankind.[7]

Fitzgerald further argues that the aim of interreligious dialogue is not to produce a new world religion or to achieve some sort of theological unity between all religions. In this it differs radically from ecumenical dialogue conducted with the various Christian churches with a view to a unity of worship grounded on a unity of faith. Indeed, theological dialogue with followers of other religions, the 'dialogue of discourse', is especially difficult due to the divergence of beliefs, and presupposes a solid theological formation on the part of participants, but such dialogue can serve to eliminate false problems. Other forms of dialogue are important, such as the dialogue of life, the dialogue of action and the dialogue of religious experience.[8]

In practising dialogue one should show a spirit of openness and be prepared to learn from the other, but there should be no fear on the part of Christians to express their own convictions, and any semblance of syncretism and relativism ought to be avoided.[9]

While the pursuit of dialogue in the Catholic Church goes hand in hand with the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, as stated in Dialogue and Proclamation, the 'Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy' in other religions (Nostra Aetate, 2), and indeed among the benefits of interreligious dialogue is a mutual enrichment, and a deeper knowledge of one's own religion.[10]

Works[edit]

  • (with R. Dionne) Catalysts, The White Fathers of Africa, Dublin, 1980, revised edition 1998.
  • (with R. Caspar) Signs of Dialogue. Christian Encounter with Muslims, Silsilah Publications, Zamboanga City, 1992.
  • Dieu rêve d'unité. Les catholiques et les religions: les leçons du dialogue. Entretiens avec Annie Laurent, Paris, Bayard Presse, 2005.
  • (with John Borelli) Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 1-2.
  2. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 3-4.
  3. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 4-8.
  4. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, Dieu rêve d'unité. Les catholiques et les religions: les leçons du dialogue. Entretiens avec Annie Laurent, Paris, Bayard Presse, 2005. p. 17.
  5. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 8-10.
  6. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p. 28.
  7. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p. 86.
  8. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 38, 95, 140; Fitzgerald, Michael, Dieu rêve d'unité. Les catholiques et les religions: les leçons du dialogue. Entretiens avec Annie Laurent, Paris, Bayard Presse, 2005. p. 71.
  9. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 34, 77; Fitzgerald, Michael, Dieu rêve d'unité. Les catholiques et les religions: les leçons du dialogue. Entretiens avec Annie Laurent, Paris, Bayard Presse, 2005. p. 79.
  10. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 28, 41, 67.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Francis Arinze
President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
1 October 2002–15 February 2006
Succeeded by
Paul Poupard
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Marco Dino Brogi
Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt
2006–2012
Succeeded by
Jean-Paul Gobel