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

Michael Louis Fitzgerald M.Afr.(born 17 August 1937) is a British Roman Catholic prelate of the Catholic Church and an expert on Muslim-Christian relations. He has had the rank of archbishop since 2002. At his retirement in 2012 he was the papal nuncio to Egypt and delegate to the Arab League. He headed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 2002 to 2006.

He is fluent in Arabic.

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 the Pontifical Institute of Arab 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 managing and organizing.[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. 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 Arinze as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.[4]

Fitzgerald is one of the leading experts on Islam, Muslim-Christian relations and interreligious dialogue in 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, Fitzgerald was appointed titular bishop of Nepte. He was consecrated at Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope John Paul II on 6 January 1992.[5]

On 1 October 2002 he was given the title Archbishop when he became President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He was the highest-ranking British citizen in the Roman Curia.[6]

On 15 February 2006, he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt and Delegate to the League of Arab States, his first diplomatic posting. He was one of the few nuncios who did not attend the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. According to the BBC, "The decision by the German-born pontiff has caused a stir. Vatican-watchers are trying to work out whether the move is a demotion, or recognition of the special talents of the archbishop." Fitzgerald said: "My background in Arabic and Islamic studies is probably considered useful at this moment for the development of relations with Egypt and the rest of the Islamic world."[7] One Vatican correspondent called Fitzgerald's reassignment "[t]he Pope's worst decision so far" and his absence was noted by the press when Pope Benedict offended Muslim's with his Regensburg lecture in September 2006.[8]

He resigned in November 2012 and remained at the Missionaries of Africa 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.[9]

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.[10]

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 requires participants with a thorough theological education, 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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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.

See also[edit]

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. Entretien a 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. ^ Gould, Peter (6 April 2005). "Pope's man out of a job". BBC News. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  7. ^ Gould, Peter (27 March 2006). "British cleric's mission to Islam". BBC News. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  8. ^ Gould, Peter (16 September 2006). "Pope remarks reveal harder stance". BBC News. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  9. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p. 28.
  10. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p. 86.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael, and Borelli, John, Interfaith Dialogue. A Catholic View, SPCK, London & Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 28, 41, 67.
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