World Environment Day

The first major United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 5, 1972. This is why June 5 is the occasion for Pope Francis to address participants in a special Green and Blue Festival. The colors symbolize sustainability and technology, as indicated on the organization’s website here.

The Pope’s message builds on the teaching of Pope Benedict and Francis’ own encyclical Laudato Si. The text should be read by all people of good will:

70th Anniversary: Save the Date

70th Anniversary: 1953-2023Each year the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies hosts the “Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher Memorial Lecture.” This year it will take place on November 12, 2023 and will commemorate the Institute’s 70th anniversary!

This will be a hybrid online and in-person event on Seton Hall University’s main campus in South Orange, NJ.

Our guest speaker will be Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, the successor to Father Edward Flannery in the US Bishops Office.

Please save the date and plan to join us for the special event and celebration!

The History of Seton Hall by Dermot Quinn

The nimble quill of the scribe has been celebrated from antiquity (Psalm 45:1), and Dr. Dermot Quinn brought the image into the computer age with the elegant prose of his new book, Seton Hall University: A History 1856-2006 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2023).

May I be pardoned for focusing on the early 1950s?  “Chapter 11: A New University” includes a section titled Two Institutes. “The creation of two Institutes indicated Seton Hall’s commitment to research. Each would eventually give Seton Hall an international reputation. One was politically conservative. The other was theologically liberal. Together, they were institutionally transformative” (p. 179).

In 1951 The Institute of Far Eastern Studies focused on China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, with research and classes that placed Seton Hall as the prominent place for the study and teaching of Chinese and Japanese languages and cultures.

The Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies, founded on March 25, 1953, was Seton Hall’s contribution to a “remarkable story” (p. 181). Rightly, Dr. Quinn focuses attention on Msgr. John Oesterreicher, drawing heavily upon John Connelly’s book, From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965 (Harvard University Press, 2012). Dr. Bernhard Scholz, Provost when Msgr. Oesterreicher died in April 1993, wrote:

“Rarely has a life over five decades been dedicated so single-mindedly to so necessary and noble a goal; and rare indeed must be the man in the Church whose concerns and hopes became, within his lifetime, the policies of popes and a General Council of the Church.”

The Institute of Far Eastern Studies, under Paul Sih and John Wu, united the traditions of East and West.  “John Oesterreicher wished to connect Christians and Jews and did so, appropriately, in The Bridge” (p. 204).  Earlier Dr. Quinn had noted:

“The Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies and Oesterreicher were interchangeable. Well-connected and intellectually courageous, bringing to the Institute and its annual publication The Bridge his probing and restless spirit of inquiry, he was almost too bright a star for Seton Hall… No-one doubted his firepower. In 1960, Cardinal Augustin Bea asked Oesterreicher (along with Father Gregory Baum and Abbot Leo Rudloff) to act as a theological advisor in formulating a document on the Church’s relations with the Jews” (p. 182).

Pope St. Paul VI promulgated this Declaration on the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra aetate) on October 28, 1965.

I thank Dr. Quinn for mentioning the continuity of the Institute’s work for advocacy of better relations between Christians and Jews on the part of “the Dominican Sister Rose Thering and Fathers Edward Flannery and Lawrence Frizzell” (p. 182).

In another note of gratitude, I would mention that Seton Hall’s hospitality to the Institute was based on a “dowry,” the generous support offered by a French Catholic lady, H. Suzanne Jobert. Her benevolence continues to sustain our work to this day!

For those who are interested in reading an excerpt from Dr. Quinn’s book, please visit “The Origin Story of Seton Hall,” published in Seton Hall Magazine.

Updated Online Archive

Our update of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies’ online archive or eRepository was completed this month. The eRepository is a publishing service for the preservation and dissemination of university scholarly work that is maintained by the Seton Hall University Libraries in partnership with the Seton Hall Law School.

We added the following six new series to our eRepository collection:

  • A Reflection of Laudato Si’: Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment – This is an audio recording of Cardinal Peter Turkson’s 2016 reflections on Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which he helped to write. It includes Archbishop John Joseph Myers’ introduction, Cardinal Peter Turskson’s full address and the Q&A session that followed.
  • John M. Oesterreicher 2013 Conference – In honor of our 60th anniversary, the Institute hosted the Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher Conference at Seton Hall University on September 22, 2013. This video features the presentation of the keynote speaker, Professor John Connelly. He spoke about the life of Msgr. Oesterreicher and his role as a principal architect of “Nostra aetate, 4” during the Second Vatican Council and the impact Monsignor had on the Church’s view of Judaism.
  • John M. Oesterreicher Memorial Lectures – The Institute has hosted an annual lecture since 1993 in honor of the life and legacy of our founding director, Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher. This series contains the video and audio recordings of the presentations from 2014-2022.
  • Pope John XXIII & the Jews – On March 30, 2014 the Institute sponsored a lecture to commemorate the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. This audio recording features the presentation of speaker, Rabbi Dr. David G. Dalin, who discussed the many ways in which Pope John XXIII influenced Catholic-Jewish relations, both as the former Vatican diplomat in Turkey and Greece during World War II and later as the Vicar of Christ in Rome.
  • Radio Interviews with Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher – Taped in the 1990s, this series features some of my earliest interviews with Msgr. Oesterreicher on the Institute’s radio program, “The Kinship of Catholics & Jews,” which still broadcasts today on WSOU 89.5 FM every Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m.
  • The Life and Legacy of Msgr. Oesterreicher – Made to commemorate our 60th anniversary, this short video recounts the life and legacy of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies’ founding director, Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher.

Photographs, publications, videos and audio recordings have been added throughout these and the other five series in the collection. As you will note, these materials represent both current work, such as the video recording of the 2022 Msgr. Oesterreicher Lecture delivered by Rabbi Alan Brill, Ph.D., and historic work, such as audio recordings of my interviews with John Oesterreicher in the early 1990s about the Decalogue.

John and my reflections on the Ten Commandments, housed in the Radio Interviews with Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher series, have never been published. How apropos it is to do so now as I am in the season of life that he was when I interviewed him 30 years ago.

Thus far people from 129 countries have downloaded documents from our online archive more than 12 thousand times. I invite you to join them and explore the materials we have in our Institute’s eRepository. May you find hidden treasures there!

Happy is the one who finds wisdom,
the one who gains understanding!

Her profit is better than profit in silver,
and better than gold is her revenue;

She is more precious than corals,
and no treasure of yours can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand,
in her left are riches and honor;

Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace;

She is a tree of life to those who grasp her,
and those who hold her fast are happy.

(Proverbs 3:13-18)

How the Bulgarian Jews Survived the Holocaust (Online)

The New Jersey Commission on Holocaust and Genocide Education and the Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher Endowment are sponsoring the online event, “How the Bulgarian Jews Survived the Holocaust,” on Friday, April 21, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Microsoft Teams.

Joseph Benatov, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, will be this year’s guest speaker.

On April 21, he will present two workshops:

  • “How did Bulgarian Jewry survive the Holocaust?” from 9:15–10:40 a.m.
    (includes an introduction on Bulgarian Jewry)
  • “Resources for teaching Bulgarian Jewry and the Holocaust – history books, novels popular works and film” from 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

The event is free, but you must RSVP in advance by calling (973) 761-9751 or emailing me at

I hope you will join us!

Father Edward H. Flannery (1912-1998)

Father Edward H. Flannery

We in the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies are delighted that Father Edward H. Flannery has been inducted into the Rhode Island Hall of Fame! This is a sign that his many decades as an educator with a special mission to promote understanding and harmony between Christians and Jews is appreciated!

Father Flannery joined Msgr. John Oesterreicher in the Institute at Seton Hall University in 1965 and remained on campus after becoming the officer in charge of Catholic-Jewish relations for the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference in 1967. When all of these offices were consolidated, he moved to Washington, D.C. in 1970.

We are fortunate that Father Flanner donated his papers to Walsh Library on the Seton Hall campus, where they are available for research.

You can read the report on this honor in the Rhode Island Catholic here.

Vatican Message to Muslims for Ramadan

Ramadan prayer in the Mosque of El Aksa and the Omar mosque, about 300,000 gathered, 1996

Ramadan prayer in the Mosque of El Aksa and the Omar mosque, about 300,000 gathered, 1996. (Photo credit: Gideon Markowiz / Photographer: Israel Press and Photo Agency (I.P.P.A.) / Dan Hadani collection, National Library of Israel, Wikimedia Commons)

The Holy See’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue has offered a special message to Muslim communities throughout the world as they begin the month of daily fasting until after sunset:
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Advancing the Dignity, Rights and Equality of Women

March 8 is globally recognized as International Women’s Day, and the month of March is designated as National Women’s History Month in the United States. As such I would like to report and reflect on two recent events that celebrated the contributions of women, yet remind us that there is still much more we need to do to advance the dignity, rights and equality of women and girls.

Interreligious Contributions

The Dicastery of Interreligious Dialogue (DID) is the Holy See’s guide to the universal Church’s interaction with people of other religions. Founded to advance the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra aetate), it has produced important texts for interreligious understanding as well as hosting meetings in many parts of the world.

Two months ago in January, the Dicastery, in collaboration with the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations and the Pontifical Urban University, hosted the three-day conference “Women Building a Culture of Encounter Interreligiously.” The purpose of this historic event was to support and strengthen the interreligious contributions of women:

“Working towards a culture of encounter requires wider acknowledgement and promotion of women’s inherent dignity and participation…

The promotion of women’s equal dignity and rights should also be reflected in interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Accordingly, we need to include more women at dialogue tables, where they are still outnumbered by men. Women have unique and indispensable gifts to bring to the building of this culture of encounter: among others, an inclination to listen to, understand, and care for the other, a persevering presence in the midst of difficulty, and maternal wisdom to make concrete and to nourish the desires and aspirations of our wounded humanity.” (DID website)

Women Building a Culture of Encounter Interreligiously

Thirty women from 23 countries and 12 different religious traditions (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Confucian, Taoist, Jain, Hindu, Shinto (Oomoto) and African Traditional Religion) convened together in Rome from January 25-27.

The expressed three-fold goal of the conference was:

  1. “To appreciate and encourage the role of women and women’s leadership in social, economic, religious and political life at local, national and international levels;”
  2. “To rediscover how our respective religious classics, saints/sages, religious arts and music can be shared to reawaken our spiritual energy, to heal us and the world;”
  3. “To learn from the stories of women in fostering interreligious dialogue and a culture of encounter.”

All 30 women presented and participated in panels and open discussions across seven sessions in three days. They shared their experiences and interreligious work (e.g., peacebuilding, healthcare, political activity) from within their own faith and cultural traditions and examined various issues (e.g., discrimination, inclusivity, female leadership) related to building a culture of encounter.

This first-time conference is intended to lead to future interreligious opportunities and platforms for women leaders under the auspices of the Dicastery of Interreligious Dialogue. As such, the women concluded the conference with a sustained dialogue on the panel, “Where do we go from here?”

You can watch videos of the conference proceedings on the Vatican News’ YouTube channel: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

In addition to dialoguing and networking with one another, the women also met with Pope Francis on January 26 in a private audience. His address appears below.

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Scholars Forum: Murmuring against Moses

Book cover of Murmuring against Moses: the Contentious History and Contested Future of Pentateuchal Studies

I would like to draw attention to an event that will be of interest to students and scholars in Biblical studies. This lecture will open up a range of topics in this field!

The University Core at Seton Hall will virtually host its second Scholars’ Forum in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT) on March 29, 2023 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on TEAMS. Jeffrey Morrow will be presenting on his book, Murmuring against Moses: the Contentious History and Contested Future of Pentateuchal Studies (Emmaus Academic, 2023), which he co-authored with John Bergsma.

According to the publisher’s abstract, Dr. Morrow’s and Dr. Bergsma’s volume offers a shifting paradigm for Biblical studies. Their research outlines the history on Pentateuchal research and contests conventional approaches that view the Torah as a fragmentary, and often disconnected, collection of sources. Alternatively, the two scholars advance and reclaim academic positions that view the Pentateuch as a predominately cohesive collection of pre-exilic sources:

“For much of the history of both Judaism and Christianity, the Pentateuch—first five books of the Bible—was understood to be the unified work of a single inspired author: Moses. Yet the standard view in modern biblical scholarship contends that the Pentateuch is a composite text made up of fragments from diverse and even discrepant sources that originated centuries after the events it purports to describe. In Murmuring against Moses, John Bergsma and Jeffrey Morrow provide a critical narrative of the emergence of modern Pentateuchal studies and challenge the scholarly consensus by highlighting the weaknesses of the modern paradigms and mustering an array of new evidence for the Pentateuch’s antiquity. By shedding light on the past history of research and the present developments in the field, Bergsma and Morrow give fresh voice to a growing scholarly dissatisfaction with standard critical approaches and make an important contribution toward charting a more promising future for Pentateuchal studies.”

You can read more about the event, including how to join, here.

Jeffery Morrow, Ph.D. is Professor of Undergraduate Theology in Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology (ICSST). He was named Researcher of the Year at ICSST in 2013, 2017 and 2022 and was a Visiting Scholar, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2015-2016. Morrow’s other books include Modern Biblical Criticism as a Tool of Statecraft (1700-1900), co-authored with Scott W. Hahn, (Emmaus Academic, 2020), and Alfred Loisy and Modern Biblical Studies (The Catholic University of America Press, 2019).

John Bergsma, Ph.D is Professor of Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.  He is the author of The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran (VTSup 115; Brill, 2007); A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: Old Testament (Ignatius, 2018), and Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Penguin Random House, 2019). His peer-reviewed scholarship on Old and New Testament topics and the Dead Sea Scrolls have appeared in the journals BiblicaCatholic Biblical QuarterlyDead Sea DiscoveriesJournal of Biblical Literature Vetus Testamentum, and in essay collections, festschrifts, dictionaries and encyclopedias published by Brill, Continuum/T&T Clark, Eerdmans, Eisenbrauns, Harrassowitz, Kohlhammer, Oxford, and Westminster/John Knox Press.