Rabbi Jack Bemporad‘s family fled Europe and came to the United States when he was 5 because of religious persecution. He has had personal audiences with Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II for discussions on finding reconciliation between Catholics and Jews. He has spoken about interreligious relations at the United Nations and the Vatican, where he addressed 50,000 people, including the Dalai Lama.

Bemporad, Director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU) in New Jersey, will describe those experiences and more Wednesday, Feb. 24, at St. Mary’s University. He will present “The Revolutionary Impact of Vatican II on the Jewish Community and My 40-year Journey Toward Reconciliation and Mutual Understanding” as part of the 14th annual Catholic Intellectual Tradition Lecture Series.

The 7 p.m. event – open to the public and media – will be held in Conference Room A of the University Center. Refreshments and conversation follow the lecture. For more information, call 210-431-8094.

Bemporad has spent decades pursuing interreligious harmony. He founded the CIU in 1992 as a nonprofit organization that uses theological dialogue to harness the power of religion for good, promoting genuine understanding, reconciliation and peace. The CIU combats stereotypes and intolerance and helps religious leaders of all faiths focus on finding common ground among the world’s major religions. The CIU primarily has focused on Jewish-Christian relations, but that experience now is used to improve relations with Muslim leaders.

Bemporad is director of the John Paul II Center and professor of Interreligious Studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. He also has taught at Southern Methodist University, the New School for Social Research and the University of Pennsylvania. He serves as Senior Rabbinic Scholar at the Chavurah Beth Shalom synagogue in Alpine, N.J.

He holds a bachelor’s in Philosophy from Tulane University and a master’s in Philosophy from Hebrew Union College. Ordained as a rabbi in 1959, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College in 1984. His work has earned several awards, including the “Faith in Action Award” from the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy in Washington D.C.

The Catholic Intellectual Tradition Lecture Series is a free, annual series featuring men and women who have shaped the Catholic intellectual tradition at the heart of the educational enterprises at St. Mary’s. The theme for the 2016 series of four lectures is Reshaping Catholicism in a Pluralistic Society, and will feature speakers from various faith traditions.

In March, St. Mary’s welcomes Massimo Faggioli, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Catholicism and Citizenship at St. Thomas University.

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