Our Mission

We aim to build bridges between Christian, Jewish, and other religious traditions by providing the next generation of religious leaders with a comprehensive understanding of, and dedication to, interfaith issues.

Our Vision

We empower an international network of diverse religious leaders who believe in the importance of building bridges between people across lines of difference to establish mutual understanding and nurture peaceful communities.

These leaders are facilitating significant changes within their communities through education and grassroots projects promoting harmony and decreasing interreligious conflicts.

About Us

Made possible through the generosity of The Russell Berrie Foundation, the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue (JPII Center) is a partnership between The Russell Berrie Foundation, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), and the Institute of International Education (IIE).

[…] supporting open dialogue and harmony among religions.

The Center is named after St. Pope John Paul II, the most famous alumnus of the Angelicum, who, as Karol Wojtyla, earned a Doctorate in Philosophy in the late 1940s. A tireless proponent of the need for interfaith dialogue throughout his entire life, Pope John Paul II built significant bridges with the Jewish community during his Papacy.

Interfaith outreach was one of his mandates as Pope. He met the leaders of various religious communities and extended his respect for them, supporting open dialogue and harmony among religions. He was the first prominent religious figure to convene world religious leaders in Assisi, Italy to come together and pray for peace.

To honor his legacy and courageous efforts to promote interreligious dialogue and peace in the world, the Center is humbly and respectfully named after him.

We offered the Russell Berrie Fellowship in Interreligious Studies at the Angelicum from 2008-2022. After completion of the Fellowship we welcomed Fellows into the JPII Leaders Network and supported their interfaith work in their local communities.

We partner with interfaith organizations and networks devoted to education and action in the field of interreligious dialogue and peacebuilding to share the expertise and knowledge of our JPII Leaders, to learn from others, and amplify our collective work in dialogue.

Our Impact

The JPII Center has offered 133 Russell Berrie Fellowships at the Angelicum, supported over forty projects in dialogue and peacebuilding, and partnered with like-minded organizations and networks to amplify the impact of interfaith collaboration throughout the world.

Our JPII Leaders are now serving religious communities around the world in various capacities and employed in a wide range of institutions and centers.

In our work, we help emerging religious leaders further their knowledge of other religions, engage with people of different faiths, and actively promote interfaith dialogue in their communities.

Through the JPII Center activities, the impressive work of our JPII Leaders at different levels all around the world, and the international contacts and interactions with dialogue organizations, we contribute to the field of dialogue and peacebuilding in our societies.

  • 120
    JPII Leaders.

    JPII Leaders.

    A network of more than 120 Fellowship alumni, known as JPII Leaders, active in the field of dialogue all over the world.

    Upon completion of the Fellowship, JPII Leaders go back to their home countries or continue with their education thus widening their reach and impact. Through the Network, we provide opportunities to connect, organize practical trainings and workshops, as well as support our JPII Leaders so they successfully continue their engagement in interreligious dialogue.

  • 40
    Projects Funded.

    Projects Funded.

    Over 40 dialogue and bridge-building projects were funded.

    At the JPII Center, we are convinced that religious and lay leaders can and should be supported in transforming their interreligious studies education into action. We welcome project proposals from our JPII Leaders to implement dialogue in their communities and contexts. These projects have the potential to bring a positive change and decrease interreligious conflicts in our societies.

  •   Interreligious Collaboration.

    Interreligious Collaboration.

    Collaborations with key interreligious dialogue organizations.

    Dialogue teaches us that investing in relationships, interacting, collaborating, and working on joint initiatives is the way forward to create more peaceful and harmonious societies. We constantly reach out and work with other key actors in the field of interreligious dialogue establishing positive ties of friendship and constructive collaborations.

Why Interreligious Dialogue?

We certainly have to acknowledge most religions have not only misunderstood other faiths, but have eyed them with suspicion, and with the tragic distinction that we are the children of light and everyone else the child of darkness.

While we believe that the Scriptures of our religion teach the path to peace, we must also acknowledge that our various sacred writings have been and continue to be used to justify violence, war, and exclusion of others.

For these dark reasons, and to forge a foundation of respect and a path forward toward peace, we must all recognize the need for new, contextual studies and a deeper understanding of our various Scriptures that clearly enunciate the message and value of peace for all humanity.

Common words mean very different things in different traditions. Only dialogue can bring about clarification by devising a more abstract terminology so that our own and the other’s religion can be described. Engaging in active and on-going dialogue is needed to replace fear of the unknown, with an embracing of The Other.

Interreligious Dialogue can be done. Three questions need to be asked and answered: First, How can I be true to my faith without being false to yours? Second, What is the place of the other religions in one’s own faith perspective? Third, How can we use the great resources of world religions for the common good?

Rabbi Jack Bemporad
Rabbi Jack Bemporad

John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue

Our Team

The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum, is one of the Pontifical Universities in Rome. Staffed and administered by the Order of Preachers, it continues the Dominican Order’s theological and philosophical tradition since medieval times.

The Angelicum offers education in Italian and English for students from 100 different countries and contains Faculties of Theology, Philosophy, Canon Law, and Social Sciences. The Faculty of Theology, where all Russell Berrie Fellows study, offers courses in Ecumenism and Dialogue.

The courses are developed according to the principles set out by the Second Vatican Council and the official Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The Angelicum collaborates with academic institutions from all over the world and houses several research institutes and centers, among which is the JPII Center named after its illustrious alum St. John Paul II.


Established in 1919 with the founding premise that international exchange could make the world a more interconnected place, the Institute of International Education (IIE) has specialized in the international exchange of people and ideas.

IIE manages more than 200 programs in international higher education that help promote a more peaceful and equitable world. Today, IIE touches the lives of more than 29,000 people in 180 countries each year through the programs that IIE administers, helping to educate the next generation of leaders, scholars and artists.

IIE developed and implements the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue program in partnership with the Angelicum. On behalf of The Russell Berrie Foundation, IIE’s Europe Office administers and manages all day-to-day activities of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue.


The Russell Berrie Foundation carries on the values and passions of the late Russell Berrie, through promoting the continuity and enrichment of the Jewish communal life, fostering the spirit of religious understanding and pluralism, supporting advances in medicine, focusing on diabetes and humanistic medical care, celebrating unsung heroes and elevating the profession of sales.

The Foundation was created in 1985 by Russell Berrie, the chairman and CEO of Russ Berrie & Company, who believed that, as he put it, “There is nothing more important in life than helping a fellow human being”.

“Russ had an amazing capacity to both envision the world as it could be, and figure out how to collaborate with others to make it so,” said Angelica Berrie, his wife and the president of The Russell Berrie Foundation.

Beginning 2008, The Russell Berrie Foundation collaborated with Rabbi Jack Bemporad and the Angelicum leadership in Rome, Italy to establish the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue. Since its establishment, the Foundation has been providing generous funding for the JPII Center initiatives and programs, including the Russell Berrie Fellowship program.

Russell Berrie Foundation