JPII Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies 2023

This year’s awardee of the John Paul II Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies is Fr. Dr. Jackson Johnson, a Russell Berrie Fellow (Cohort XV) from India, for his thesis, “Liturgical Changes in Judaism and Christianity: A Study of Alenu, Birkat Ha-Minim, and Oremus et pro [perfidis] Judaeis in their Historical and Textual Contexts.”

Born in the multi-religious context of Kerala, India, Fr. Jackson has continued to deepen the interests in Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations that were first sparked during his time in seminary. Having completed Licentiate studies at the Cardinal Bea Centre (Gregorian University) and engaged this year in Interreligious Studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) as a Russell Berrie Fellow, Fr. Jackson began a PhD in Jewish-Christian Dialogue at the Angelicum in February 2023.

This annual prize is awarded to a student with an excellent Licentiate thesis or outstanding Doctoral research around topics related to Catholic-Jewish dialogue. With the larger aim to encourage and acknowledge this important theme and academic work around it, the JPII Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies is supported jointly by the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and the JPII Center for Interreligious Dialogue, in collaboration with the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.

The award ceremony was held online on May 16, 2023. “We are particularly happy to host this today on May 16,” stated Elena Dini, Senior Program Manager of the JPII Center, at the beginning of the ceremony, “which is the International Day of Living Together in Peace.” 

Cardinal Kurt Koch, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, offered introductory remarks on Fr. Jackson’s award-winning work. Fr. Jackson then presented his thesis, which, in his words, “attempts to show how liturgical prayers are essential to Jewish-Christian dialogue and how their changes can promote and/or hinder dialogue.” 

At the end of the presentation and a brief question-and-answer session, Fr. Jackson thanked, in particular, Professors Israel Knohl and Noam Zion, visiting Israeli professors and mentors of the current and previous cohorts of Russell Berrie Fellows, for their support throughout this project. 

The ceremony was concluded with remarks from Prof. Hyacinth Destivelle, OP, Director of the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Angelicum, who thanked all those who made this award possible and recognized Fr. Ryan Muldoon, JPII Center Leader (Cohort XI, USA) and last year’s recipient of the JPII Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies. 

“The emergence of a new generation of experts in Jewish Studies is a promising sign for Christian-Jewish dialogue,” concluded Prof. Destivelle. 

Click here for more information on this event, including a full abstract of Fr. Jackson’s award-winning thesis.