On 17 January 2022, Italy celebrated the Day of Dialogue between Catholics and Jews. On this historically important date, “JPII Leader Rev. Ryan A. Muldoon” (USA, Cohort XI) was awarded the first John Paul II Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies during an online ceremony with final remarks offered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Commission for the Religious Relations with the Jews.
The John Paul II Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies is the new award established by the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue to encourage and acknowledge students’ outstanding academic research related to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.
In 2020, as a part of the Russell Berrie Fellowship, Fr. Ryan completed his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome with the thesis “The Land of Our Fathers in Faith: The Theological Role of the Land of Israel for Contemporary Jewish-Catholic Dialogue” which was recognized by the JPII Prize.
After the greetings and introduction by Fr. Hyacinthe Destivelle, OP, Director of the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Angelicum, and Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Founder and Director Emeritus of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Rev. Ryan shared the results of his Licentiate research. “In the nearly 60 years since Vatican II, many themes have been considered by organs of Jewish-Catholic dialogue at international, national, and local levels. Largely absent from these dialogues has been consideration—especially theological consideration—of the land of Israel as a part of God’s never-revoked promise (covenant) with the Jewish people,” he pointed out.
Continuing the research presentation, Rev. Ryan added that his thesis was an attempt to respond to the call of “Notes on the correct way to present Jews and Judaism in preaching and catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church” (Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, 1985), which stated in reference to Jewish attachment to the land of their forefathers: “Christians are invited to understand this religious attachment which finds its roots in Biblical tradition, without however making their own any particular religious interpretation of this relationship.”
The first chapter of the awarded thesis examines the Conciliar texts pertaining to the Jews and Judaism, as well as the four documents produced by the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. The second chapter presents the biblical basis for the land-promise, examined from both a Jewish and a Catholic standpoint. And the third chapter offers a status quaestionis regarding the development of Catholic theology of the land that recognizes God’s unrevoked covenant with the Jewish people.
The award ceremony concluded with the final remarks of Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Commission for the Religious Relations with the Jews. Referring to Vatican II, he admitted the common heritage the Council saw for “the foundation of the salvific community between Judaism and Christianity” and highlighted the Jewish roots of Christian faith. Cardinal Koch expressed his sincere congratulations to the award recipient, Rev. Ryan Muldoon, and said, “I hope that the prize-giving ceremony today will encourage young academics to present further studies.”
The John Paul II Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies is a joint initiative of the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue, awarded in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The prize aims to encourage and acknowledge the Licentiate thesis or Doctoral research that tackles topics related to Catholic-Jewish dialogue and thus support students who are engaged in this academic endeavor.
The interview with Rev. Ryan Muldoon dedicated to the award ceremony of the JPII Prize for Catholic-Jewish Studies at EWTN News: