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Georgetown Hosts Conference with Vatican Office for Culture, Washington Archdiocese

Faith, Culture and the Common Good Conference Logo  

April 14, 2014 – Georgetown hosted Faith, Culture and the Common Good” conference April 9-11 with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and the Archdiocese of Washington.

The three-day event was part of the Vatican’s Courtyard of the Gentiles initiative, a structure for dialogue created by the Pontifical Council for Culture in 2010.

The initiative came to Washington, D.C., and the United States for the first time to explore how people of faith traditions and those with no religious affiliation can work together to enrich civic life in America.

Courtyard of the Gentiles

“Georgetown is deeply honored to host the first Courtyard of the Gentiles event in the United States,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “As we gather together in pursuit of the common good, we will draw both on our nation’s history of pluralism as well as our Catholic and Jesuit tradition of engagement, friendship, concern for the poor, and a commitment to developing an ever deeper understanding of one another and our world.”

The concept of a Courtyard of the Gentiles dates back to biblical times, when Jews and non-Jews (gentiles) shared space in the outer courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem to meet and discuss the nature of God and human existence.

Religious Diversity

Since 2010, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture has held Courtyard of the Gentiles events in more than a dozen cities, including Budapest and Mexico City.

The conference brought together religious, cultural and political leaders, students and the wider Georgetown and Washington, D.C., communities for events that explore the theme of the common good through political life, religion, culture and the arts.

“Our national dialogue regarding the role of religion in public life and its contributions to the common good is at a critical juncture,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington. “The Courtyard of the Gentiles format offers an opportunity to explore the relationship between religious faith and culture from a fresh perspective. Georgetown’s location in the nation’s capital and, in particular, the Berkley Center’s emphasis on interfaith understanding make the university an appropriate host for next month’s event.”

Public Dialogue

The conference explored a uniquely American art form April 9 with “Faith, Hip-Hop, and the Common Good,” a free performance at the Kennedy Center showcasing interreligious diversity and tolerance through a hip-hop lens. Hosted by Russell Simmons, the performance featured artists of diverse faiths, including MCs Talib Kweli, Jin, Poetic Pilgrimage, AmKoullel, Mandeep Sethi, DJ Boo and Narcy. University Professor Michael Eric Dyson led a post-performance discussion that is also part of the One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide festival at the Kennedy Center.

Leading thinkers, acclaimed scholars and authors convened at Georgetown on April 10 to explore how people of different faiths and no faith can work together to enrich civic life. Following each plenary session, panelists, students and the Georgetown and Washington, D.C. communities broke into smaller groups and continued the conversation in “Tents of Dialogue” on the university’s front lawn.