John Allen Lecture Now Available Online

Over the last decade, a historic shift has occurred from Judaism to Islam as the paradigmatic interfaith relationship of the Catholic Church. Such was the thesis presented by CNN’s senior Vatican analyst, John Allen, Jr., who discussed the Vatican’s interfaith relations at Notre Dame College on Nov. 4.

John Allen,Jr.


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In his speech in front of more than 500 guests, Allen, a prize-winning journalist and author of six best-selling books on the Vatican and Catholic affairs, listed four factors that have driven this shift and four implications it has for the Catholic Church’s interfaith relationships.

Allen summarized his talk, which was sponsored by Notre Dame’s Abrahamic Center, in a recent blog post for the National Catholic Reporter.

Those who couldn’t attend Allen’s speech or would like to listen to it again, can do so now by downloading an audio file of the talk here.

Allen listed the 9/11 attacks and the rise of Muslim radicalism as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg speech, which unleashed a firestorm of criticism in the Islamic world, as important events leading to a shift in the Vatican’s focus on interfaith relations.

He also said that a transition in Catholicism from the West to the Southern hemisphere produced a  new generation of leaders from countries where Judaism doesn’t have a strong presence. 

This shift means the Catholic church increasingly focuses on intercultural rather than interreligious dialogue, supports a “healthy secularism,” is more likely to speak out for religious freedom, and serves as a preferred partner in dialogue for Shi’ites, Allen said. 

Allen's work is admired across ideological divides. Liberal commentator Fr. Andrew Greeley called his writing “indispensable,” while the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a conservative, called Allen’s reporting “possibly the best source of information on the Vatican published in the United States.” His weekly Internet column, “All Things Catholic,” is widely read as a source of insight on the global Church.

When Allen was called upon to put the first question to Pope Benedict XVI aboard the papal plane en route to the United States in April 2008, the Vatican spokesperson said to the pope: “Holy Father, this man needs no introduction.”

The London Tablet has called Allen “the most authoritative writer on Vatican affairs in the English language,” and renowned papal biographer George Weigel has called him “the best Anglophone Vatican reporter ever.” Veteran religion writer Kenneth Woodward of Newsweek described Allen as “the journalist other reporters – and not a few cardinals – look to for the inside story on how all the pope’s men direct the world’s largest church.”

Notre Dame’s Abrahamic Center is devoted to developing programs for the College and the Greater Cleveland community that foster mutual respect among all peoples, and celebrate religious, racial and cultural diversity.

By Christian Taske ’07, editor and writer at Notre Dame College.