The Courtyard of the Gentiles is a Vatican effort to advance dialogue with men and women outside any religious tradition. For the first time, the Pontifical Council for Culture and its president, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, will bring the encounter to the United States with a three-day meeting, April 9-11, entitled “Faith, Culture and the Common Good,” at Washington’s Georgetown University.
The conference will open at the Kennedy Center, April 9, with a keynote address (invitation only) by Harvard’s Robert Putnam. Professor Putnam will speak on “Our Children: Inequality, Opportunity and a ‘Throwaway Culture.”
A hip-hop concert by performers of various faiths and hosted by Russell Simmons will follow the keynote. This event is free and open to the public. The concert will showcase religious diversity and tolerance. Immediately following the performance Michael Eric Dyson, University Professor of Sociology, will host a conversation with the performers on their faith.
Another performance the evening of April 10 will dramatize Flannery O’Connor’s Everything that Rises Must Converge in a presentation by the Compagnia de Colombari directed by Karin Coonrod.
During the day, April 10. Major panels led by radio commentator Cokie Roberts, on realizing the common good, and by literary critic Paul Elie, on faith, culture and community, will bring together secular authors, thinkers and poets with artists and intellectuals who are members of faith communities. Following the panels, students, faculty and the public will be invited to meet with the panelists to continue the conversation in “Tents of Dialogue” around the campus.
Dialogue partners will include: Michael Gerson, Bryan Hehir, Saba Mahmoud and Phil Zukerman; Alice McDermott, Robert Pinsky, Ayana Mathis and Alan Lightman.
Invitation only events on April 11 will be held at the Library of Congress. The day will open with discussion with two retiring Virginia Congressmen, Frank Wolf (R) and Jim Moran (D), reflecting on legislating the common good. A second panel will explore how the media contributes to the common good. Participants will include: Christa Tippet, Melinda Henneberger, Harold Meyerson, David Neff and Ray Suarez.
Drew Christiansen, S. J., a former editor in chief of America, is Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Human Development at Georgetown University.