‘Courtyard of Gentiles’ Comes to America

In the first U.S. implementation of the “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” a Vatican-sponsored structure for dialogue between believers and nonbelievers, conversations at Georgetown University on April 10 touched on the role of religion in society. The Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson described a recent visit to the Central African Republic. He found the situation there especially frightening because a sectarian conflict arose very quickly in a country that had a long history of peaceful interfaith mingling. Gerson said he was reminded that the multicultural and multifaith society of the United States is fragile and requires lots of work. Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., said problems for the common good arise when a particular religious faith is linked with nationalism or becomes entwined with political power. The Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, secretary for health care and social services of the Archdiocese of Boston, said the balance of faith, culture and the common good depends much on how well a society accepts the common good as a goal.


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