Regis College faculty participate in the 2018 Parliament of the World’s of Religions

Regis College professors Mary Jo Leddy, Michael Stoeber, and John Dadosky represented Regis College at the 2018 World Parliament of Religions, held for the first time in Toronto in early November. The World Parliament boasts the oldest and largest interfaith and multicultural gathering globally. This year’s theme “The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change” was an opportunity for people of various faith backgrounds to present their voices and create a peaceful and respectful interfaith, global dialogue. The Toronto Parliament drew upon “movements of goodwill and cross-cultural respect… embodied in the spirit of the interfaith movement,” according to the Parliament’s official website. With an attendance of over 10,000 participants from 80 nations and 200 spiritual backgrounds, the Parliament offered a variety of intellectual and spiritual presentations as well as many artistic and cultural experiences, which attracted participants from a wide variety of interests, boasting the oldest and largest interfaith event globally.

Professor Leddy was on a panel of three, speaking to the topic of “Sanctuary: Civil Initiative or Civil Disobedience.” Alongside United Church Minister Alexa Gilmour of Windermere United and Rick Ufford-Chase, Founder of Borderlinks, USA, they presented various experiences of churches offering Sanctuary as well as their theological understandings of this practice. Professor Leddy presented information on the international network of churches offering Sanctuary and how to get involved. She describes their discussions as “energetic” and says that many were calling for the entire Parliament to endorse Sanctuary as a response to the plight of refugees today.

Professor Stoeber and Professor Dadosky participated on the “Contemporary Issues in Comparative Theology and Interreligious Dialogue” panel, which was organized by some Toronto School of Theology faculty. Professor Dadosky discussed Bernard Lonergan’s universalist theory of religions, based on a mystical unity of being in love, as perceived across major religions. As Dadosky explains, “The gift of God’s love and grace is offered to everyone and that love is a common starting point of commonality of all the world’s religions.” Dadosky says it was very fitting that Lonergan be represented at this Parliament because he did a great deal of his writing on interreligious dialogue while in Toronto.

Professor Stoeber’s discussions highlighted the controversies surrounding the interreligious dialogue of Nicholas Black Elk, in light of his candidacy for Roman Catholic sainthood. Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) was a famous Lakota Holy Man and Healer, who converted to Catholicism and became a popular catechist. His widely popular book, Black Elk Speaks (1932), has also become an authoritative guide for indigenous spirituality.

Stoeber says Regis’s presence at the World Parliament was most appropriate, given that a key aspect of the mission statement of Regis College is interfaith dialogue. “The 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto provided a dynamic and wonderful venue for students and faculty of Regis College, TST, and the University of Toronto to explore issues in the essential areas of our lives with other faith-communities.”