The Culture of Encounter: An Imperative for a Divided World

A conference sponsored by Georgetown University and La Civiltà Cattolica

May 27-28, 2022
Location: Villa Malta (Rome) Map

Through the COVID-19 pandemic Pope Francis has powerfully advocated for a culture of encounter to help bridge the divisions that increasingly plague our world. Only when we fully recognize our shared humanity and engage one another with humility, generosity, and patience—from the local to the international level—will we be able to address global challenges together. The ongoing Russian war against Ukraine underscores the importance of a culture of encounter as the most appropriate and legitimate means of addressing international conflicts. War is always a negation of encounter and of dialogue, but this war in particular is rooted in the failure to recognize the right of the other to its own name, its own identity, its own history, and its right to determine its own future in peaceful interaction with its neighbors.

At this critical global moment the conference convened scholars and practitioners to explore Pope Francis’ idea of the culture of encounter and its practical relevance across three different areas: global governance, interfaith collaboration, and digital connectivity. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus, provided keynote addresses.

The conference is part of the Culture of Encounter and the Global Agenda project, a collaboration between Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and three Vatican partners—the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for Education and Culture. The project, made possible through the generosity of the GHR Foundation, was announced at a November 2021 conference in partnership La Civiltà Cattolica on “The Culture of Encounter: The Future of Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue.”

read | Keynote Address by Archbishop Paul Gallagher
read | Keynote Address by Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J.
read | Interview with Georgetown President John J. DeGioia in L'Osservatore Romano


Friday, May 27, 2022

3:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. | Welcome

Rev. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., La Civiltà Cattolica
Thomas Banchoff, Georgetown University

3:15 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. | The Culture of Encounter and Global Governance

The Russian assault on Ukraine underscores the futility of war and the necessity of mutual recognition and respect as a foundation for world politics. How is Pope Francis’ idea of a culture of encounter relevant at a time of war and global pandemic? How might the Catholic Church and other religious communities work with states and secular partners to advance global governance oriented to the common good and more inclusive of diverse perspectives?

José Casanova, Georgetown University (chair)
Alessio Pecorario, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
Julia Mourão Permoser, University of Innsbruck
Emily Welty, World Council of Churches

4:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. | Coffee Break

5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. | Keynote Address

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States

6:00 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. | Reception

Saturday, May 28, 2022

9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. | Keynote Address

Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus

10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. | Digital Connectivity and the Culture of Encounter

Pope Francis has underscored that the blessings of digital connectivity have come at a great cost. More and more of us go through life attached to our mobile devices, limiting our face-to-face interactions and seeking refuge in like-minded online communities – habits reinforced during the self-isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. What are positive ways forward? How can we advance human encounters in the educational and cultural spheres with the help of digital technologies?

Paul Elie, Georgetown University (chair)
Irina Bokova, Former UNESCO Director-General
Bishop Paul Tighe, Pontifical Council for Culture
Rev. Marcel Uwineza, S.J., Hekima University College

11:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. | Coffee Break

11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. | The Culture of Encounter and Interfaith Collaboration

While the media remain focused on religious violence, the last several decades have seen an upsurge of interfaith dialogue and collaboration – from the local to the global level. As we move out of the COVID-19 pandemic, how should religious communities further deepen their culture of encounter in practice? To what extent does the 2019 Declaration on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb represent an important milestone?

Katherine Marshall, Georgetown University (chair)
Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Higher Committee of Human Fraternity
Ismat Jahan, Organization for Islamic Cooperation
Msgr. Indunil J. Kodithuwakku K., Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

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Speech Transcript May 27, 2022

The Culture of Encounter and Global Governance

This keynote address was delivered at a conference on “The Culture of Encounter: An Imperative for a Divided World” held in Rome at Villa Malta on May 27-28, 2022.
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