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Benedictine University Theology Professor Named as Consultor for Vatican Council on Interreligious Dialogue

By Carlos Briceño

Benedictine University Theology Professor Named as Consultor for Vatican Council on Interreligious Dialogue

Rita George-Tvrtković was recently surprised when she received a letter in the mail from the Vatican. It was written in Latin, “which is fine,” she said, “because I’m a medievalist.”

As an associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, Dr.  George-Tvrtković’s areas of specialization include historical theology and medieval Muslim-Christian relations. Thus, learning Latin was extremely helpful.

The letter stated that the Vatican had named her to be a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. And that was a surprise too.

She recalled that last year the council requested she send them her CV. At the time, she thought they may have wanted her to give a lecture one day about her new book, published in 2018, called Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History.

But, now, she realized it had to do with the fact that they were scouting her for the appointment. As one of the 19 consultors, she is only one of two Americans and one of six women to be named to the council.

Beyond the appointment, there was no other instructions, she said.

Curious to know more, she called a friend, who is a consultor for another Vatican office, she said. She found out that consultors meet in Rome and provide recommendations to the bishops who are on whatever council they are appointed to.

Her background sheds insights into why she was selected.

As an undergraduate student, she studied anthropology at the University of Tulsa. During a trip to Jordan, in the Middle East, to do archeology there, she encountered Islam for the first time. That trip, along with having Muslim friends in college, spurred her to think about the differences and similarities between Islam and Catholicism.

She then got a master of theological studies degree in Church history from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology to dive deeper into the history of Christian-Muslim relations.

After working at the Archdiocese of Chicago as the associate director for the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1999-2002, she earned her Ph.D. in theology (history of Christianity) from the University of Notre Dame in 2007.

She has been to Rome once, when  she  was  doing  research  during her graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame. She said she looks forward to going there again as a consultor.