Philip A. Cunningham
Professor and Director of Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations
Areas Taught: Religious Studies, Theology
Expertise: Christian-Jewish Relations, Interreligious Dialogue, Biblical Studies, Religious Education
Building Religious Understanding Between Christians and Jews
In the last fifty years, profound lines of communication have emerged between Christians and Jews – an unprecedented development in more than 2,000 years, according to internationally known theologian Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D. That dialogue has led to greater understanding between and within these two major religions that share a unique history, laced, at times, with animosity.
“We’re living in a world that’s growing smaller and part of the conflict in our world is religious,” says the director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph’s University, which is expanding its activities under his leadership. “If Christians and Jews are able to experience rapprochement, that’s a sign of hope.”
In the new book he co-edited, Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships, Cunningham, along with colleagues from several nations, explores this crucial question: “How do Catholics affirm both that Jews are in a covenant with a saving God and that Jesus Christ is the Savior of everyone?” He also has co-edited The Catholic Church and the Jewish People: Recent Reflections from Rome, and edited Pondering the Passion: What’s at Stake for Christians and Jews?, among numerous other books.
A former Catholic schoolteacher and adult education director, Cunningham has a strong interest in religious education and the passing on of religious traditions within communities. He also specializes in the interpretation of the Bible and how scriptures are drawn upon across several religious traditions.
Experienced with the media, he has weighed in on controversies such as Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ and the beatification of Pius XII, who has been accused of insufficient opposition to the Nazi genocide of Jews. Cunningham has done interviews with NPR, the Associated Press, ABC News and the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. He also writes opinion pieces for the Huffington Post and Jewish Exponent, and speaks frequently at churches and synagogues.
Cunningham is the secretary-treasurer for the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations and second vice president of the International Council of Christians and Jews. He has also served on the Advisory Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and been a delegate for the Vatican at international conferences on relations between Christians and Jews.
Sculpture: "Children of the Book," Har Zion Temple, Penn Valley, Pa.