SJU Appoints New Director of Jewish-Catholic Institute

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D., to head interfaith center

PHILADELPHIA (June 25, 2008) – Saint Joseph's University has appointed Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D., a noted leader and scholar in Jewish-Christian relations as director of the Jewish-Catholic Institute. He will succeed founding director Donald G. Clifford, S.J., who has guided the Institute for four decades, and will continue his association with the Institute as director emeritus.

"Philip Cunningham is a renowned scholar in the theologies surrounding the relationship of Judaism and Christianity," said William Madges, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "With his extensive experience in Christian and Jewish relations, he brings a wealth of talent and expertise to Saint Joseph's and the Jewish-Catholic Institute."

Madges noted that Cunningham is joining the faculty as a full-time professor of theology. "I am particularly pleased that his faculty appointment will enable him to enlarge the scope of the Institute by engaging its mission as a resource to the University and the academic community at large, while preserving and enhancing its programming for the wider Philadelphia community."

Cunningham is the founding executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and was instrumental in building the Center's reputation as a world-class organization promoting mutually enriching relationships among Christians and Jews. Prior to that, he was director of the Ministry Institute and professor of theology at Notre Dame College in Manchester, N.H. He will begin his tenure at Saint Joseph's on August 15, 2008.

"I am impressed and grateful that Saint Joseph's has chosen to intensify its decades-long commitment to Jewish-Catholic relations by establishing the Institute's directorship as a theology faculty appointment," Cunningham said. "The Jewish-Catholic dialogue has matured to the point that each community is coming to recognize that its own theological self-understanding is affected by its relationship to the other. Now, more than ever, the theological resources of Catholic universities are needed, and the Jewish-Catholic Institute will make a vital contribution in this regard."

Saint Joseph's Jewish-Catholic Institute was founded in 1967 in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council to encourage and facilitate interfaith dialogue among Philadelphia area Christian and Jewish communities. "The movement to foster dialogue among American Jews and Catholics led to the founding of Saint Joseph's Jewish-Catholic Institute in 1967," said Madges. "The Institute was one of the first of its kind, and as its long-time director, Fr. Clifford has done a remarkable service to these communities and to the University. I am grateful he will continue to contribute to the Institute as director emeritus."

Cunningham is a member of the Advisory Committee on Catholic-Jewish Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and has served as a delegate for the Vatican at international conferences about Catholic-Jewish relations. The author of numerous books, scholarly articles and professional papers, his most recent publication is The Catholic Church and the Jewish People: Recent Reflections from Rome (Fordham University Press, 2007), a book he co-edited. He received a doctorate in religion and education from Boston College, a master of arts in religious education from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and a master of science in education and a bachelor of arts in history from Fordham University in New York.

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Associate Director of University Communications,, 610-660-3240

Expand this section