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Our man in the Vatican's inter-religious optimism

Peter Kirkwood |  13 August 2010

Anthony Kelly is one of Australia's most eminent theologians, and our theological voice in the Vatican. Last year he was appointed to his second term on the Catholic Church's prestigious International Theological Commission (ITC).

Founded by Pope Paul VI in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, the ITC was formed in large part to continue the fruitful collaboration between bishops and theologians that was a feature of the council. With no more than 30 members appointed for five year terms, the commission has an advisory role to the Holy See in examining important doctrinal questions.

Over the years the ITC has included theological luminaries such as Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Bernard Lonergan, Karl Rahner and the present Pope before he became part of the Curia. So, as a member of the commission, Kelly joins exalted company.

In this interview he talks about the importance of inter-religious dialogue in the context of the troubled times in which we live. He observes that it feels like we are experiencing a global breakdown of beliefs and culture. But he argues optimistically that rather than breakdown, it could be the beginnings of a breakthrough to new forms of belief. (Continues below)

Kelly spoke to Eureka Street TV at a conference held at the Australian Catholic University's Brisbane campus that honoured Raimon Panikkar, a leading pioneer in promoting dialogue and understanding among religions. The interview is sponsored by the university's Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-Religious Dialogue.

A priest in the Redemptorist order, Anthony Kelly has done doctoral and post-doctoral studies in Rome, Toronto and Paris. He lectured at, and for ten years was President of, Yarra Theological Union, one of the member colleges of the Melbourne College of Divinity.

From 1999–2004 he was head of the ACU's Faculty of Philosophy and Theology, and is now Deputy Director of its Institute for Catholic Identity and Mission in Canberra. He has been President of the Australian Catholic Theological Association, and chair of the Forum of Australian Catholic Institutes of Theology.

As well as the intellectual pursuit of theology, he has an abiding interest in the arts, in poetry and painting, and his writing and talks are noteworthy for their poetic eloquence and expression.

He is a prolific author, with scores of articles and some 20 books to his name. Some of his recent book titles are The Resurrection Effect: Transforming Christian Life and Thought, Eschatology and Hope and The Bread of Life: Nurturing a Eucharistic Imagination.

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Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant who worked for 23 years in the Religion and Ethics Unit of ABC TV. He has a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.