Bemporad Receives Honorary Doctorate

(L-R) Angelica Berrie, Chairman, the Russell Berrie Foundation applauds while Rabbi Bemporad receives a hug from the Rector of the Angelicum, Fr. Michael Carragher, while Prof. Fr. Stipe Jurič, Dean, rolls up the rabbi’s Ph.D.
(L-R) Angelica Berrie, Chairman, the Russell Berrie Foundation applauds while Rabbi Bemporad receives a hug from the Rector of the Angelicum, Fr. Michael Carragher, while Prof. Fr. Stipe Jurič, Dean, rolls up the Rabbi’s Ph.D.

A singular event in Catholic and Jewish relations occurred at 4:00 p.m. on November 9th, when Rabbi Jack Bemporad became the first person in history to receive an honorary Ph.D. in theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (the Angelicum) a Pontifical University in Rome.

Although Rabbi Bemporad has received many awards and accolades in the past, he says,  “None has touched me the way this has. In many ways, it marks the culmination of my years studying Christianity and other religions.”  He gave a 45-minute theological discourse as part of the Honoris Causa ceremony.

Having fled Italy at the age of five with his family after the fascist takeover, he has dedicated his life’s work to applying his knowledge to further interreligious dialogue, understanding, and harmony and has been Director of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue there since 2007.

Rabbi Bemporad has also been a professor at the Angelicum for the past 17 years, teaching first century Judaism and the Hebrew prophets. His students have been priests, nuns, and philosophy and theology students of many religions, including Muslims, Jews, and Protestants.

Founded in 1462, The Angelicum is one of the oldest universities in the world and is the flagship university of the Dominican Order for Thomistic Studies, as well as the world’s leading Catholic theological university. Pope John Paul II also received his doctorate in theology from the Angelicum, and is its most distinguished alumnus. The award of this degree was approved by the faculty of the Angelicum, as well as by Pope Francis himself.

Rabbi Bemporad is also the Director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIUnow.org), a New Jersey based non-profit which he founded in 1992. It’s mission to bring people of all faiths together to learn about our history, our shared values and why we must live and work together toward a society of justice and peace. By exploring the theological foundations and common goals of the world’s religions, the CIU fights religious stereotypes and intolerance to foster genuine understanding.