Mary & Muslims: Bridge or Barrier? 

Aug 18, 2021
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Rita George-TvrtkovićBenedictine University

Zeki SaritoprakJohn Carroll University

Free and open to the publicThis event is part of a webinar series, "Catholics & Muslims: History, Theology, Encounters," presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and the American Cusanus Society. This event is cosponsored by the Collegium Institute.

In 1965, Nostra Aetate 3 acknowledged that Christian and Muslims share a devotion to Mary. But did Christians always view Mary as a bridge? A few medieval Latins stressed concord between the two Marys, but others raised the Virgin on military standards in battles against Muslims. This talk will consider the myriad ways in which Mary’s role in Christian-Muslim relations has shifted back and forth from bridge to barrier and back again. The lecture with Dr. Rita George-Tvrtković will be followed by a response from a Muslim scholar, Dr. Zeki Saritoprak, and further dialogue.

Professor George-Tvrtkovic generously provided the following bibliography for those interested in further reading:

•Abboud, Hosn. Mary in the Qur’an: A Literary Reading (Routledge, 2014).

•George-Tvrtkovic, Rita. Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History (Paulist, 2018).

•Hearden, Maura. “Lessons from Zeitoun: A Marian Proposal for Christian-Muslim Dialogue.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 47, no. 3 (2012).

•Pentcheva, Bissera. Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006).

•Remensnyder, Amy. La Conquistadora (Oxford University Press, 2014).

•Saritoprak, Zeki. Islam’s Jesus (University of Florida Press, 2014).

•Saritoprak, Zeki. “Mary in Islam,” in The Oxford Handbook of Mary, ed. Chris Maunder (Oxford University Press, 2019).

•Schleifer, Aliah. Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam (Fons Vitae, 1998).

•Shoemaker, Stephen. Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion (Yale University Press, 2016).


Catholics & Muslims: History, Theology, Encounters 


The 1965 Vatican II document Nostra Aetate 3 encouraged Catholics and Muslims to “forget the past” and focus on a more positive future together, one based on dialogue and cooperation. Since then, Catholics at all levels, from popes to parishioners, have heeded this call. However, the complicated, centuries-long history of Christian-Muslim relations demands attention. Instead of “forgetting the past,” Catholics need to revisit this history, both on their own and with their Muslim partners. In this series, we will examine Nicholas of Cusa’s approach to the Qur’an; the history of Mary as a bridge or barrier in Christian relations with Muslims; and St. Francis and Pope Francis as models of fraternal encounter.  

This series is co-presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and the American Cusanus SocietyThis series is cosponsored by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institutethe Australian Catholic University, the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic StudiesSt. Paul's Catholic Center, the Nova Forum for Catholic Thought, the Saint Benedict Institute, the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, and both the Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies and the Encountering Islam Initiative at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota).


Upcoming events:

September 8, 6:00 p.m. CDT

Francis & Francis: Encountering Muslims, Past & Present
Dr. Jason Welle, OFM (Pontifical Institute for Arabic & Islamic Studies, Rome) 

Dr. Rita George-Tvrtković (PhD, University of Notre Dame), is Professor of Theology at Benedictine University in suburban Chicago, where she specializes in medieval Christian-Muslim relations and the contemporary theology and praxis of interreligious dialogue. Her books include A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce’s Encounter with Islam; a co-edited volume, Nicholas of Cusa and Islam; and Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History. Her articles have appeared in Theological Studies, Catholic Historical Review, Journal of Jesuit Studies, Medieval Encounters, and America. A former associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, she was recently appointed by Pope Francis to be a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Dr. Zeki Saritoprak is Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and the Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, He received his PhD in Islamic Theology from the University of Marmara in Turkey. He has published widely in English, Turkish, and Arabic on a variety of topics related to Islam, Islamic Studies, and Interfaith Dialogue and is the author of over thirty academic articles and encyclopedia entries on topics in Islam. He is editor and translator of Fundamentals of Rumi’s Thought: A Mevlevi Sufi Perspective and the editor of a critical edition of al-Sarakhsi’s Sifat Ashrat al-Sa’a. He has two books in English: Islam’s Jesus (University Press of Florida, 2014) and Islamic Spirituality: Theology and Practice for the Modern World (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017). He is currently working on the manuscript for a book on Islamic Eschatology.