quran catholic archbishop

Learning About Islam from an Unusual Source: A Retired Catholic Archbishop

quran catholic archbishop

In an age when one might expect Christians to avoid the teachings of Islam through the Quran, Michael Fitzgerald, retired Catholic Archbishop of Tunisia, not only studies it, but teaches it to others.

Fulfilling a childhood goal, Fitzgerald studied theology and learned Arabic in Tunisia in his early adulthood. He then devoted his ministry to promoting an understanding between the Muslim and Christian faiths. In addition to archbishop, Fitzgerald also served in Cairo as the papal nuncio and was the Vatican’s delegate to the Arab League.

Fitzgerald spent most of his priesthood in Muslim nations representing the minority interests of Christians. But his knowledge of the Quran and Islam also allowed him to council Muslims in their faith.

In either case, Fitzgerald’s goal was always to help people understand their faith while appreciating the views of the other faith as well. The archbishop currently serves as a guest instructor at John Carroll University in Cleveland. In addition to writing and lecturing, he is spending this spring teaching a class on the Quran.

Part of Fitzgerald’s pedagogy is to call attention to the differences between Christianity and Islam, but always with the end goal of tolerance and understanding. One of his discussions led a student to compare Islam’s Quran to Catholicism’s Eucharist, both as held in high esteem to their respective religions, and both as sacraments signaling the presence of God.

Even at John Carroll University, a Catholic institution, Fitzgerald has a Muslim woman as a student in class. They learn from each other, and team to teach the rest of the class. Sometimes the retired archbishop will call on her to share her family’s Muslim practices, including the washing of hands before guest can handle their Quran, and the fact that the Quran is not read but instead recited.

Should anybody question Archbishop Fitzgerald’s qualifications, they need to look no further than the endorsement of Muslim scholar Zeki Saritoprak who has known Fitzgerald and his teachings for more than ten years. Saritoprak stresses that, as the prophet Muhammad said, Muslims should gain wisdom no matter who or where it comes from. “A well-informed Christian can teach Islam better than an ill-informed Muslim,” added Saritoprak.


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