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Hopes for interfaith dialogue in Ukraine

A Center for Interconfessional and Interreligious Di alogue inaugurated in Lviv.

The opening of the Libertas Center coincided with the fact that in 2013 Ukraine chaired the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). In fact, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Tetiana Izhevska, who was also a Personal Representative of the Delegate to the OSCE on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions, sent her warm letter which was read by a representative from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Vjacheslav Vojnarovskyj.

In the words of the founder and director of the Libertas Center, Taras Dzyubanskyy, “The Libertas Center represents an historic beginning in Ukraine open to dialogue.” According to Dzyubanskyy, the idea of the Libertas Center was born during his fellowship in interreligious studies sponsored by the Russell Berrie Foundation at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. It is thanks to a grant from the Russell Berrie Foundation that the opening of the Libertas Center in Lviv was made possible. Since October of 2012 Dzyubanskyy has been working as an adviser to the mayor of Lviv for ecumenical and religious issues.

The inauguration was commenced by a speech of the Lviv City Mayor, Mr. Andriy Sadovyy who pointed out the special role that the city of Lviv played in history and its multicultural and multidenominational character.

The two keynote speakers were Most Reverend Charles Morerord, bishop of Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland, and Dr. Anthony Cernera, President-emeritus of the International Federation of Catholic Universities and former President of the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, U.S.A. Bishop Morerord was the main speaker during the interconfessional part of the inauguration. Author of many philosophical, theological and ecumenical works, Morerord has served as a dean and as rector at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, and, among other positions in the Vatican, has held the position
of Secretary General of the International Theological Commission for Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue.

In November 2011 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Morerord to his present bishopric in Switzerland. Dr. Anthony Cernera delivered the talk for the interreligious part of the inaugural lecture. Cernera founded a center for Jewish-Christian dialogue in the U.S. and is one of the key players in the interfaith dialogue on an international level.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad of the Center for Interfaith Understanding based in New Jersey concluded the academic part of the inauguration and he shared his own experience of interfaith dialogue.

Many guests, bishops, representatives of Churches and religious organizations from Ukraine and abroad took part in the inauguration.

The event was attended by three Christian Bishops: Greek Catholic Bishop Benedict, Orthodox Bishop Filaret (of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow
Patriarchate), Orthodox Bishop Dymytrius (of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate); representatives of the Ukrainian Evangelical Alliance, Jewish community, Muslim sheiks.

In the days following the inauguration, the delegation of the Libertas Center led by its director Taras Dzyubanskyy had a chance to meet with some of the religious leaders of the city and there was an interreligious lecture given at a Roman Catholic seminary (the lecture on the understanding of justice in the Jewish and Christian traditions was given by Rabbi Jack Bemporad and a Dominican Professor Bruce Williams, OP).

About the Libertas Center:

The Libertas Center is a non-profit organization which aims at promoting interconfessional and interreligious dialogue and understanding in Ukraine and abroad. By applying scholarly research and innovative thinking to interfaith issues, the center aims at the objective of protecting the right to and the exercise of religious freedom, establishing connections among confessions and religions in the area of academic learning, respect, and cooperation in social projects.The Libertas Center promotes interfaith dialogue on an academic and practical level: academically, the center organizes conferences, seminars and lectures where issues concerning and religions can be studied, learned, and brought into the public forum. On the practical level, the center’s goal is to engage in various social projects involving members and leaders of different confessions and faiths for the sake of understanding, cooperating and promoting common human values in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

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