The Catholic University of America

March 25, 2008

At Pope's Request, CUA Organizes Common Morality Symposium

Just three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI visits Catholic University on April 17, 2008, Catholic University will host a major symposium of internationally recognized scholars, organized at the Holy Father's request.

Before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, the then-prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to CUA's president, Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M. He asked the university to consider hosting a major symposium on universally held moral principles, and to invite scholars of different religions to participate. The cardinal hoped that such a symposium could generate ideas on how to foster a global culture possessing the moral insight to address the world's pressing problems.

Neither the cardinal nor university organizers could have known that that symposium, for which planning began several years ago, would nearly coincide with the requester's historic visit.

In response to Cardinal Ratzinger's letter, CUA's Center for Law, Philosophy and Culture is hosting "A Common Morality for the Global Age: In Gratitude for What We Are Given" on March 27-30, 2008. The four-day conference will focus on the human capacity for knowledge of universal moral principles across faiths and traditions. This is a concept that Roman Catholics think of under the rubric of natural law.

The symposium's 23 main speakers represent a "who's who" list of some of the world's leading thinkers in theology, philosophy, law and political science. Though approximately half of the speakers will be Catholic, the symposium will emphasize ecumenism and feature lecturers who span world religions, including the Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Taoist faiths.

"Such a gathering of so many leading minds on a topic of such common profound concern, with so much potential to make a difference in matters of public interest, can obviously occur only very rarely," Father O'Connell said.

The symposium, which will be held in the Great Room of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, is free and open to the public, though reservations are highly recommended. The full list of speakers is listed on the symposium's Web site,

MEDIA: For more information or to attend a portion of the conference, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy at 202-319-5600.