Lay Centre to host forum on ‘Laudato Si’

ROME – The Lay Centre is delighted to host a forum April 27, entitled “Caring for our Common Home, Caring for Each Other,” featuring:

 Kerry Robinson, Global Ambassador, Leadership Roundtable


Bishop Paul Tighe, Adjunct Secretary, Pontifical Council for Culture

Using “Laudato Sì” as a point of departure, they will explore the relationship between our care for creation and for each other. They will be available for interviews. All media requests must be made in writing to The Lay Centre before April 24.

Some members of the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See, as well as the participants from Cambridge Muslim College and The Center for Islamic Theology, Tübingen University, who are in Rome for an intensive study seminar organized by The Lay Centre, will be present.

The forum starts at 18.00 and will be followed by a reception at 19.15.

The Cambridge Muslim College study group consists of students in the Diploma in Contextual Islamic Studies and Leadership. They are graduates of Muslim seminaries in the U.K. and are as such young British Muslim religious leaders. They are attending the course at the Cambridge Muslim College where they are learning about science, art, history and inter-faith relations. As part of the academic programme, the college arranges seminars to help the students gain a better understanding of the issues concerned. It is with this mind that this visit to Rome has been organised. See their website for more information: about/

The Centre for Islamic Theology, Tübingen University, includes students who are doing a two-semester M.A. programme, entitled “Islamic Theology in a European Context.” Their professor, an alumna of The Lay Centre, is Prof. Dr. Lejla Demiri:

The Lay Centre considers this program to be a wonderful occasion to help create a culture of encounter and dialogue.

We would be delighted if you could join us on Thursday, April 27.

For more information or to request an interview, please write to

(Photos taken from the websites of the Pontifical Council for Culture and Leadership Roundtable)

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Hebrew University students meet Israeli ambassador at The Lay Centre

Ambasssador Oren David speaks about the history and duties of Israel’s Embassy to the Holy See.

By Samantha Lin

On 6 April, The Lay Centre welcomed students and professors from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who were on a week-long tour of Rome. Our guests came from a diversity of academic backgrounds, but most were studying either Italian culture and history, or geography.

Their approach in touring Rome combines multiple academic disciplines and therefore suited their varied experiences: some members of the group were young and intent on learning and practicing Italian, while others decided to return to study after long careers in a variety of professions.

Lay Centre students joined our visitors during lunch and discussed life in both Jerusalem and Rome. They shared their experience of living at The Lay Centre, an intentional community with a charism for hospitality and interreligious dialogue.

At the end of lunch, Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Oren David, addressed the group in both English and Hebrew. He described the history and role of the embassy. He said Israel and the Holy See collaborate on humanitarian projects, such as building water infrastructure in various African countries, as well as cultural exchange programs designed to share Jewish culture and art in Rome.

Rome’s Jewish community is one of the oldest in the world. Ambassador David spoke enthusiastically about the upcoming Israeli art exhibit that will have two parts: one part will be shown at the Vatican; the other will be exhibited at the Jewish museum in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto.

Donna Orsuto introduces The Lay Centre to Israeli visitors.

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17 students shared their experience with The Lay Centre residents

Students from the International Education of Students Foundation at The Lay Centre

Wednesday evening, 29 March 2017, The Lay Centre welcomed 17 students from the Fondazione IES Roma. IES (International Education of Students) has its headquarters in Chicago and has study abroad programs is more than 30 global locations worldwide.

The students, who come from various Universities across the United States, are taking a course with Dr. Lori King entitled “Mystics, Philosophers, Saints and Sinners – Studies in the Roman Catholic Tradition.” The evening included am engaging talk by Dr. Donna Orsuto on, “Women in the Church, Then and Now,” as well as Mass and dinner followed by a talk on the reforms of Pope Francis by scholars Fr. Rocco D’Ambrosio and Dr. Emilce Cuda. The students enjoyed stimulating conversations with The Lay Centre residents, and it was a wonderful evening of intellectual and cultural exchange for everyone present.

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Video of talk by Vatican astronomer now available

The fascinating presentation by Vatican astronomer and Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno on the theme, “The Heavens Proclaim: Science as Worship,” is now online, thanks to the generosity of Pallottine Father Frank Donio, S.A.C., and his team at the Catholic Apostolate Center.

Brother Consolmagno, who serves as the director of the Vatican Observatory, gave the presentation at The Lay Centre’s benefit evening in Washington, D.C., on 30 January, which drew an audience of about 120 people.

Sprinkling his talk with humor and witticisms, the American Jesuit spoke about the major developments in astronomy, the contribution of the Catholic Church to the study of astronomy, and the relationship between science and faith.

While science doesn’t lead one to faith, he said, one can grow in knowledge of God and in relationship with God through scientific study.

The team of the Catholic Apostolate Center, based in Washington, recorded and edited the one-hour presentation, which includes introductory remarks by Donna Orsuto, director of The Lay Centre.

The Catholic Apostolate Center and The Lay Centre share the common mission of offering formation to develop leaders in service of the Church; both are inspired by the vision of St. Vincent Pallotti of forming active lay Catholics.

Father Donio, director of the Catholic Apostolate Center and Provincial of the Immaculate Conception Province of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, presided and preached at Vespers before Brother Consolmagno’s presentation at Georgetown Visitation.

This moment of prayer, led by Father Donio allowed, participants to centre our hearts on the “Lord of heaven and earth.”

For more information on the Catholic Apostolate Center, go to

Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ



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Welcoming the stranger: Meeting virtually, Loving virtually

Filipe Domingues speaks about human relationships in a world mediated by technology, as part of the VPI Spring Lecture Series.

As part of the Vincent Pallotti Institute Spring Lecture series on “Welcoming the Stranger,” The Lay Centre organized a morning discussion about virtual life and its consequences for human relationships.

The speakers were Jesuit Father Peter Lah, professor of communications at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Filipe Domingues, journalist, doctoral candidate and a Lay Centre leadership scholar. They reflected on the theme, “Meeting Virtually, Loving Virtually: Paradoxes of a disembodied life.”

“Internet has become a new basic need in our society,” said Father Lah, projecting a slide with Maslow’s pyramid of basic needs (pictured below), but adapted to include Wi-Fi and a battery.

“People use social media mainly to meet other people, to keep in touch with others or to have fun,” he said, showing statistics from several countries.

Slovenian jesuit Peter Lah is a professor of Social Communications at the Gregorian University, in Rome

Technology gives people new opportunities to “meet virtually,” he said. However, it poses new risks, too.

“Doing things through technology gives us the illusion of keeping our lives under our control. We feel safe. A playground seems more dangerous than a video game,” he said.

He warned that social media companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others use personal information to learn about users’ daily habits and tastes and to offer products that match their consumption practices.

“These days, six in every 10 Americans get informed through social media,” he said.

Speaking on “loving virtually,” Domingues said many people worry that online relationships are not able to replace face-to-face relationships. For him, that is a minor concern.

“In our days, we cannot speak anymore of a separation between real world and virtual world. We live in one single reality that is made of physical and digital environments and we transit back and forth between them in our daily lives,” he said.

Citing sociologist Barry Wellman, he noted the “pervasive” adoption of smartphones and the fact that people do not “access” internet anymore. Rather, they live a great deal of their lives online.

Domingues also cited new media scholar Sherry Turkle, who speaks of the dangers of online relationships, namely how people maintain both closeness and distance at the same time. People have “the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship,” she argues. In short, she describes people engaged in online communication as being “alone together.”

Domingues said he believes the real question to ask now is: how can mediation complement face-to-face relations and vice versa? Human relationships are always problematic and difficult to sustain, he said. On the one hand, social media makes it easier to meet people. On the other hand, it is more difficult to deepen and maintain bonds of friendship and dialogue.

The same dynamic has been observed in the current mega-trend of worldwide migration, he said. Smartphones and social media are helping people to migrate: they allow migrants to find relatives they are looking for; to keep informed about conditions on their route and at their destination; and to keep in touch with their families and people they left behind. Refugees can spend up to one-third of their disposable income on staying connected.

In extremely mediated times, Domingues said, people must find new ways to encounter the other, the one who is different. The digital environment requires a new ethics of hospitality, he said.

Domingues cited the late media scholar Roger Silverstone, who proposed that in the real and pluralistic “mediapolis” in which we live, people always have something in common with the other. It is necessary to acknowledge differences and similarities, but also to keep a “proper distance.”

“Only then we can offer resources of judgment and reflexivity,” Silverstone claimed.

According to Domingues, it is hard to practice hospitality on the internet, because it is an open space, without a home and a host. In Silverstone’s words, there is still a need for broadcasting and for the “meaningful and effective exercise of individual and institutional responsibility.” This is possible only if people give a place to the other in their lives and in society.

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The youthful church in Iraq

by Tommaso Bacci

The Lay Centre student community was pleased to host its first intercultural evening of the year on 28 February. It was the first in a series of events that aim to enrich the community through the unique cultural diversity of The Lay Centre.

Two Iraqi students from Ankawa (Erbil), Lina Gelyana and Sana Rofo, both studying for master’s degrees in psychology at the Pontifical Salesian University, organized the inaugural evening. Our Iraqi friends shared a presentation entitled “The Contribution of Young People in the Archdiocese of Erbil”. Since Archbishop Bashar Matti Wardah of Erbil decided to devote energy and resources to youth ministry, Lina and Sana have been heavily involved.

Lina S. Glyana during her presentation

By looking at the Church of Ankawa in the Archdiocese of Erbil, which resembles the shape of a “ziggurat,” it is possible to understand one important characteristic of this Christian population: a strong bond with their land and an enormous historical background.

Ankawa is a majority Christian city and this deeply-rooted and historic Christian community has a vibrant pastoral life, demonstrated through the many services that the youth provide, such as: teaching catechism, hosting Aramaic language classes, organizing youth meetings, such as the “Ankawa Youth Meeting” in 2013, which coincided with World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, running charity activities, welcoming and resettling refugees, and fundraising. For more, here you can watch the incredible effort of the young people of Ankawa, who worked together with their bishop to make the new cathedral available for Christmas night.

Sana Z. Rofo during her presentation

Thanks to Lina and Sana for introducing the community of The Lay Centre to this wonderful ecclesial experience that is the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil.

Our next intercultural night will be on 14 March. Student resident Christos Delaportas from Greece will speak about Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church.

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New book takes ecumenical approach to evangelization


By Laura Ieraci

Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars, representing different church traditions, reflect on the future of Christianity and evangelization in Europe in a new book, titled “Sharing Good News: Handbook on Evangelism in Europe.”

The book was launched at the Ecumenical Centre of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva in early February.

According to a WCC press release, the book witnesses to a “renewed interest in evangelism within the ecumenical movement.”

The book is edited by Gerrit Noort, Kyriaki Avtzi and Stefan Paas; it is published by the WCC.

Noort articulates the purpose and urgency of the book project in the preface: “What it means to share Good News — within our radically changing denominational and religious European landscape — is a crucial question that requires a defined answer.”

The book’s 16 contributors include Protestant church ministers, Orthodox clergy, lay church leaders, as well as young and seasoned academics.

Donna Orsuto, director of The Lay Centre and a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, contributed two chapters that offer a Roman Catholic perspective on the topic.

The chapters she authored include, “New Paths of Evangelization in Roman Catholic Theology” and “The Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome: A Case Study from Italy.”

Book discussion on “Sharing Good News” © Ivars Kupcis/WCC (taken from

Other contributors include Orthodox Russian Father Vladimir Federov, a professor at the Russian Christian Academy for Humanities in St. Petersburg and director of the Orthodox Institute for Missiology and Ecumenism; Dimitra Koukoura, a professor of homiletics at the School of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece; Wonsuk Ma, a Korean Assemblies of God minister and executive director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in Oxford; and Francis Brienen, deputy general secretary of the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom.

According to a WCC statement, the book offers readers a “contemporary” and “complete overview” of current issues regarding evangelization in Europe “in a systematic and ecumenical framework” that responds to the need “for new evangelistic paradigms relevant to the secular, multicultural and multi-religious contexts of our times.”

Click here to read a sample chapter and to learn more about the book’s contributors:


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