A clash of civilisations or a dialogue of faiths?: La Civiltà Cattolica and Catholic responses to Islamic terrorism

Marco Ceccarelli

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the discourse of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica and its implications for the broader debate on transnational Islamic terrorism in the twenty-first century. Given the large body of post-9/11 secular political literature on this modern phenomenon, the response of Catholic intellectuals has not received the critical analysis it merits. The examination makes an original contribution to scholarship on religion and violence by framing the Jesuits’ propositions as an alternative “soft-counterterrorist” approach based on interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
Jesuit scholarship has been a traditionally potent manifestation of the Catholic viewpoint on global affairs. The Jesuits’ most significant journal, La Civiltà Cattolica, has regularly contributed to the international discussion on the nature of Islamic terrorist violence. The journal’s “semi-official” status allows it to transcend boundaries imposed on official organs of Catholic information and still reflect the views of the highest Vatican authorities. This study analyses La Civiltà Cattolica’s discussion of the relationship between Islam and violence over the past thirteen years and attributes the journal’s adoption of a less critical, more pro-dialogue, approach to the controversy surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg lecture. The study also frames the Pope’s lecture as a watershed moment that simultaneously rocked Christian-Muslim relations and set in motion numerous interfaith initiatives. The views of the journal have challenged established political and academic understandings that see a direct link between Islam and violence, instead considering Islam as a religion of peace that has been manipulated by extremists.
The thesis provides two chapters of contextual information and three of discourse analysis. The contextual chapters interpret the change in the Catholic response to the Islamic religion in general and to the phenomenon of political violence in particular. In the analytical chapters, emphasis is laid on the non-violent measures favoured by the Jesuits, including collaborations between peace-seeking Christians and Muslims aimed at countering both hard counterterrorism strategies and the propaganda of violent extremists.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


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