9th International Bioethics, Multiculturalism and Religion Workshop

by Allister Lee, licentiate student in bioethics.

In his 2020 encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis points out the many social issues of the contemporary age which could be characterised by the absence of communal and social purpose and selfish indifference towards the common good. However, the Holy Father also offers a hopeful message and suggests that the world should encounter itself through renewed dialogue and friendship. The last chapter of the encyclical examined the role of religions in fostering fraternity instead of polarization. As a response to the Pope’s call to dialogue, the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights, established at Faculty of Bioethics of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and Faculty of Law of Università Europea di Roma, organised a two-day workshop to study the document in light of other different traditions, including Islam, Judaism, Greek Orthodoxy, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism.

The workshop began with the keynote speaker, Prof. Edmund Kwok and Dr. Christine Lai, who focused on the encyclical’s discussion of contemporary global politics concerning integral human development and addressed the Holy Father’s vision of a “better kind of politics” through a universal fraternity that is rooted in the common good, love, mercy, and hope. This was followed by Fr. Sameer Advani, LC, who contextualised Fratelli Tutti and the Catholic Church’s commitment to interreligious dialogue as a product of the Second Vatican Council, and pointed out that such dialogue is “primarily anthropological, and only secondarily theo-logical, in nature.” He highlights that because religion is an essential part of human existence and experience, the fundamental questions that interreligious dialogue seeks to answer are consequently also deeply human, such as the nature and purpose of man, and morality. In his presentation, Fr. Adavani, LC, argues that even though the Catholic faith conceives truth as singular and absolute, it is within the human condition that our knowledge and understanding of the truth is limited; henceforth, it is only by the breaking down of one’s preconceived notions of truth through dialogue with the “other” can one attain a deeper, and often hidden truth.

The Holy Father’s concept of what could be called a universal fraternity was examined by some scholars in this workshop and brought forward the tension between particularism and universalism. In his presentation, Dr. David Heyd from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem points out that this philosophical tension is reflected socio-politically in the divide between cosmopolitanism and statism, and religiously in the way that Judaism differs from Christianity where it approaches issues from the particular to the universal, while the latter does so in a reversed manner. The idea of cosmopolitanism was also mentioned by Dr. Ellen Zhang from the University of Macau about the “ethics of hospitality” and Buddhism. The speaker presented the Buddhist idea of the interconnectedness of the world by recognizing the universality of suffering and vulnerability, which in turn creates a demand for the virtues of loving-kindness and compassion. However, as both Dr. Heyd and Dr. Zhang questioned in their presentations, “Are feelings of love and compassion sufficient enough to develop rational moral propositions in favour of global solidarity and social friendship?” Undoubtedly, these affective notions can be slightly precarious for long-lasting social cohesion and unity, but they can often be a powerful impetus for open dialogue between people to (re)discover fundamental truths that forge social friendships and fosters a sense of universal fraternity.

Dialogue – as Dr. Chris Durante from St Peter’s University in New York reminded the participants through the words of the Greek Orthodox leaders, “takes place in all our encounters, personal, social, or political, and must always be extended to those who adhere to religions different from ours” where “truth is not afraid of dialogue.” As such, Dr. Durante in his presentation stressed the importance of relationality with others in the world and avoiding bigoted forms of tribalism and exclusivism. On the other hand, Luzita Ball from the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science (IFEES) presented the Islamic tradition which approaches the topic of interreligious dialogue in a more legalistic manner in comparison to its Orthodox counterparts, while remaining committed to the ideals of unity and solidarity for the downtrodden. In this contemporary world, even though the East and West have been ever brought closer to each through technological means, international conflicts have created a vast space for dialogue and mutual understanding. However, in his presentation, Dr. John Lunstroth from the University of Houston brought to attention the historical relationship between the two hemispheres that were characterized by admiration and a call to “rectify each other’s errors and supplement mutual deficiencies” by learning from each other. And concerning the dialogue between East and West, Dr. Ruiping Fan from the City University of Hong Kong added that to conduct authentic social dialogue and foster fraternity, there is an imperative to first acknowledge the differences of “people’s particular cultural rituals and practices”.

On a final note, the “fruitful exchange” that occurred throughout this workshop inevitably involved contentions of an intellectual nature at times. However, they were always denoted by the underlying friendship that was built through shared moments such as the day trip to Assisi on the last day of the workshop, and a deep desire to seek the truth that unites rather than divides. And as such, I firmly believe that the Pope’s encyclical is a reaffirmation and encouragement to the continuous efforts of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights to foster constructive interreligious dialogue which would bring the universal fraternity closer to each other. 

Research Scholar Prof. Fr. Michael Baggot, LC, at John Cabot University

On May 14, 2023, Prof. Fr. Michael Baggot, LC, Chair Research Scholar and Professor of the Faculty of Bioethics, was one of the speakers during the two-days conference “Technology, Art and the Posthuman: The End or a New Beginning for Humanism?” at John Cabot University, Rome.

He presented the following book: Enhancement Fit for Humanity: Perspectives on Emerging Technologies – (routledge.com) This book explores what constitutes an enhancement fit for humanity in the age of nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information technologies, and technologies related to the cognitive sciences. It considers the influence of emergent technology upon our understanding of human nature and the impact on future generations. Drawing on the Catholic tradition, in particular, the book gathers international contributions from scientific, philosophical, legal, and religious perspectives. Together they offer a positive step in an ongoing dialogue regarding the promises and perils of emergent technology for man’s integral human development.

Research Scholar Prof. Fr. Michael Baggot, LC, at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.

On May 12, 2023, Prof. Fr. Michael Baggot, LC, Chair Research Scholar and Professor of the Faculty of Bioethics, was one of the speakers during the Students’ Seminar “Reflecting one the Images of Merciful Jesus According to the Vision of St. Faustina Exhibition at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.


“The Via Pulchritudinis as a Path of Divine Mercy in the New Evangelization”

A decade of experience guiding curious visitors through the churches and museums of the Eternal City confirms that beauty can pierce the heart and open the mind. The talk will show the intriguing relationship between three themes central to the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II and will encourage listeners to become merciful guides on the way of beauty for those closed to other means of evangelization.

Proceedings of the Study Seminar: Leave No One Behind.

On October the 27th, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to FAO, IFAD and WFP, the Rome Forum of Catholic-inspired Non-Governmental Organizations, and the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights, established at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the European University of Rome, organized a day of study to reflect on a topics that are more timely than ever. In conjunction with World Food Day 2022, the event addressed the importance of leaving no one behind and aiming for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, in order to overcome poverty and growing inequalities and put humanity back on a path that takes into account long-term development, inclusive economic growth and the well-being of the planet.

The 21st Bioethics Summer Course

Course presentation

The 21st Summer Course in Bioethics will be held on July 3-7, 2023. The Course “Dialogue, Friendship and Polarization in Bioethics” will be held in Italian and English.

The Course is organized by the Faculty of Bioethics in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights established within the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the European University of Rome.



Today we are increasingly witnessing conflicts in the areas of politics, religions, mass media and economics in our globalized reality. These polarizations are also evident in academia in general and in bioethics in particular. This summer course will examine some of the causes of the tensions and offer proposals for solidarity through the lens of the Social Doctrine of the Church and in light of the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti.

Structure of the Course

The Summer Course will analyze some of the theoretical roots of the growing division from the perspectives of philosophy, theology, sociology, and communication sciences. It will also touch on the following issues: intercultural and interreligious dialogue, globalization, human rights, media and fake news, truth and tolerance, and neutrality in the sciences. The Course will also examine how these polarized positions are found in bioethical debates. The Course is structured in lectures, question and answer sessions, seminars, film forums and interactive group activities. The group activities will be reserved only for those on campus.

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

– Identify contemporary issues of tensions in bioethics

– Analyze the causes of the tensions and polarizations in bioethics

– Offer for solidarity, dialogue, and social friendship in the field of bioethics


Admission and enrollment

– January 7 through June 26, 2023.

– Number of course participants: 10 to 60.


Academic Fees

The payment is made once the student has registered and according to the instructions that will be provided by e-mail. Payment can be made by credit card, bank transfer, or at the Athenaeum desk by appointment.

Standard Fee:Five sessions (5 days)270€
Five sessions (5 days) + 1 (ECTS) through an exam275€
Special Category:Priests, Religious, APRA Bioethics Students, APRA Alumni, PhD in Bioethics, RIU ProfessorsFive sessions (5 days)220€
Five sessions (5 days) + 1 (ECTS) through an exam225€


Thanks to the support of the Farrell Family Foundation, scholarships are available for those who attend on campus. To obtain the scholarship, register by June 4, 2023.

Practical issues

The course will be conducted in Italian, with simultaneous translation into English. The summer course is one of the optional courses of the License in Bioethics and is valid for 1 ECTS for those who attend on campus  and take the final exam. All participants will receive a certificate of attendance. For other language groups, simultaneous translation will be offered if the number of students is greater than 10.

INFO: info.bioetica@upra.org