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1 October, 2011

Bethlehem University Department of Religious Studies Begins New Year

Religious studiesMichael Lafontaine-Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem -The Religious Studies Department focuses on the study of Christianity from a Catholic and ecumenical perspective. The program promotes an appreciation of the religious culture of the Holy Land in an ecumenical and interreligious spirit. The instruction language is Arabic with English as second language.This year, as explained by Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel “the first semester program offers courses in Arabic literature, courses about theological thought of native Arabic, and Arabic Patristics (Arab Christian heritage, ed).” These courses are dear to the Bishop of Nazareth as they were the guiding principles he chose for his thesis. Bethlehem University's Religious Studies Department includes three levels: baccalaureate degree (4 years), diplomas, and theological program. For this new year, 18 students are in the program.

Bethlehem University's Religious Studies Department includes three levels: baccalaureate degree (4 years), diplomas, and theological program. For this new year, 18 students are in the program.

The purpose of this semester of education is “to discover the evident heritage and not to ignore the theology of the Arab world,” insists Bishop Marcuzzo.  During the  7th and 8th centuries, Christians of the Middle East produced a real “Arab theology” and an “Arab Christian literature.” According to the Bishop, this Arabic theology is “unfortunately” not known and taught. Arab Christian Heritage (or Arab Christian Patristics) is the best historical example of a well done cultural mediation of faith.

This semester allows the  thinking about the process of Arabization of theology in the Muslim context. It also allows students to experience the holy places within the Biblical perspective to include this experience in their lives and religious education. The course includes an introduction to the spirituality of the Fathers of the Holy Land and excursions to the Holy Places (mainly in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee).

Father Jamal Khader, a priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, President of the Religious Studies Department, administers this program. He is also a professor of theology at the Latin Patriarchal Seminary in Beit Jala. We keep in mind that Bethlehem University is a Catholic institution founded in 1973, open to students from all religious traditions. With more than 3,000 students, it was the first university established in the West Bank. The Religious Studies Department received its first group of students, religious and laity for a four-year bachelor's degree in 1998. In recent years, Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Maronites, Chaldeans and Armenians are able to receive this degree. But even beyond this ecumenical exchange, the department offers courses for all university students regardless of their academic affiliation, giving Christian and Muslim students the unique opportunity to engage in religious dialogue and to know the other religion from within.


Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine