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Michael Calabria Named by Order to Help Guide Relations with Muslims

Michael Calabria OFM

The text below is adapted from a recent St. Bonaventure news release. It has been edited for style.

ALLEGANY, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University’s director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies has been named the new general assistant for dialogue with Islam for the Order of Friars Minor.

Michael Calabria, OFM, will provide the Order’s general administration with advice and guidance concerning interreligious dialogue and relations with Islam, and promote activities aimed at encouraging such interaction on behalf of the Order of Friars Minor.

Michael will continue to serve as director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at St. Bonaventure, which was established in 2015 to promote an understanding of Arab and Islamic cultures, an appreciation of their historical and contemporary significance in the global community, and respectful relations between Muslim and Christian people.

In his new role with the Order – which has roughly 14,000 members present in more than 100 countries — Michael succeeds Fr. Ruben Tierrablanca, OFM, who is taking on a new post as apostolic administrator of Istanbul.

When faced with finding Ruben’s successor, Michael immediately came to mind, said Russel Murray, OFM, general animator of evangelization for the Order, who is stationed in Rome.

“As soon as I heard the news that Fr. Ruben had been chosen by Pope Francis to serve as apostolic administrator, my first thought, literally, was to ask Michael to step into this role,” said Russel. “Michael’s effective dedication, proven expertise and creative energy recommend him highly for this service to the Order and, indeed, the wider church. I am grateful he accepted this position and am excited to be working with him. His new role shall compliment and enrich the work he is already doing at SBU, not compete with it.”

In his new role, Michael will serve as president of a Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam, which comprises three other friars and additional advisers. He will also serve as vice president of the Order’s broader Commission for Dialogue, for which Russel is president.

The special commission has a number of initiatives on the horizon, including the preparation of events to commemorate the 800th anniversary of St. Francis’ encounter with Sultan Malik al Kamil, the development of materials for initial and ongoing formation on the importance of dialogue with Islam, and an international resource directory for friars and other Franciscans engaged in dialogue with Islam.

These works are in addition to the development of a resource handbook for friars to use to commemorate the anniversary of Francis’ encounter with the sultan, which Michael was asked to undertake in his role as director of St. Bonaventure’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies.

Michael said he looks forward to serving in his new role which takes effect this month.

“I am truly humbled by this appointment, and by the trust the Order has placed in me to assist in fostering relations between Franciscan and Muslim communities worldwide at this time,” he said. “Whatever abilities I bring to this office, I owe to my educators, to the friars who taught me what it means to be Franciscan, and to my Muslim brothers and sisters who have shared their faith with me. I pray that I may serve them all well.”

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