Jesuit priest graduates from Islamic University


A Jesuit priest, has gained a doctorate from the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah in Jakarta.

Gregorius Soetomo graduated cum laude on May 24. One of his dissertation supervisors and examiners was prominent Islamic scholar Azyumardi Azra.

He became the first Jesuit priest to earn a doctorate in Islamology from the prestigious Islamic university.

“I use a historical approach to interpret contemporary social phenomena on Islam and politics. Religious fundamentalism and exclusivism have become issues everywhere,” Greg said.

He told the Jakarta Post some people had questioned why he should be studing Islam, “as if I was done with my studies on Catholicism.”

Others were anxious because they perceived him to be too sympathetic towards Islam.

He was also asked if studying Islam for four years had made him doubt the teachings of the Catholic church.

While many people are becoming pessimistic about the future of Indonesia’s interfaith tolerance after going through the recent highly divisive election in Jakarta, Greg retains a cautious optimism on the country’s future.

“If you really look at history, human beings are always destined to progress. We never regress,” he said.

“The process to attain that progress, however, is never linear; it is a spiral.”

“Human beings are quick to learn, but at certain periods, they can be quite slow.”

“For instance, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Christians were massacring one another and branding followers of different denominations infidels when the church was having an affair with politics.”

“But that has led to positive reforms within the church itself.”

“Prior to the second Vatican council from 1962 to 1965, for example, the Catholic Church insisted that there was no salvation outside the church.”

“During that council, however, the church changed its stance and asserted that people were also redeemed outside the church through their goodwill and kindness.”


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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