Professor to Present Paper in St. Augustine’s Hometown

Professor Joseph T. Kelley, director of Merrimack's Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations, is heading to Algeria for a first-of-its-kind academic conference on St. Augustine Nov. 28 to 30.

Kelley is scheduled to deliver his paper exploring Augustine’s pastoral response and theological reflections on the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410, and the resulting flood of Roman refugees to the safety of North Africa afterward.

The millions of refugees around the world in the 21st century are reminiscent of the Romans following the Goth invasion. Kelley’s paper examines several of St. Augustine’s letters and sermons from 408-412 to discern the personal trauma and social turmoil that resulted from emigrations across Europe and North Africa during the era of the late Roman Empire.

St. Augustine’s conviction that “we are all exiles on this Earth” calls to mind Pope Francis’ own message to the U.S. Congress in September 2015, calling for compassion for immigrants.

Kelley’s paper argues that reading St. Augustine’s writings in light of the universal experience of displacement leads to two questions. First, what can the world in the 21st century take away from St. Augustine’s pastoral concern for the refugees of Hippo and Carthage that can be valuable for receiving and treating modern day refugees? Second, Kelley asks how St. Augustine’s theological analysis of political power can contribute to an interreligious dialogue on contemporary human rights while noting the parallels between the saint’s writings and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and from Hadith of the Prophet.

This is the first academic event about St. Augustine to be held in Annaba, the site of ancient Hippo-Regious and Augustine’s episcopal see.

St. Augustine was bishop of Hippo-Regius and lived there 40 years. He died in what is now known as Annaba in 430 when he was 76 years old. Merrimack College was founded by the Order of St. Augustine in 1947.

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