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Emma Green (C'12)
Baker Scholar and Carroll Fellow studied religious dialogue by traveling to Europe and the Middle East.
Last summer, while many Georgetown students settled into internships on Capitol Hill, Emma Green (C’12) embarked on a research project that took her from libraries in Paris to convents in Jerusalem.

Green, who is a Baker Scholar, Carroll Fellow, and Government major, went abroad to investigate the history of international religious dialogue in Europe and the Middle East. Her work explored how those dialogues evolved in the years following the Holocaust to the establishment of Vatican II in the 1960s. Her trip was supported by a Lisa J. Raines and AAP Summer Research Fellowship, which funds independent research projects for sophomores and juniors through the Carroll Fellows Initiative.
Green admitted that in the early stages of her application she didn’t know exactly what topic she would explore, but she was inspired by Georgetown’s emphasis on religious exchange.
“I knew I wanted to do a topic on religious studies, theology, and particularly on religious dialogue,” she explained, “but I never would have found my way to this question on my own!”
After consulting with Dr. John Borelli, Special Assistant for Interreligious Initiatives to President DeGioia, Green decided to investigate how an order of European nuns shaped the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community during Vatican II. She concentrated on the order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, who were historically devoted to working with the Jewish community in Europe. For nearly 100 years, the order set up schools and educated Jewish children, but during the Holocaust they aided resistance efforts and later began restructuring their role as a liaison to non-Christian religions. When Church officials began work on Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions in the 1960s, the Sisters of Sion shaped the Church’s new international ecclesiastical policy.
The challenge for Green was learning to what extent, and in what ways, the nuns influenced that policy. “I went to their convents in London, Paris, Rome, and Jerusalem, and interviewed nuns and also went into their archival documents,” Green explained. “[I] also did some interviews and research in other archives and libraries to try and piece together a picture from the end of World War II until about 1968 of what impact they had on the Catholic community about interreligious dialogue,” she continued.
Green particularly wanted to visit Ecce Homo, the order’s convent on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. With this location near Christian holy sites in an area of religious conflict, Green explained, the order was further situated to advise Vatican officials on interreligious issues. “They definitely were representatives from their communities to Vatican II,” she explained. “They knew the bishops, and would write letters saying, ‘we’ve talked to such and such person in the Jewish community in London, and they have expressed to us disappointment in this draft of Nostra Aetate, and we just wanted to pass this along to you.” Unlike what many expect of women religious in Church history, Green noted, “They really were at the forefront at reframing the Church’s position to the Jewish community.”
Now, Green is preparing to publish her findings in Mentis Vita, the Carroll Fellows’ online journal for undergraduate research. She said that after all her work, “I feel more prepared to do independent research now and to write academically serious research papers.” She also pointed out that she has benefited from her project in ways both personal and professional. “It was a great experience to match this Georgetown idea that we are all faiths living in proximity to each other,” she explained. “Even though I’m Jewish, I very much find important things to think about when talking to very devoted Christians, and so I think that was an important academic experience.”
When asked about how her diverse interests—a concentration in Social and Political Thought, an Arabic minor, and a theological publication—intersect, Green laughed. “I feel like the point of being an undergraduate is to learn in as many ways as possible, and to figure out how you like learning, how you like to do work, what sorts of things interest you,” she explained. “One of my goals when coming out of Georgetown was to at least have a very basic understanding of the development Western intellectual thought, why we are the way we are, why dialogues are the way [they] are, [and] why these big questions are framed in certain ways today.”
--Jessica Beckman
Photos from top: Emma Green studies interreligious dialogue; the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; the Ecce Homo convent, right, on the Via Dolorosa. Photos by Yovcho Yovchev. Photos of Israel courtesy of Emma Green.
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