The Whole is Greater than its Parts: Encountering the Interreligious and Ecumenical Other in the Age of Pope Francis

Peter J. Casarella
Crossroad Publishing Co.
Published Year: 
book cover for "The Whole is Greater than the Parts" with bees on honeycomb

Peter J. Casarella, Ph.D., professor of theology at Duke Divinity School, has co-edited a scholarly volume exploring Pope Francis’s application of the principle of “the whole is greater than its parts” to ecumenical and interreligious contexts during this time of globalization.

The book, The Whole is Greater than its Parts: Encountering the Interreligious and Ecumenical Other in the Age of Pope Francis, was published in August by The Crossroad Publishing Co. and was co-edited with Gabriel Said Reynolds, Ph.D., the Jerome J. Crowley and Rosaleen G. Crowley Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

The new volume shows how Pope Francis often gives the example of a unity that is greater than its parts in terms of a polyhedron—the unity born of this solid figure with many planes preserves unity while reinforcing the value of difference. The epoch of globalization also invites people to think about the cultural and economic exchanges in the world today in such a way that difference is never abandoned for the sake of wanton hegemony.

In Pope Francis applying this new notion of encounter to questions of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, the book argues that Christians can be encouraged not only to seek greater unity amongst themselves but also bear witness to their faith to seek greater unity among all Christians and equally advance understanding with adherents to non-Christian systems of belief.

In this process, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Christians, and Jews can learn about one another through a consideration of the complementarities between the two kinds of dialogue, the book explains. The more individuals address the specific challenges and blessings of each particular dialogue, the more they become true agents of dialogue for the church and the world.

Casarella also recently wrote the foreword to a new book, From the Trinity: The Coming of God in Revelation and Theology, written by Piero Coda and published by The Catholic University of America Press in October. The book provides an overall view of the history and the philosophical and theological significance of God the Trinity, not only from a religious viewpoint but from an anthropological and socio-cultural view as well.

Prior to joining Duke Divinity School earlier this year, Casarella was an associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on systematic theology, world religions, and the world church. He has served as director of the Latin American North American Church Concerns (LANACC) project in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and published widely on medieval Christian Neoplatonism, contemporary theological aesthetics, intercultural thought, and the Hispanic/Latino presence in the U.S. Catholic Church. His books include a monograph, Word as Bread: Language and Theology in Nicholas of Cusa, and a collection of essays, Reverberations of the Word: Wounded Beauty in Global Catholicism.

Listen to a Duke Divinity School podcast with Casarella on how his Colombian and Italian American background informed his upbringing, how voices from marginalized and indigenous communities bring him closer to the Biblical world, ecumenicism, and Christian unity, and the pleasures of el cotidiano (the everyday).