Heythrop College has awarded honorary doctorates to exceptionally distinguished individuals on an annual basis for a number of years. The recipients for 2017 are listed below:
Bishop Antoine Audo SJ - University of London Honorary Doctorate in Divinity
Mons. Antoine Audo SJ is Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Syria. He was consecrated as Bishop in October 1992. Before becoming Bishop, Mons. Audo qualified in Arabic Literature and in Biblical Studies, and he worked as a Biblicist on a new translation of the Bible into Arabic (1980-88). Bishop Audo has been President of Caritas Syria since 2011 and he is a member of different dicasteries in the Vatican:
The Congregation for Oriental Churches
The Council for Interreligious Dialogue
The Catholic Committee for Dialogue with the Assyrian Church of the East.
In Syria, Bishop Audo has always worked on two levels: ecumenism, and dialogue with the Arab culture and Muslim world.
Professor Francis X. Clooney SJ - University of London Honorary Doctorate in Divinity
At Harvard University Professor Francis X. Clooney SJ is the Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology. He was sixth Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard from 2010-2017. Until 2005 he was Professor of Comparative Theology at Boston College, where he taught since 1984, after earning his doctorate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago.
The author of 18 books, Professor Clooney is acknowledged to be a leading scholar on theological commentarial writings in the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions of Hindu India, and the developing field of comparative theology. His writings on Hinduism and Hindu-Christian studies have been published by Oxford University Press, Stanford University Press, and Routledge, all among the world's leading academic publishers.
A member of numerous editorial boards and several learned societies, Professor Clooney was the first president of the International Society for Hindu-Christian Studies. From 1998 to 2004, he was coordinator for inter-religious dialogue for the Society of Jesus, and from 2002 to 2004 was Academic Director of the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies. He was elected a Corresponding Member of the British Academy in 2010. In 2017, he was awarded the John Courtney Murray Award, the highest honor given by the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Professor Sarah Coakley - University of London Honorary Doctorate in Divinity
By common consent, Professor Sarah Coakley is one of the most eminent and original of contemporary theologians. After a distinguished undergraduate and postgraduate career at Cambridge, she taught for a number of years at the University of Lancaster and then at Oriel College, Oxford University, before moving to Harvard University, first as Professor of Divinity and subsequently becoming Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity 1995-2007. She has since returned to Cambridge, where she has been the Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity since 2007. She is a Fellow of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge.
Professor Coakley has written widely on the theological import of gender, sexuality, desire, embodiment and the emotions. Her contributions to systematic theology and gender theory are especially noteworthy, but she has also worked on the boundaries of evolutionary science and philosophy of religion, as is evident in her 2012 Gifford Lectures. Her contributions to scholarship, and her leadership within her field, have been recognised many times: by the translation of her work into other languages, and by the award of honorary degrees. She has just completed a three-year major research fellowship funded by the Leverhulme Foundation and has returned to teaching at Cambridge for her last year there.
Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald M.Afr. - University of London Honorary Doctorate in Divinity
Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, for years the most senior British cleric in Rome, had his first introduction to the promotion of interfaith understanding between Muslims and Christians during his theological studies in Tunisia, when preparing to become a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa.
After further studies in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and in Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies, he joined the staff of the pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome.
In 1987 he was appointed Secretary of what is now the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and made President of the Council in 2002. During this period, in 1992, he was ordained bishop by Pope John Paul II. In 2006, he went to Cairo as Papal Nuncio to Egypt and Delegate to the League of Arab States. He is recognised, amongst the senior leadership of the Church, as an expert on Christian-Islamic relations.
Now retired, Archbishop Fitzgerald continues to write and give occasional lectures. He spent a year at John Carroll University, a Jesuit institution near Cleveland, Ohio, where he taught a course on the Qur'an. He has also teaches on Islam and on interfaith relations at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum, in Jerusalem, the city in which he is currently residing.
Mr Andrew Kennedy KSG - College Fellowship
Mr Andrew Kennedy KSG served as a Governor of Heythrop College from 2005 to 2014, and again from 2015 until his retirement in 2016. He was Chairman during some of that tenure. After Cambridge University, he became a Solicitor in a commercial city firm and after stepping down as the Senior Partner, he took up corporate and Trustee Directorships and Governorships of Roehampton University and a number of schools.
Latterly Andrew Kennedy guided Heythrop College through a period of transition when the difficult decision was made that the College would cease being a constituent College of the University of London. Upon his retirement, colleagues praised his outstanding contributions to the life of the College over the years.
Rev Dr Nerses Nersessian - University of London Honorary Doctorate in Divinity
The Rev Dr Nerses (Vrej) Nersessian (born 1948, Tehran) was educated at the Armenian College in Calcutta, the Gevorkian Theological Academy in Holy Etchmiadzin (Armenia), and King’s College, London. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Doctorate in Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies.
Dr Nersessian’s doctoral thesis on The Tondrakian Movement. Religious movements in the Armenian Church from the fourth to the tenth centuries, was published in 1987 in London, and reprinted in the Princeton Theological Monograph series in 1988. He joined the British Library in 1975 as curator in Charge of the Christian Middle East section, a post that he held until his retirement in August 2012. In July 1983, he was ordained priest in the Church of St. Sarkis in Armenia and given the name Nerses replacing his baptismal name Vrej.
In July 2005, he was made Honorary Doctor of The National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia for his services to Armenian Studies and Art History. He was awarded the distinguished medal of Saint Nerses Shnorhali by His Holiness Karekin [Garegin] II, Catholicos of All Armenians, for his distinguished career in the British Library and devoted services to the Armenian Church.
A Festschrift entitled Reflection on Armenia and the Christian Orient: Studies in Honour of Vrej Nersessian, edited by Christiane Esche-Ramshorn was presented to him on 15 September 2017.
Dr James Sweeney CP - College Fellowship
Dr James Sweeney CP is a priest of the Passionist Congregation. He studied Philosophy at University College, Dublin, and Theology at Heythrop College, Oxfordshire and Clonliffe College, Dublin. After some years in pastoral ministry, during which time he studied Social Sciences at the Open University, he took a master’s degree in pastoral theology at Heythrop College followed by a doctorate in Sociology of Religion in the University of London (externally).
In 1999 he became Senior Research Fellow at the Von Hügel Institute, St Edmund's College, Cambridge, and a visiting tutor at Heythrop College in Sociology of Religion. While at the Von Hügel Institute, Dr Sweeney carried out research on community groups dealing with social exclusion and neighbourhood renewal.
He joined the staff at Heythrop College in 2003 as convenor of the MA Pastoral Studies programme, and subsequently was Head of the Pastoral and Social Studies Department. He established the ARCS programme (Action Research: Church & Society) which engaged in research on the practice of church groups in evangelisation, faith renewal and social action. Together with an ecumenical group of colleagues, he developed the influential practical theology research methodology ‘Theological Action Research’. From 2010 to 2015 Dr Sweeney was director of the Heythrop Institute: Church & Society. In 2011 he served for a term as Acting Principal of the College, and then until retirement in 2015 he served first as Associate Vice-Principal and then Vice-Principal Academic.
In 2016 Fr Sweeney was elected Provincial Superior of the Province of Ireland-Scotland of the Passionists.