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Fr. Thomas Michel’s Biography



Fr. Thomas Michel was born in St. Louis, U.S.A., in 1941. He was ordained a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1967. In 1969, he entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. After studying Arabic and Islamic studies in Egypt and Lebanon, he completed his studies and received a doctorate in Islamic theology at the University of Chicago in the U.S.A. His doctoral thesis was directed by Professor Fazlur Rahman and entitled “Ibn Taymiyya’s Al-Jawab al-Sahih: A Muslim Theologian’s Critique of Christianity.” In 1978, after a year teaching at Columbia University in New York, he returned to Indonesia where he taught Islamic studies at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Sanata Dharma University and Christian theology at Islamic theological institutes.

In 1981, Fr. Michel began work in the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, where he became Head of the Office for relations with Muslims. He remained in the Vatican office for 13 years, until 1994, during which time he spent four years teaching an introduction to Christian theology in universities in Turkey.

Between 1994-2008 Fr. Michel served as Executive Secretary for the Office of Interreligious and Ecumenical Affairs, based in Bangkok, Thailand, and as Secretary for Interreligious Dialogue for the Jesuits, based in Rome. In 2008 he became a Visiting Fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center in Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He continues to teach in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. He is now living in Ankara, Turkey and has published extensively on modern Muslim thinkers such as Said Nursi and Fethullah Gülen.

In 2008, he received the International Tschelebi Peace Prize from the Zentralinstitut-Islam-Archive-Deutschland in Soest, Germany, and in 2009 he received the Ali Shir Navai Award from the International Turkish Olympiad in Ankara, Turkey.

In 2010, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Theology by the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago, Illinois.