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Staff profile: Prof Michael Barnes

Dean of Research Students, Theology

Michael Barnes is a Jesuit priest. He has taught Buddhism at the Gregorian University in Rome and Catholicism at the Muslim College in Ealing. He has acted as a consultant to the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the ecumenical commission for interreligious relations in the UK, and has published widely on theology of religions and comparative theology in the UK. For many years he lived in Southall, a strongly multi-cultural part of West London, where he ran De Nobili House, a centre for dialogue and encounter.

"I started teaching Indian religions at Heythrop in the early 80s. Buddhism, with its disarming emphasis on the doctrine of no-self, proved to be a powerful stimulus for students to think through issues of personal identity and continuity. A few years later my interests turned towards theology. As interreligious dialogue became more of an issue both for the Church and wider society I began taking groups to places of worship where they could meet people of faith on their own turf.

Now the theology of religions is an established area of study, and an essential part of the Heythrop curriculum. I'm still concerned with important theological conundrums - like how Christian claims to truth can somehow be correlated with the teachings of other religions. But just as important are questions about the meaning of religious pluralism and what other faiths are saying about the ways of God. What can I as a Christian learn from the beliefs and practices of my Sikh and Jewish and Hindu neighbours? I continue to find such questions enormously stimulating for my own intellectual and spiritual life."