Sociology Professor Gives Keynote at Ceremony for German Chancellor

Professor of Sociology José Casanova delivered the keynote speech at a ceremony honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Tobias Barniske/Abraham Geiger College. 

December 11, 2015—Georgetown College's Professor of Sociology José Casanova was the keynote speaker the Abraham Geiger Prize ceremony in Germany on December 2. Abraham Geiger College, a rabbinic seminary at the University of Potsdam in Potsdam, Germany, awarded the prize to German Chancellor Angela Merkel "for her efforts in support of fundamental democratic values and the freedom of religion." Abraham Geiger College said that award jury "praised the Chancellor’s 'unshakeable solidarity' in spite of increasing anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe." 

Casanova is one of the world's top scholars in the sociology of religion and leads the Program on Globalization, Religion and the Secular at Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. At the Geiger ceremony, his Laudatio address—Religious Pluralism and Post-national European Democracy: Reflections on the Westphalian Settlement and the Jewish Question—he "spoke of the importance of religious pluralism in Europe…and used the context of the meaning of 'the Jewish question' in modern European history and how it is inextricably intertwined with the dynamics of European state formation and nation building to reflect upon the Westphalian settlement of 1648."

In the address, he concluded that "the solution for the current system’s failures depends on some form of post-national and post-secular democratic state that offers equal rights and liberties to all citizens—secular as well as religious—and on some model of diverse and pluralist societies that offer free and equitable exercise to all their religious communities, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other."

Following remarks from Chancellor Merkel, more than 300 guests attended a reception that included Jewish community leaders from Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, as well as representatives from the World Union for Progressive Judaism. 

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José Casanova's speech appeared in the German national weekly newspaper Die Zeit. A full version of the address is available through the Berkley Center.