Franciscan Sister Presents at Spain Human Rights and Religious Freedom Conference

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

October 20, 2022

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Renee Mirkes reflects on her experiences at the International Consortium on Law and Religion Studies CORDORA 2022 in Cordoba, Spain.

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain—

those mesmerizing words from Professor Higgins’ elocution exercise of My Fair Lady fame—kept running through my mind on September 15th as I flew from Omaha to Madrid and as I boarded the high-speed train from Madrid to one of Spain’s southern cities, Cordoba.

I discovered the phrase has no connection to the realities of Spanish hydrology, by the way. Spain showed me her arid face; no rain—only sun—for the entire week I was there. Let’s call that blessing #1.

Blessing #2 was the myriad of angels—human and divine—who encircled me during the entire trip. I kid you not. Every time I thought ‘now what am I going to do?’ or ‘how do I get where I need to go?’ there was a human angel right by my side who either spoke English well or spoke it well enough to supply the directions and help I needed. (My Spanish was limited but growing every day, by dint of necessity!) Everyone was so respectful, so very kind. I forgot to tell you that I spoke with Jesus directly before and during the trip, placing the entire enterprise in his hands and he, of course, was the director who brought all these amazing angels to my side.

Blessing #3 was the enriching conference I attended: ICLARS (International Consortium on Law and Religion Studies) CORDOBA 2022. A conference drawing 300-500 legal, judiciary and theological/philosophical participants from around the world to discuss human rights and religious freedom. I was the only consecrated female religious, but there was a Dominican legal professor from Belgium and Franciscan lawyer/priests from Poland. I was honored to present a paper on the right to family planning under the banner of NaProTechnology. Not only was my paper well received, but some European and Egyptian participants recognized NaPro and told me, following the lecture, that they knew of physicians in their area who trained in Omaha at the PPVI Institute. It was simply amazing to see and hear.

Then there’s blessing #4: to be in the city of Cordoba, with its immense historical richness—a city where Jews, Muslims and Christians have, from the 10th century forward, learned to live in peace and harmony. Probably the only place in the world where religious freedom and respect amongst the major religious traditions is a living reality. The very reason, in fact, the ICLARS planning committee chose Cordoba for this conference. The city embodies what the conference was highlighting—the prospective beauty and fruitfulness of mutual respect for human rights amongst the various religious traditions.

And, finally, blessing #5: the privilege of participating in the Eucharistic liturgy at Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral (Mezquita-Catedral). Mass twice daily and Muslim prayer on Fridays. You really have to see and hear the sounds of this magnificent structure to appreciate what I experienced during the Mass. The Mosque is built around the Catholic cathedral and no matter what door you enter you work (and walk) your way through the mosque with its iconic Arabic arches until you reach the very center of the building, the Catholic cathedral. That walk was revelatory. It helped me understand that the RCC church is the fullness of truth and all other Jewish/Muslim traditions are in one real sense moving toward that truth, Jesus Christ. My prayer: that we all may be one in Christ.

Pictures hardly capture the magnificence of this monument, but you won’t be disappointed if you go online and discover aspects of its grandeur:


Article Comments:

Sister Sharon Paul, O.S.F. 10/21/2022 @ 6:22 am

Thank you, Sr. Renee, for giving a presentation at Cordoba, Spain. The Cathedral is such a majestic structure as it dates back to 988 when it opened. It is the oldest mosque in Spain from the info. It’s mind boggling when you think of HOW it was built with very little tools. I noticed the name is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. In Marietta, Ohio, the Basilica is also dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption.
It sounds like Ecumenism abounds in Spain.


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