A Swiss bishop will discuss challenges to religious freedom from a European perspective at the next “Hot Topics: Cool Talk” forum. Free and open to the public, the forum will be held from 8 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, in the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

The Cool Talk series is sponsored by the university’s Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy.

The series, which explores Catholic positions and other perspectives on provocative issues of law and policy, will focus this year on the challenges of religious freedom around the world and address topics such as anti-Sharia laws in the United States, religious freedom and progressive politics, and public education, vouchers and charter schools.

“There is much to be discussed about religious freedom at this point in our history – beyond the current U.S. flash points emerging from the controversy surrounding the health-care mandate,” said Dr. Don Briel, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas.

Bishop Charles Morerod

“It’s important to examine the many threats to religious liberty around the world so we can better understand what freedoms are at stake both here and abroad. It is timely, too, as we approach the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant documents of the Second Vatican Council – Dignitatus Humanae – the Declaration on Religious Freedom. The preparatory discussions for the document, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965, began in 1962,” he said.

Speaking at the first lecture in this year’s series will be the Most Rev. Charles Morerod, 50, who since November has been bishop of the diocese of Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland. He will speak on “Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom: The View from Europe.”

Prior to his appointment as a bishop in Switzerland, Morerod spent 15 years in Rome, most recently as rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also called the Angelicum. He also has served as secretary general of the International Theological Commission and as a consultant to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In June he was named to the Congregation for Catholic Education.

A member of the Dominican order and a native of Switzerland, Morerod was ordained a priest in 1988. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of Toulouse and a doctorate in theology from the University of Fribourg. An editor of the journal “Nova et Vetera,” he has written on the doctrinal and philosophical aspects of ecumenism.

While serving at the Angelicum, Morerod was academic director of the Rome program for University of St. Thomas’ Catholic studies students.

For information about future programs in the series, including an Oct. 23 program on the dangers of anti-Sharia laws, visit the Terrence J. Murphy Institute website.

Application has been made for an “elimination of bias” continuing-legal-education credit.

Related “Hot Topics: Cool Talk” program: Sept. 25 lunch and forum

Bishop Charles Morerod, along with Father Reginald Whitt, O.P., a professor of law at St. Thomas, will discuss “Vatican II on Religious Freedom: European and American Perspectives” at a 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. luncheon program on Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Room 235 of the School of Law on St. Thomas’ Minneapolis campus.

The lunch and program are free and open to the public but registration is required. To register and for more information, visit the Terrence J. Murphy Institute website.