"When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress, along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return. Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice. I call this attitude of openness and availability without prejudice, social humility, and it is this that favours dialogue. Only in this way can understanding grow between cultures and religions, mutual esteem without needless preconceptions, respectful of the rights of everyone. Today, either we stand together with the culture of dialogue and encounter, or we all lose, we all lose; from here we can take the right road that makes the journey fruitful and secure." (Pope Francis, Address to leading members of Brazilian society, Saturday July 27 2013, reported online by Official Vatican Network.)

Mary McAleese in Sydney

JMaryMcAleese04The former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, will be the guest of Aquinas Academy and Catalyst for Renewal in Sydney in September. On Sunday September 7 there will be a Public Forum in the Sydney Town Hall where Mary will be interviewed by Andrew West of Radio National Religion and Ethics Report. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson will introduce Mary. The Forum will begin at 2pm. All welcome - tickets $20. Book online now.

Mary McAleese served as the eighth President of Ireland from 1997 to 2011. She was the second female president and was first elected in 1997 succeeding Mary Robinson, making McAleese the world's first woman to succeed another as president. She was re-elected unopposed for a second term in office in 2004. McAleese is the first President of Ireland to have come from either Northern Ireland or Ulster.

McAleese graduated in Law from Queen's University Belfast. In 1975, she was appointed Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin and in 1987, she returned to her Alma Mater, Queen's, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female Vice Chancellor of Queen's University. She worked as a barrister and also worked as a journalist with RTÉ

McAleese used her time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation. She described the theme of her Presidency as "Building Bridges".This bridge-building materialised in her attempts to reach out to the unionist community in Northern Ireland. These steps included celebrating the Twelfth of July at Áras an Uachtaráin and she even incurred criticism from some of the Irish Catholic hierarchy by taking communion in a Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin. Despite being a practising Roman Catholic, she holds liberal views regarding homosexualityand women priests. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders and was ranked the 64th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.

Mary will be the guest of the Global Irish Studies Centre at NSW University after she has been with Aquinas Academy and Catalyst for Renewal.