Entangled Interfaith Identities and Relations from the Mediterranean to the United States:

The St James Association and Its Transnational Christian-Jewish Network in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Mixed religious identities and interfaith relations represent one of the most crucial and debated phenomena in the 21st century. The revival of the religious dimension in the world is evident in the growing religious implications in modern and contemporary wars.
The REL-NET project (September 2019 – August 2022) tackles these global issues through the analysis of a significant case study that has been overlooked in the historiography: the history of Jewish–Christian transnational networks between Israel, Palestine, the Middle East, Europe and the United States after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
In particular, REL-NET focuses on the history of the St James Association (SJA) since the end of the 1940s. The SJA is a community formed by  Jews – some of whom Holocaust survivors – who converted to Christianity, moved to Israel and settled in the mainly Arab Jerusalem Church. Some SJA members became well-known intellectuals who developed an international network that influenced Jewish–Christian–Muslim relations during the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and on a global scale.
Using multiple and interdisciplinary methodologies and an unprecedented mass of unpublished archival documentation disseminated all over the world will lead me to retrace the strands that contributed to the new relations between Jews and Christians while also engaging Muslim communities.

First St James Association members (1957 ca.)


The Pius XII archives and the Jews: first notes and research hypotheses

Wednesday 5 May 2021, 12 pm EDT / 6 pm CET
Please register online

A panel discussion featuring:

  • David Kertzer (Brown University)
  • Maria Chiara Rioli (Ca' Foscari & Fordham)
  • Nina Valbousquet (Ecole Française de Rome)

Moderated by David Gibson & Magda Teter (Fordham University)

This event is co-hosted between Fordham University’s Center for Jewish Studies in New York and Ca’ Foscari University’s Department of Asian and North African Studies

For further information see the webpage "The Pius XII Archives and the Jews: First Notes and Research Hypotheses".

Past events

15 December 2020

Online seminar on the books "A Liminal Church. Refugees, Conversions and the Latin Diocese of Jerusalem, 1946–1956" (Maria Chiara Rioli; Brill, 2020) and "Le moine sur le toit. Histoire d'un manuscrit éthiopien trouvé à Jérusalem (1904)" (Stéphane Ancel, Magdalena Krzyżanowska, Vincent Lemire; Publications de la Sorbonne, 2020)


  • Vincent Lemire and Angelos Dalachanis (editors of the Brill Open Jerusalem series)
  • Lorenzo Kamel, University of Turin
  • Roberto Mazza, University of Limerick
  • Karène Sanchez Summerer, University of Leiden
  • Salim Tamari (Institute for Palestine Studies; Birzeit University)
file pdf Poster 699 KB

13 October 2020

Seminar at the French Research Centre in Jerusalem

file pdf Poster 475 KB

1 October 2020

in "Missions et prédications: Comparer et décloisonner l’étude du phénomène missionnaire. Moyen-Orient – Afrique du Nord (XIXe-XXIe siècle)" 
French School in Rome 

file pdf Poster 299 KB

20 April 2020

University of Fordham and University of Florida (Professors Sarit Kattan Gribetz and Michelle Campos) 

4 December 2019

Fordham Theology Department and Jewish Studies Centre
"Entangled Interfaith Identities and Relations from the Mediterranean to the United States: The St James Association and Its Transnational Christian- Jewish Network in the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict"


A Liminal Church. Refugees, Conversions and the Latin Diocese of Jerusalem, 1946–1956

Maria Chiara Rioli
Leiden: Brill, 2020

Discover the book on Brill website

The history of the Palestine War does not only concern military history. It also involves social, humanitarian and religious history, as in the case of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jerusalem. A "Liminal Church" offers a complex narrative of the Latin patriarchal diocese, commonly portrayed as monolithically aligned with anti-Zionist and anti-Muslim positions during the “long” year of 1948. Making use of largely unpublished archives in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, including the recently released Pius XII papers, Maria Chiara Rioli depicts a church engaged in multiple and sometimes contradictory pastoral initiatives, amid harsh battles, relief missions for Palestinian refugees, theological reflections on Jewish converts to Catholicism, political relations with the Israeli and Jordanian authorities, and liturgical responses to a fluid and uncertain scenario. 

The pieces of this history include the Jerusalem grand mufti’s appeal to Pius XII to support the Arab cause, the Catholic liturgies for peace and international mobilization during the Palestine War and Suez crisis, refugees petitioning the patriarch for aid, and Jewish converts establishing Christian kibbutzim. New archival collections and records reveal hidden aspects of the lives of women, children and other silenced actors, faith communities and religious institutions during and after 1948, connecting narratives that have been marginalized by a dominant historiography more focused on military campaigns or confessional conflicts. 

A "Liminal Church" weaves diocesan history with global history. In the momentous decade from 1946 to 1956, the study of the transnational Jerusalem Latin diocese, as split between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Cyprus, with ties to diaspora and religious international networks and comprising clergy from all over the world, attests to the possibilities of contrapuntal narratives, reintroducing complexity to a deeply and painfully polarized debate, exposing false assumptions and situating changes and ruptures in a long-term perspective.

Full list of author publications


Principal investigator

Maria Chiara Rioli

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow

Maria Chiara Rioli (1984) is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow at the universities of Ca’ Foscari in Venice and Fordham in New York with the project “REL-NET – Entangled Interfaith Identities and Relations from the Mediterranean to the United States: The St James Association and Its Transnational Christian-Jewish Network in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”.

In 2019 she was also awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie CAROLINE Fellowship, University of Limerick, with the project “RESCUE – Refugees Strategies for Caring Urban Environment: For an Entangled History of Shuʿfat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem” (declined for incompatibility with the MSCA Global Fellowship).

She has been project manager, digital humanist and postdoctoral fellow of the ERC project Open Jerusalem: Opening Jerusalem Archives for a Connected History of ‘Citadinité’ in the Holy City, 1840–1940, directed by Vincent Lemire (2014–2019).

She defended her PhD in Contemporary History at the Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa, 2014).

She is a member of the editorial board of the Open Jerusalem book series at Brill. She takes part as a research team member to the Archival City project.

She had postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, Scuola Normale Superiore, and Sangalli Institute. She received grants from the French Research Centre in Jerusalem, the French Institute in the Near East, the Ermenegildo Zegna Founder’s Scholarship for Young Researchers, the Fondazione Angelo Frammartino.

She was invited to give talks and seminars at the University of Florida, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, University of Leiden, French School in Rome.

She published on journals as Relations Internationales, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Contemporanea, Cristianesimo nella storia.

She serves as a peer reviewer for Oxford University Press.

Her research interests extend to the urban history of modern Jerusalem, history of Christianity in the Middle East, history of Jewish-Christian networks, migrant and refugee history in the Mediterranean, humanitarianism, history of archives, digital public history.

Here a full list of publications.

Project supervisors

Marcella Simoni
Magda Teter