Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has established the Huffington Ecumenical Institute, with the support of philanthropist Michael Huffington and the Archangel Michael Foundation.

Huffington has pledged to give LMU $5 million over the next five years.

The institute will focus on promoting dialogue and constructive encounters among the religious leaders, theologians and members of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

“I feel very passionate about this project,” said Huffington, who is a member of the Orthodox Church,” because my dream is that someday I’ll get to see members of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church be able to take Communion in each other’s churches.”

The institute will also develop a collection of library and Internet-based resources to be housed within the Department of Theological Studies under the leadership of Michael Engh, dean of the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, and Jeffrey Siker, chair of the Theological Studies Department.

“In our fragmented world, Roman Catholic universities have a particular obligation to educate students to work toward greater understanding of the religious heritage we share with other Christians, particularly our Orthodox brothers and sisters,” Engh said.

A director of the institute will be hired to work with Engh and Siker, and develop an interdisciplinary curriculum that will explore Orthodox theology, history and culture through courses and lectures given by LMU faculty and by Orthodox seminaries throughout the world.

The institute also plans to organize a lecture series, fund a resident ecumenism scholar position, host a biennial conference and launch a publication.

LMU plans to identify another $5 million in matching funds for the institute.