Rev. Francis V. Tiso

Francis V. Tiso

Contrada Colle Croce 86

86170 Isernia (IS) Italy



Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary, NY, NY. Joint Doctoral Program in Religion. Specialization: Buddhist Studies. M.Phil., 1/86; Ph.D., 1/89.

9/1992 Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli (Naples, Italy): Laurea in Lingue e Civiltá Orientali Sezione Estremo Oriente. (Tibetology)

1975-78 The Divinity School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. M. Div., cum laude, 6/78. Senior thesis: Pastoral Care at the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.

1968-72 Cornell University, College of Arts and Sciences, Ithaca, NY. Major: Early Modern and Medieval History and Culture. A.B., 6/72.

Doctoral Dissertation:

“A Study of the Buddhist Saint in Relation to the Biographical Tradition of Milarepa.” A study of the evolution of the concept of the holy person (arhat, bodhisattva, and siddha) in Buddhism, culminating in a literary analysis of several Tibetan biographies (rnam thar) of Milarepa, a popular poet and yogin. The dissertation includes a complete translation of an early, previously untranslated biography of Milarepa from the thirteenth century. Dissertation advisor: Alex Wayman. Dissertation defended in December, 1988.

Academic Honors and Grants:

Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, Oslo, Norway. Research grant: “Preliminary translation of the Ngam rDzong Ras pa snyan brgyud” with Prof. Per Kvaerne, July 20-31, 2007.

Institute of Noetic Sciences grant: “Research on the Rainbow Body: The Case of Khenpo A-chos”, 2000, 2001-2; 2002-2003.

Palmers Foundation, Switzerland, "Research on the Rainbow Body", May 1999- July 2000.

LIRI Foundation, Nepal: "The Thangka painting traditions of Dolpo, Nepal," June, 2000.

American Philosophical Society Research Fellowship, 1997 “A Field-Work Approach to the Biography of Milarepa in Nepal and India”

American Academy of Religion Research Fellowship, 1997 “A Search for the Biography of Milarepa”

President’s Fellow, Columbia University, 1985-6; 86-7.

Religion Department Fellow, Columbia University, 83-84.

Field Examinations passed ‘with distinction’, 1985.

Comprehensive Examinations passed ‘with distinction’, 1983.

Professional and Teaching Experience:

Docente: Universita' Pontificia Gregoriana: Istituto di Studi Interdisciplinari su Religioni e Culture: Buddhismo Tibetano (Fall Semester, 2010).

Diocese of Isernia-Venafro: parish administrator, Parish of S. Michele Arcangelo, Fornelli, September 2009-present. Scuola Teologica Diocesana: "Storia delle Religioni e il Dialogo Interreligioso", autunno 2009.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Associate Director (for interreligious affairs) July 2004- 2009.

Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies: Editor of the Journal, 2005- 2008.

Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA: Visiting Professor, Winter 2003: “Cultural Anthropology, Religion, and the Arts.”

Parochial Vicar and University Chaplain (SF State and U Cal. Medical School) at St. Thomas More Parish, San Francisco, CA, 2002-2004.

Archdiocese of San Francisco, School of Pastoral Leadership, Professor, Courses in Foundational Theology, Scripture, and Spirituality, Fall 2001- 2002; 2002-2003.

Diocese of Santa Rosa, Humboldt-Del Norte Deanery, Deacon Formation Program: Courses in Christian Spirituality, Symbolism, Sacraments, and Liturgy, 1998-99.

Visiting Professor, Sonoma State University, Cotati, CA, Dept. of Philosophy, "Introduction to World Religions", Fall, 1999.

Visiting Professor, Monastery of Our Lady of New Clairvaux, Vina, CA, "The Theology of Inter-religious Dialogue", Fall, 1999.

Docente: Università della Terza Età, Isernia. “Le Religioni dell’India Antica” (1996-7); “Le Religioni dell’India Medioevale” (1997-98).

Visiting Lecturer, University of Rome, “La Sapienza”, Department of Oriental Studies, Spring, 1996: Tibetan Biographical Literature in Relation to South Asian Traditions.

Visiting Professor, Studio Teologico Fiorentino (Affiliated with the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome): “Buddhist and Christian Soteriology”, 1995-96.

Visiting Professor, Major Seminary of Mantova: Introduction to Buddhism, Spring, 1998.

Direttore (chief administrator), Istituto di Scienze Religiose, Isernia, Italy, 1991-3.

Docente, Istituto di Scienze Religiose, Isernia, 1986-93.

Teaching Assistant, Columbia University, 1984-85.

Lecturer, Mercy College, Department of Religion and Philosophy, 1978-1983.

Editor and Administrator, The Seabury Press, NY, 1980-83.

Teaching Interests:

Buddhism in South Asia, Tibet and the Far East.

South Asian/Himalayan languages and cultures.

Christian theology, spirituality, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue


I am an ordained Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Isernia-Venafro.


"Raimondo Panikkar on the Monk as Archetype," Dilatatio Cordis (on-line periodical,, July 2011.

Liberation in One Lifetime: Biographies and Teachings of Milarepa. (Isernia: Pro Forma Designs: A Colle Croce Book, 2010)

"Muslim-Catholic Dialogues Sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" (Part I: December 2009; N.350; Second Part: January 2010, N. 351): Encounter: Documents for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Pontificio Istituto di Studi Arabi e d'Islamistica, Roma.

Supplement on line to The New Catholic Encylopedia: "Buddhism" (with Charles Jones), 2010.

“On Recent Buddhist-Christian Dialogue” Chicago Studies, Summer 2005: Vol. 44:2: 155-168.

“Evagrius of Pontus and Buddhist Abhidharma,” Religion East and West, 5 (October, 2005): 41-71.

Orgy/Orgy in Asia. Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition (Macmillan Reference, 2004).

“The Shrine of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Isernia: Revisiting Pagan and Christian Syncretism”. Origins: Caiete Silvane (Zalau, Romania) Nr. 3-4/2003:16-25.

“Tantric Dohās: Tradition and Change in Indo-Tibetan Sacred Poetry and Song.” Origins: Caiete Silvane (Zalau, Romania): 2003.

Francis Tiso (with Cornelio Cicortas). "Intervista: Religioni in Dialogo." Sophia II/1999:93-105.

“Penance and Confession of Sins” in Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion, NY Macmillan Reference, 1998.

“Child Deities” in Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion, Macmillan Reference, 1998.

“The Voice of Milarepa: Redaction-critical Research on the Songs and Oral Teachings”. VIIIth international seminar of the IATS, Bloomington, IN, July 26, 1998.

(editor). The Sign Beyond All Signs: Christian Monasticism in Dialogue with India. (Asirvanam Monastery, Bangalore, 1997).

“Liberation in Vajrayāna”, Pro Dialogo (publication of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue), Bulletin 90: 1995/3:300-311.

“The Death of Milarepa: Towards a Redaktionsgeschichte of the Mila rnam thar Traditions”, in Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 7th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995, Volume II, edited by Helmut Krasser et al. Verlag der Oesterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1997.

Francis Tiso and Mayeul de Dreuille, O.S.B. “Colloque Trinité-Trikâya: Karma Ling, 15-17 novembre 1996;” Dharma, 1997.

“Intervista di Vincenzo Piga con don Francis Tiso: Una risposta alla Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede sulla Meditazione Cristiana”: Paramita, 1996.

“La ricerca spirituale del Buddha e di Milarepa”. In: N. Manca, editor, Monachesimo Tibetano in Dialogo (Roma: Editrice A.V.E./Istituto Studi Asiatici, 1995).

“Dire l’indicibile: Il Buddhismo nello studio delle Religioni,” In: N. Manca, ed., op. cit.

“The Biographical Tradition of Milarepa: Orality, Literacy, and Iconography,” in The Tibet Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 2, Summer 1996.

“The rdo rje ‘chang rnam thar in the bka’ brgyud gser ‘phreng genre.” In: Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the IATS, (Fagernes, 1992), edited by Per Kvaerne. The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, Oslo, 1994.

“The Karma Kagyupa Tibetan Buddhists,” Studia Missionalia, vol. 41, 1992.

Francis Tiso and Fabrizio Torricelli: “The Tibetan Text of Tilopa’s Mahāmudropadesha”, East and West vol. 41 December, 1991.

“The Religion of Milarepa Before His Conversion,” in U. Bianchi, ed., The Notion of “Religion” in Comparative Research: Selected Proceedings of the XVI IAHR Congress (1990) Roma: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider, 1994.

“The Bodhisattva as a Buddhist Saint,” in Premier Colloque Etienne Lamotte (Louvain-La-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste, 1993), pp. 141-148.

Francis Tiso and José Pereira: “The Life of Vasubandhu According to Recent Research,” East and West, Vol. 37 (1987): 451-454.

__________________________: “The Evolution of Buddhist Systematics from the Buddha to Vasubandhu,” Philosophy East and West, XXXVIII, No. 2 (1988): 172-186.

__________________________: “A Buddhist Classification of Reality: A Translation of the First Chapter of the Abhidharmakośa”, Abhidharma Research Institute No. 6 (l987).

Francis Tiso: A Young Person’s Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols (NY: Doubleday, 1982).

“Love’s Conspirators: Builders of Earth-House-Hold,” J. Perlinski, ed. The Spirit of the Earth: A Teilhard Centennial Celebration (NY: The Seabury Press, 1982).

(editor). Aging: Spiritual Perspectives (Sunday Publications: 1982).

Francis Tiso and Br. David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B.: “Meditation”, Encyclopedia Americana, 1980.

Works in Progress:

The Crisis of Dialogue: Essays on Interreligious Relations (in progress 2012)

The Children of Evagrius: Reflections on Immortality and Psychotherapy, (Unpublished ms, 2006)

“Interreligious Understanding and Centering Prayer”: October 2006

“The Grand Narrative and Other Disputed Questions: Responses to James Fredericks and Comparative Theology”: October 2005.

A Catalogue of the Thangkas of the Tarap Valley, Dolpo, Nepal. (Unpublished ms, 2002).

“A Glossary of Catholic Christian Terms for Use in the Zen/Ch’an-Catholic Dialogue”, 2004.

Research on the Rainbow Body Phenomenon in Tibet, 2000-2007, (unpublished ms.)

Research among Tamil Siddhas for the Light Body (unpublished ms., 2003).

Further Poems (unpublished ms. of collected poetry on interreligious themes, 1989-2003).

Travels in Monastic Romania (unpublished ms. 2002).

Just This Side of Tibet (unpublished ms. 1998). Account of our 1997 research expedition.

Conferences, Programs, and Lectures:

"Identita' Cattolica e Dialogo Interreligioso"; 23 marzo 2010, Corso IRC0B8, "Identita' e Religioni", Pontificia Universita' Gregoriana.

“The Primordial Relationship Between God and the Human Person in Catholicism and Islam”: Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, Washington, DC, January 16, 2007.

“Introducing the Book: Revelation: Catholic & Muslim Perspectives from the USCCB and ISNA”: September 2, 2006, ISNA Convention Panel.

“The Crisis of Dialogue”: October 2006, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.

“Mediating Place and Space: Women’s Contributions to Catholic-Muslim Dialogue”: November 2006, St. Xavier’s University, Oak Lawn, IL.

“How We Do Dialogue: Initiating, Motivating, and Sustaining a Process”: Sept. 15-16, 2006, Columbia, South Carolina for the Diocese of Charleston, SC.

Close Up on C-Span: “Interfaith Dialogue” with Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Rabbi Alana Suskin and Fr. Francis Tiso: June 23, 2006.

“Doing Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue”: June 5-8, 2006, Capuchin General Assembly, Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia.

“Catholic Jewish Relations in Transformation,” National Council of Synagogues, Hebrew Union College, NY, NY, May 23, 2006.

“Keynote for a Celebration of the Fortieth Anniversary of the Document Nostra Aetate” St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX, March 31, 2006.

“Fides et Ratio: Indian Philosophy as a Preparation for the Gospel?”: March 27, 2006, St. Charles Borromeo Major Seminary, Philadelphia, PA.

Special Topics Forum at the AAR, November 21, 2005: Christian Theology’s Engagement with Religious Pluralism (panel).

“Institute for Interreligious Leadership”: University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, IL, July 5-10, 2005.

“An Institute for Bishops on Islam”: Georgetown University, March, 2005

“Envisioning An American Future”: Dialogue with the Islamic Society of North America, September 2005

“Interfaith Cooperation: Fulfilling Hopes of the Past, Designing a Fully Human Future”: Interfaith Iftar Dinner Keynote, October 9, 2005, Columbus Ohio.

“An Introduction to Catholic Interpretation of Scripture”: Dialogue with Muslim leaders on the West Coast, 2005.

“Interfaith Cooperation in Action: Why it is needed and how it can be accomplished”: June 5, 2005.

“Interreligious Dialogue Since Nostra Aetate”, April 2005, National Workshop on Christian Unity, New Orleans, LA.

“For the Second Anniversary of the Signing of an Agreement of Understanding and Cooperation between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, NY, and the Council of Masajid of Rochester, NY”: Keynote, May 6, 2005

“Practical Vajrayāna: Healing and Exorcism in the Tarap Valley, Dolpo, Nepal”: AAR panel on healing, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, November 2004.

“History of Islamo-Christian Relations and the Prospects for Dialogue”: December, 2004, American University of Cairo, Egypt.

“On World Religions and World Peace”: January 24 2002, University of San Francisco.

Audio Lecture Series: Five Lectures on the History of Christian Spirituality, Lent, 2001.

“Studying Western Culture at this Time and Place: The Use of a Great Collection Poised on the Pacific Rim”. Lecture at the Frank V. De Bellis Library, “Aldus Minutius: Exemplars of the Aldine Editions from 1501 to 1592”, San Francisco State University, Oct. 16, 2002.

Video Lecture: Research on the Rainbow Body in Eastern Tibet. March 15, 2001; Institute of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, CA.

“Dante and the Jubilee Year, “ Diocese of Santa Rosa, 2000.

“ Buddhismo: Famiglia, le donne e il futuro”. Conference at “Convegno di Studio: La Famiglia nel Duemila: Contributo delle Religioni alla difesa e promozione del ruolo della donna,” Abbazia di Monte Santo, Civitella del Tronto, Teramo, Italy, 27 Sept. 2000.

“The Shrine of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Isernia: Revisiting Pagan and Christian Syncretism.” Given at the AAR Western Region Meeting, April 17, 2000.

“A Proposito della Morte nel Buddhismo”: Isernia, 1997.

“A Catholic Priest Takes a Look at Tibetan Buddhism and Inter-religious Dialogue”, Lecture at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, HP, India, July 18, 1997.

“The Immortality of the Soul: The Western Traditions and their Impact on the Contemporary Situation in Analytic Psychology”. A conference I organized with analytical psychologists in Florence on January 26, 1997.

“The Case of Miguel de Molinos (1628-1696) and its Effect on the History of Catholic Spirituality: Light and Darkness on the Contemplative Journey;” Conference at the Eremo Ss. Cosma e Damiano, Isernia, Dec. 8, 1996.

“Resurrection and Transformation in Early Christianity and in the Trajectory of Evagrius Ponticus” at the Museum of Science, Brescia, October 24, 1996.

“Cibo e trasformazione spirituale nel Buddhismo Indo-Tibetano,” presented at the Abbazia di S. Silvestro, Fabbriano, 1994 (Roma: Istituto Studi Asiatici).

“Vajrayāna Purification,” presented at the Abbey of Noci, 1993 (Roma: Istituto Studi Asiatici)

“L’influenza della spiritualità orientale sul cammino di fede dei cristiani contemporanei,” Keynote address presented at the Abbey of Sorres, 1993 (Roma: Istituto Studi Asiatici).

“Lo Zen: Una sensibilità,” presented at Centro Pranayama, Foggia, and at Centro Ricerca per la Pace, Crotone.

“Tantric Dohās: Tradition and Change in Indo-Tibetan Tantrism”, Hamburg, IAHR, 1986.


Scholarly research in French, German, Italian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Pali, Latin, Greek..


AOS, AAR, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, IATS, Nepal Studies Association.

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