In 1985, the Center for Interfaith Relations (CIR), formerly the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, was founded for the purpose of restoring, revitalizing, and sustaining Louisville's historic Cathedral of the Assumption. In 1991, with all restoration complete, the Cathedral was in use for the first time in over 100 years. After the completion of CIR's original goal, they began to turn their mission toward interfaith initiatives, beginning with the first annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service held at the Cathedral in November 1991. Eight months later, the Lilly Endowment awarded a $350,000 grant to CIR to explore the possibility of creating a "Museum of Faiths." This vision was actualized in November 2001 when part of the Cathedral was transformed into "Beyond Belief: A First Experience for a Museum of Faiths." The "Museum of Faiths" is being revised and is currently out of service. According to their website, the Cathedral Heritage Foundation officially changed their name to the Center for Interfaith Relations in 2006 "to make clear to the whole community its nonsectarian framework and to more accurately reflect its focus on interfaith understanding, cooperation and action." In 1996, the first "Festival of Faiths" was held to celebrate the region's rich religious heritage. It included exhibits from faith communities that had continually existed since the original dedication of the Cathedral in 1852. The following year, with plans to continue the Festival of Faiths, a mission statement was instituted: "To celebrate the diversity of our faiths, be grateful for our unity and strengthen the role of religion in society." The Festival has continued annually since 1998 and has become the crowning event of the CIR calendar. Every year, representatives from all faith communities from Louisville and abroad come to participate in services and hear from keynote speakers such as Karen Armstrong, Deepak Chopra, Diana Eck, Arun Gandhi, and Martin Marty. Both the US Senate (in 1998) and the Parliament of the World's Religions (in 1999) have recognized the Festival of Faiths as a model of interfaith activity. Click here to read our 2005 research report, "10 Years of the Festival of Faiths."
The Center defines its mission through a section on its website titled, "What We Do". Namely, the CIR seeks to "produce year-round programming that models and fosters understanding and cooperation among all faith traditions; connect and engage community leaders across all faith traditions in programs; and unite faith and other leaders to work together to identify and help solve social problems in the local and global communities." It also defines its mission through a series of statements on, "What We Believe". CIR asserts that "the community is enriched when: 1) Members of religious traditions bring their faith and beliefs to civic life; 2) houses of worship embrace their civic responsibility to the surrounding community; and 3) houses of worship use their facilities for interfaith interaction and cooperation."
The Center for Interfaith Relations is best recognized for its Festival of Faiths; however, there are several other key events and programs held throughout each year. Among them are the "Faith Leaders Forum," social action events around issues such as youth violence and the genocide in Darfur, hosting international delegations, and a digital media program for youth called "PeaceCasters." Events that have been held at CIR in the past include the Spiritual Life lecture series, a visit by the Dalai Lama in 1994, and a partnership with Actors' Theatre of Louisville that produced a play which explored the faith of Islam: "Jihad for Knowledge: The Struggle to Find the Commonality of Our Faiths."