Rome, Italy, 8-12 October, 1979


The 1979 session of the Catholic Pentecostal dialogue was held in Rome 8-12 October at the Sts. John and Paul Retreat House of the Passionist Fathers. The composition, inspiration and interpretation of the Scriptures was one of main themes, the other being the Church's ministry of healing.

Papers on the Scripture topic were presented by Dr. Howard Ervin of the Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma and by Fr William Dalton SJ of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome. Bishop Robert McAlister of the New Life Pentecostal Church, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Fr Charles Gusmer of Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, New Jersey, gave papers on healing.

After the themes had been presented they were developed by means of a series of "hard questions" which each side addressed to the other. One of these was the relation of Scripture and tradition where some new understandings emerged while important divergences remain. The Catholic use of critical methods in the exegesis of Scripture was described, but exegetical practice is diverse in the two traditions. To discern the meaning of Scripture Catholics and Pentecostals invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit but the role of the Church in communicating the Word of God is seen in different ways. Both sides agreed in emphasizing the supernatural but noted considerable differences in the respective emphasis placed on the way it is manifested. It was possible to note a number of substantial points of doctrinal agreement including the inspiration of Scripture, the preaching of the Gospel as an integral part of the ministry of the Church, and the acknowledgement of corporate guidance by the Holy Spirit.

It was noted that both Catholics and Pentecostals practice a ministry of healing although it is exercised in different ways. In both traditions there is also an expectation of healing but this is emphasized in a more striking manner in the Pentecostal tradition. A surprising number of areas of agreement were noted including healing as a sign of God's Kingdom, healing as a means of wholeness, Jesus Christ as the healer and anointer, the Eucharist as a source of healing. Divergences had arisen on social justice as part of the work of healing, the participation of laity in the minis- try of healing, the attitude to suffering.

The participants in the dialogue took part in a public audience with His Holiness Pope John Paul II when he welcomed them saying: “For seven years now this effort of mutual understanding and reconciliation has been going on, and I wish to assure you that it has my fullest interest and prayerful support.

If we Christians are to attain the unity willed by our Lord, we are called to "shared investigation of the truth in the full evangelical and Christian sense" (Redemptor Hominis, 6). You are contributing to that by your work this week. May God support you in it and by the light of his Holy Spirit enable you to know and experience his truth, his grace and his love”.

The Holy Father greeted all participants personally at the conclusion of the audience.

The following took part in the meeting:

a) Pentecostals:

Dr David Du Plessis (Chairman), Oakland (California) USA; Bishop W. Robert McAlister (Secretary), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil); Dr John L. Meares, Washington D.C. (USA); Pastor Justus T. Du Plessis, Lyndhurst (R. South Africa); Dr Howard Ervin, Tuisa (Oklahoma) USA; Dr F.P. Moller, Lyndhurst (R. South Africa); Rev. William Carmichael, Salem (Or.) USA; Rev. Elias Malki, Walnut (California) USA.

b) Roman Catholics:

Fr Killian McDonnell, OSB (Chairman), Inst. for Ecum. and Culto Research, Collegeville (MN); Msgr Basil Meeking (Secretary), Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican; Fr Pierre Duprey, WF, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican; Fr Jerome Vereb, CP, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican; Fr Bill Dalton, SJ, Pontifìcal Biblical Inst., Rome; Fr Charles Gusmer, Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington (New Jersey) USA; Fr Barnabas Ahern, CP, Passionist Monastery, Rome.


[Information Service 41 (1979/IV) 9-10]