Venice, Italy, May 21-26, 1975


The psychological dimension of the Pentecostal experience was a major subject for discussion at the fourth meeting of the dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church the leaders of some Pentecostal Churches, and some participants in the charismatic movement within the Anglican and Protestant Churches held in Venice, May 21-26, 1975. It was considered in relation to the problems of discerning the authentic presence and action of the Holy Spiri.t. The context for these themes was set by presentations on the nature and meaning of worship in the various traditions of the participants.

Papers were delivered by Msgr. Balthasar Fischer, Dr. John Meares, Dr. Rodman Williams, Pfr. Arnold Bittlinger, Revd. Michael Harper, Fr. Walter Smet, S.J., Dr. François Moller, Dr. Aloys von Orelli, Fr. John Mahoney, S.J., Revd. Larry Christenson, and Dr. John McTernan (co-secretary of the dialogue).

The meeting was chaired by Dr. David du Plessis and Fr. Pierre Duprey. Other participants were Revd. Robert McAlister, Pastor Justus du Plessis, Revd. David Collins, Dr. Daniel Tappeiner, Dr. Francis Whiting, Revd. Thomas Roberts, Fr. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., Fr. Heribert Mühlen, and Fr. Basil Meeking (co-secretary of the dialogue).

The discussion took place with a grateful awareness of recent developments both in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Pentecostal and charismatic movements which make for new understanding and which are overcoming former divisive difficulties. This was especially clear for the realm of worship. In Pentecostalism there is a growing emphasis on the community aspect of worship, with the discipline it implies, and in the Roman Catholic Church a new awareness of the place of spontaneous prayer.

It became apparent that participants on both sides acknowledge the place of vital faith as a necessary element in sacramental worship.

Discussion of the charismatic phenomena led to reflection on the competence of the social sciences in relation to the realm of faith. It was agreed that aspects of these phenomena are subject to psychological, linguistic, sociological and anthropological investigation. However, since such phenomena are spiritual realities, scientific disciplines alone cannot give a complete account of them. At this point the question of the relation of nature and grace was also raised.

It was recognized that the Pentecostal movement can bring new freshness to the use and understanding of Scripture and poses new questions to the interpretation of the text. At the same time, differences of exegetical approach to the Scriptures pose problems which have to be further investigated. Expectant faith and an openness to the gift of the Holy Spirit are characteristic of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. But it was agreed that the gift of the discerning of spirits is essential to confirm and authenticate awareness of the Holy Spirit's influence and intention. A good deal of discussion was devoted to describing the criteria of discernment and it was agreed that all such criteria must be based on the Incarnation, the lordship of Christ, and the building up of His Church.

Previous meetings in this dialogue have dealt with the relationship between speaking in tongues and the Pentecostal experience. It came up again on this occasion in light of developments on both sides over recent years and may need to be examined further in future meetings.

A recurring emphasis throughout the meeting was the will of Christ for the unity of his followers and the power of the Holy Spirit to make this unity effective in their lives and in the Christian community. The insights and riches of each group of Christians are needed for the wholeness of the Body of Christ.

His Eminence Cardinal Albino Luciani, Patriarch of Venice, paid a visit to the meeting and was present for luncheon on the final day.


Classical Pentecostals:

Dr. David J. du Plessis (Chairman), USA; Dr. John McTernan (Secretary), Italy ; Rev. R. McAlister, USA; Dr. John Meares, USA; Dr. F. P. Moller, Republic of South Africa; Pastor J. T. du Plessis, Republic of South Africa.


Rev. Arnold Bittlinger (Lutheran), West Germany; Rev. Larry Christenson (Episcopalian), USA; Rev. David ColIins (Episcopalian), USA; Rev. Michael Harper (Anglican), England; Dr. Daniel A. Tappeiner, USA; Dr. Francis Whiting (American Baptist), USA; Dr. J. Rodman Williams (Presbyterian), USA; Dr. Aloys von OrelIi, Switzerland; Rev. Thomas Roberts, France.

Roman Catholics:

Rev. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B. (Chairman), USA; Rev. Basil Meeking (Secretary), Vatican; Rev. Pierre Duprey, Vatican; Prof. Balthasar Fischer, West Germany; Rev. John Mahoney, S.J., England; Prof. Heribert Mühlen, West Germany; Prof. Walter Semt, S.J., Belgium.


[Information Service 28 (1975/III) 14-15]