Rome, Italy, 18-22, 1973


The dialogue between the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church. and leaders of some Pentecostal churches and also participants in the charismatic movement within Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches, continued in a second meeting held in Rome, June 18-22, 1973. At the end of the meeting the following press statement was issued:

“The best of the modern Pentecostal movement has much in common with the highest and best in the Catholic mystical tradition as seen in the holy and charismatic lives of the saints ", said Dr. Vinson Synan, a classical Pentecostal and professor of Church history at Emmanuel College, Franklin Springs, Georgia, U.S.A., speaking in a meeting held June 18-22, 1973 at the convent of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts in Rome. Another speaker on the same occasion, Father Athanasios Emmert, said: "Never before has there been such a vast sweep of a movement of the Spirit in such a dramatically short period of time".

The meeting was the second in a series of five which are part of the international dialogue organised by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church and some leaders of Pentecostal churches and participants in the charismatic renewal within Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches.

This year's meeting dealt with the role of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit in the mystical tradition, with special reference to that of the East. In an address entitled “Charismatic Movements in History within the Church tradition”, Father Louis Bouyer, Cong. Orat., professor at the Institut Catholique at Paris, demonstrated the continuity of the Pentecostal manifestations of the Spirit in the Christian tradition from the primitive Church to the present day. This theme was further developed in the paper of Dr. Synan which compared and contrasted the manifestations of the Spirit as found in the modern Pentecostal tradition with a number of prominent Roman Catholic saints and mystics. It was noted in discussion that a distinction is to be made between mystical and charismatic experiences, the former being generally oriented towards personal union with God and the latter more directed towards building up a community and missionary witness. Consideration was given to the historic background of Pentecostalism in a paper delivered by Revd. David J. du Plessis, world Pentecostal leader.

It was recognized that the contemporary charismatic renewal is not to be seen in terms of separatist tendencies. Rather, in a remarkable degree it seems to be working within the accepted structures of the Churches and to be a strong force drawing Christians together across confessional boundaries.

While participants had differing views about the objective merits of the traditions of spirituality which have grown up in the course of history there was agreement that Pentecostal charismatic spirituality is concerned with central aspects of the Christian reality. The focus was seen to be on the fullness of life in the Spirit. The present charismatic renewal seems in many instances to parallel the manifestations of the power of the Spirit in the first period of the life of the Christian Church.

There was also discussion on the relation of baptism in water and baptism in the Spirit, and the matter of infant and adult believers' baptism was raised. It was decided to continue this study at the next meeting.

Concern was expressed lest those not endowed with charismatic gifts and manifestations come to be regarded as inferior Christians when the real test of Christian is love of God and neighbour. The differences between the Pentecostal Christian and the devout committed Christian is a matter of theological focus, expanded openness and expectancy with regard to certain charismatic gifts. From these can result differences of religious experience,

Those who delivered other papers were Father Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., Executive Director of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Collegeville, U.S.A. and Monsignor Balthasar Fischer, of the Liturgical Institute, Trier, Germany. The latter dealt with the relation of baptism in the Holy Spirit to the rites of Christian initiation.

Dr. John McTernan, President of the International Evangelical Church, Rome, Father Albert de Monléon, O.P., a Roman Catholic priest, from the ecumenical centre ISTINA, Paris, France, Pastor Arnold Bittlinger, of the Lutheran Church, Director of the Ecumenical Academy, Schloss Craheim, Rev. Heribert Miìhlen, Professor of Catholic Theology, Paderborn, Germany, and Father Athanasios Emmert, Orthodox priest at the Ecumenical Academy, Schloss Craheim, gave reactions to the papers.

Co-chairmen of the meeting were Rev. David du Plessis and Fr. Kilian McDonnell. The other participants were: Pastor Leonard Steiner, Swiss Pentecostal churches, from Basel, Dr. Rodman Williams of the Presbyterian Church, Director of the Ecumenical Research Center, Anaheim, California, U.S.A., Rev. John Tardibono, International Evangelical Church, Christian Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, V.S.A. and Rev. Michael Harper, Anglican, Director of the Fountain Trust, England. Fr. Pierre Duprey, W.F., Fr. Bonaventura Kloppenburg, O.F.M. and Rev. Basil Meeking were from the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome.

During the course of the meeting participants had an opportunity to become better acquainted with their respective traditions by taking part in services of worship. This proved important for the good spirit and growth in mutual understanding which were a feature of the meeting.

Rome, June 22, 1973.


[Information Service 22 (1973/IV) 30-31]