PONTIFICIUM CONSILIUM AD CHRISTIANORUM UNITATEM FOVENDAM
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY
Bishop Brian Farrell
The period since the last Plenary (November 2016) till today has been characterized in a particular way by the year 2017, the year of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary since the beginning of Luther’s Reformation. For the first time it was possible for Lutherans and Catholics to commemorate this anniversary together, allowing themselves to be inspired by three fundamental attitudes: gratitude to God for the positive outcomes of the Reformation, repentance for the division in the Church, and hope in a new era of collaboration in service and mission. After the common commemoration presided over by Pope Francis and the leaders of the Lutheran World Federation, on 31 October 2016 in Lund (Sweden), our Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity participated in numerous events over the following year, of which mention will be made later.
Another event of great significance and ecumenical impact was held on 7 July 2018, when Pope Francis invited to Bari the leaders of Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the Middle East, Catholics and Orthodox, for prayer and reflection on peace in the region. The event was attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I; the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros II; Archbishop Nektarios, representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III; Metropolitan Hilarion, representing the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill; Metropolitan Vasilios, representing the Archbishop of Cyprus; the Pope and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, Tawadros II; the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem; the Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, Aram; Bishop Hovakim, representing the Supreme Catholicos of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin; the Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Gewargis, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Sani Ibrahim Azar; the Acting Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches, Dr Souraya Bechealany; together with the Patriarchs of the Catholic Eastern Churches and the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The meeting included a prayer moment with the participation of the faithful and a reserved meeting for the Heads of Churches.
As well as these more significant events, there continued the sensitive and patient, complex and less notable work that marks the commitment for the search for Christian unity.
Theological dialogue with the Orthodox Churches as a whole
At the conclusion of the last plenary session held in Chieti in 2016, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church requested that the Coordinating Commitment prepare a draft on the theme on which to proceed with the theological dialogue. A meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Commission took place in Leros (Greece) from 5–9 September 2017, co–presided by the President of the PCPCU and Archbishop Job (Getcha) of Telmessos. Ten Orthodox members and nine Catholic members attended the meeting.
It was decided at the meeting in Leros to entrust to a sub–commission comprising four Orthodox and the same number of Catholics the preparation of draft on the theme “Towards Unity in Faith: Theological and Canonical Questions” to be discussed at the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee envisaged by the end of 2018. At the same time, the Coordinating Committee decided to commence work also on a second document, looking at remaining open questions. In particular, in continuity with the document approved in Chieti, “Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church”, a second sub–commission was assigned the task of preparing a draft of a document on “Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today”. In this document of a more strictly ecclesiological nature, the theme of uniatism will be examined. In December 2017 and June 2018 the two sub–commissions met, and the outcomes of their work will be examined in the meeting of the Coordinating Committee to take place from 13–17 November at the Bose monastery.
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
On 29 April 2017, Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for the sixth time met in Cairo, Egypt, on the occasion of the International Peace Conference organized by the Al–Azhar University. They both took part in the ecumenical prayer together with other Heads of Churches in the country.
From 26–29 June 2017, in the context of the traditional exchange of visits on the occasion of their respective feast days, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate visited Rome for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The delegation was led by Archbishop Job Getcha, Co–President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. On the morning of 27 June, the members of the delegation were received by Pope Francis, while in the afternoon the customary conversations between the PCPCU and the delegation took place. On the morning of 29 June the delegation attended Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, presided over by Pope Francis for the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
From 28 November to 1 December 2017 a delegation of the Holy See, led by Cardinal Kurt Koch, visited Istanbul for the feast of Saint Andrew, patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On the afternoon of 28 November the delegation was received in a private audience with His All Holiness Bartholomew I in the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Later, the delegation attended a meeting organized by the Latin Vicariate in Istanbul to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the visit of Blessed Paul VI to the Phanar. The main addresses at the meeting were presented by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Cardinal Koch. On the afternoon of 29 November, conversations took place between the delegation of the Holy See and the Synodal Commission for relations with the Catholic Church. On the morning of 30 November, the delegation attended the Divine Liturgy presided over by His All Holiness Bartholomew I in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George at the Phanar.
From 23–26 May 2018, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I visited Rome in order to take part in the International Conference organized by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontefice Foundation on the theme “New Policies and Life–styles in the Digital Age”. As well as his participation in a prayer service in the Basilica of the XII Apostoli, the Patriarch also met with Pope Francis.
From 27–29 June 2018, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate visited Rome for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The delegation was led by Archbishop Job Getcha, Co–President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. On the morning of 28 June, the members of the delegation were received by Pope Francis, while in the afternoon the customary conversations between the PCPCU and the delegation took place. On the morning of 29 June the delegation attended Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, presided over by Pope Francis for the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
On 7 July 2018, in Bari, the Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomew I took part in the Day of prayer and reflection for peace in the Middle East.
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
From 22–25 October 2017 the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilos III, visited Rome to meet with Pope Francis. The meeting took place on 23 October. His Beatitude was accompanied by Archbishop Aristarchos, Head of the Secretariat of the Patriarchate, as well as by Archdeacon Markos, Mr Rami Moghrabi and Mr Nader Elias Moghrabi. During his stay in Rome, His Beatitude Theophilos III also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Monsignor Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with the States. The Patriarch and his delegation also had conversations with the President of the PCPCU, and Cardinal Jean–Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
21–23 November 2016: Cardinal Koch took part in the celebrations for the 70th birthday of the Patriarch of Moscow. Private meeting with Patriarch Kirill.
12 February 2017, at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), upon the invitation of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, commemorated the first anniversary of the meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia held in Havana (Cuba) on 12 February 2016.
23 March in Moscow, at the Department for External Church Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, Cardinal Koch accompanied by Reverend Hyacinthe Destivelle took part in the third meeting of the Joint Working Group for the coordination of cultural projects between the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate.
6–13 May, upon the invitation of the PCPCU, a group of 12 young priests of the Moscow Patriarchate undertook a study visit to Rome organized, for the second time, in collaboration with the Department for External Church Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate.
21–25 May, Monsignor Andrea Palmieri and Reverend Hyacinthe Destivelle accompanied a delegation from the Archdiocese of Bari, led by Archbishop Francesco Cacucci, for the temporary transfer to Russia of a relic of Saint Nicholas. On 22 May the delegation was received by Patriarch Kirill.
26–28 July, Cardinal Koch led a delegation to Saint Petersburg on the occasion of the return to Bari of the relic of Saint Nicholas. On 28 July, after the Divine Liturgy and a reception hosted by Metropolitan Varsonofij of Saint Petersburg, the delegation was received by Patriarch Kirill.
26 August–3 September Reverend Destivelle accompanied to Russia a group of 12 young Catholic priests and students of the Pontifical universities of Rome, upon the invitation of the Patriarchate, for a study visit of Moscow, Novgorod and Saint Petersburg organized, for the third time, in collaboration with the PCPCU.
Joint working group for the coordination of cultural projects between the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate, co–resided by Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion: 23 March 2017: third meeting in Moscow; 26 September 2017: fourth meeting in Rome.
June 2018: Exhibition on Russian Christian martyrs of the 20th century organized at the Lateran Palace in collaboration with the PCPCU, the Patriarchal Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Culture.
6–13 May 2017: second study visit to the Vatican of a group of 12 Russian priests; 25 August–3 September 2017, third visit to Moscow of a group of 12 Catholic priests.
19–26 May 2018: third study visit to the Vatican; 24 August–2 September: fourth study visit to Russia.
Orthodox Church of Belarus (Moscow Patriarchate)
11–15 June 2018: visit to Rome of a delegation of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Institute of Theology of Minsk.
After its first two meetings in 2016 (12–13 July 2016 in the Vatican; 17–18 October 2016 in Zagreb), a Joint Commission of Croatian Catholic and Serbian Orthodox experts on a common re–reading of the figure of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, met four times in 2017 under the presidency of Very Reverend Father Bernard Ardura, President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences: 13–14 February at Novi Sad (Serbia), 20–21 April at Požega (Croatia), 7–8 June at Podgorica (Montenegro), and 12–13 July in the Vatican. For the sixth and final meeting, the members of the Joint Commission issued a joint communiqué stating that “In the case of Cardinal Stepinac, the prevalent interpretations given by, respectively, Croatian Catholics and Serbian Orthodox, still remain divergent”. The members of the Commission also agreed on “the possibility of a future collaboration, with a view to joint work, to share the memory of the martyrs and confessors of the two Churches”. The Bishops’ Conference of Croatia was represented by: Cardinal Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb, Bishop Antun Škvorćević, Bishop of Požega, Bishop Ratko Perić, Bishop of Mostar–Duvno, Dr Jure Krišto and Dr Mario Jareb, of the Croatian Historical Institute. The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church: the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral Amfilohije; the Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana Porfirije; the Bishop of Novi Sad and Baćka Irinej; the Bishop of Pakrac and Slavonia Jovan, and Professor Dr Darko Tanasković, Representative of Serbia to UNESCO.
Orthodox Church of Greece
On 14 May 2017 in Athens, Monsignor Palmieri took part in the celebration presided over by the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, His Beatitude Hieronymus II for the reception of the relics of Saint Helen temporarily transferred to Greece from the Patriarchate of Venice. The celebration, which was attended by a massive crowd of faithful and numerous bishops and clerics of the Church of Greece, was also attended on the Catholic side by a delegation of the Patriarchate of Venice, the Catholic Archbishop of Athens Sebastianos Roussolatos, and the Secretary of the Nunciature in Greece, Monsignor Massimo Catterin.
Every year a modern Greek language and Greek Orthodox culture summer study programme, organized by the Apostoliki Diakonia in collaboration with the PCPCU, takes place in July in Athens, attended by 20 Catholic students, mainly young priests and seminarians from different parts of the world.
From 22–26 October, a group of 25 priests from the Metropolitan See of Nea Ionia, led by Metropolitan Gabriel, undertook a study visit to Rome. The group was received by Cardinal Koch and took part in the general audience on Wednesday 26 October.
From 14–18 April 2018 a delegation of the Theological College of Athens, administered by the Apostoliki Diakonia, comprising 22 people including staff and students, clerics and lay people, led by the Orthodox Bishop Agathanghelos, General Director of the Apostoliki Diakonia, visited Rome in order to enable the young students of Orthodox theology to gain a better insight into the Catholic Church. The group was received by Cardinal Koch and took part in the general audience on Wednesday 18 April.
Patriarchate of Georgia
25–29 June 2018: third research visit in the Vatican of scholars of the Patriarchate of Georgia.
Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia
From 1–3 October 2017 Cardinal Koch, accompanied by Reverend Destivelle, visited Slovakia in order to gain a closer understanding of the ecumenical situation and to promote relations among the different Christian traditions of the country, in particular with His Beatitude Rastislav, Archbishop of Prešov and Metropolitan of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and Metropolitan Juraj of Michalovce and Kosice, Secretary for international relations of the same Church. 9–12 May 2018: visit to Rome of Metropolitan Rastislav. Audience with Pope Francis. 20 August 2018: in Prešov, meeting between Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Rastislav.
SOME OTHER ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS
From 9–12 January 2017 in Paris (France), upon the invitation of Cardinal André Vingt–Trois, the fifth Catholic–Orthodox European Forum took place. Organized by the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and European Orthodox Churches, the Forum focused on the theme “Europe in Fear of the Threat from Fundamentalist Terrorism, and the Value of the Human Person and Religious Freedom”. The PCPCU was represented by Father Destivelle.
From 19–22 June in Washington (United States), on the occasion of the XXI Orientale Lumen Conference on “Chieti and Crete: Two Historical Events” organized by the Orientale Lumen Foundation, Father Destivelle presented a paper on “Synodality: An Ecumenical Issue. Perspectives on Synodality in Pope Francis, at the Council of Crete, and in the Chieti Document”.
From 5–9 September, at the Bose Monastery (Italy), Father Destivelle took part in the XXV international ecumenical conference on Orthodox spirituality on the theme “The Gift of Hospitality”. At the beginning of the proceedings Father Destivelle read the message of Cardinal Koch addressed to Fratel Luciano Manicardi, Prior of Bose, and to the participants in the colloquium, among which were the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros.
THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
Dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches
The members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches met from 22–27 January 2017, under the co–presidency of Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The meeting took place in Rome, hosted by the PCPCU. The members of the Commission deepened their study on historical, theological and ecclesiology aspects of the Holy Eucharist, as celebrated in the various Churches. The recognition of a shared patrimony of the early Christian liturgical texts that later developed the theology and practice of the Holy Eucharist was completed by descriptions of particular aspects of the different Churches. There was also a discussion on pastoral questions in the communities of the diaspora, on the challenges of secularism and their impact on the younger generations, and the possibility of a pastoral adaptation of the traditional liturgies.
The 15th meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches took place in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, from January 29 to February 5, 2018, hosted by the Catholicosate of All Armenians. It was chaired jointly by His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and by His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette. During the plenary meetings, the members continued their consideration of the sacraments with special emphasis on Penance/Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders. The papers on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation demonstrated consensus that it is one of the seven sacraments in all our Churches, having developed from the practice of public penance in the early Christian centuries. The papers on the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick considered the biblical and patristic references about healing and anointing identifying Jesus Christ as the True Physician in all our traditions. The papers on the Sacrament of Holy Orders converged in seeing a three‑fold ministry, bishop, priest and deacon.
Dialogue with the Malankara Churches in India
The Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church held its 20th meeting at the Patriarch Centre in Puthencruz (Kerala) on 11 December 2017. The meeting was co–presided by Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the PCPCU, and Metropolitan Kuriakose Mar Theophilose, Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Discussion focused primarily on the following themes: Joint Pastoral Guidelines on Inter‑Church marriage, Ecclesiology of Saint Ephrem, The Catholic Understanding of Local‑Universal Church, The Syrian Orthodox Understanding of Local‑Universal Church.
Shortly after, from 12–13 December 2017, in the Mar Baselios Dayara (Monastery) in Njaliakuzhy (Kottayam), the meeting took place of the Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, co–presided by Bishop Farrell and Metropolitan Gabriel Mar Gregorios, President of the Department for Ecumenical Relations of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. Various issues were on the agenda, including the presentation of two documents of the Catholic–Oriental Orthodox dialogue: “Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church” (2009), and “The Exercise of Communion in the Life of the Early Church and its Implications for our Search for Communion Today” (2015).
The Joint Commission for dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church will take place on Monday 10 December 2018 at the Spirituality Centre, Manganam, Kottayam. The following issues will be on the agenda: republishing the text of the Agreement Between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church on Inter‑Church Marriages (signed in 1994) and the Pastoral Guidelines on Marriages Between Members of the Catholic Church and of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. In this way the document can be sent to the parishes; finalizing the 'common reflection' on the pastoral guidelines signed by the authorities of both Churches.
Shortly after, from 11–12 December 2018, the meeting of the Joint Commission for dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, co–presided by Bishop Farrell and Metropolitan Mar Gregorios, President of the Department for Ecumenical Relations of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, will take place in the Spirituality Centre, Manganam, Kottayam.
Coptic Orthodox Church
Pope Francis visited Egypt from 28–29 April for a pastoral journey. The Holy Father met with Sheikh Ahmed al‑Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al–Azhar. Pope Francis met with Pope Tawadros, and later prayed with him at the wall of the martyrs in the church of Saint Peter, in the suburb of al–Abassiya, where 29 people were killed in a terroristic attack in December 2016. Pope Francis and the Coptic Pope signed a common declaration in which they expressed the aspiration to overcome the obstacles impeding the mutual recognition of baptism.
Armenian Apostolic Church
In the company of outgoing Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, and with the participation of two Patriarchs of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church, Pope Francis presided over the inauguration and blessing of the statue of St Gregory of Narek in the Vatican Gardens on April 5, 2018.
Assyrian Church of the East
The Joint Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East met from 21–24 November 2017 at the PCPCU in Rome. On 24 November, Cardinal Kurt Koch and His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia, in the name of the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the Easter, officially signed a Common Declaration on sacramental life. On the same day, the Commission presented the Common Declaration on sacramental life to Pope Francis. the signing of the document concluded the second phase of dialogue. Next November the Commission will meet again in Rome.
CATHOLIC COMMITTE FOR CULTURAL COLLABORATION
The main commitment of the Committee has been the granting of scholarships for theological studies to students, both clergy and lay people, from the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. In the 2016–2017 academic year, the Committee supported 32 students with an annual scholarship and 18 students with a partial subsidy, either to complete their studies, to undertake research in libraries or to attend language courses. Overall the Committee granted 50 scholarships. In the 2017–2018 academic year, the Committee will support 30 students with an annual scholarship and 14 students with partial scholarships (or from one to three months, or university fees only).
With regard to the special collaborative projects with various Orthodox institutes, scholarships have been granted for French language courses to students of the Institute of Orthodox Theology of Chambésy and the Saint John of Damascene Theological Institute of the Balamand University, as well as to students presented by the Apostoliki Diakonia of the Church of Greece. Furthermore, collaboration has continued with the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey.
ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES OF THE WEST
The Anglican Communion
On 26 February 2017, Pope Francis visited the Anglican parish of All Saints in Rome for evening prayer.
On 13th March Anglican Choral Evensong was held in St Peter’s Basilica for the first time. Archbishop Sir David Moxon presided and Archbishop Arthur Roche preached. The date was chosen as the nearest available day to the historic feast day of St Gregory the Great (the date still kept in the Anglican calendar), who has become an unofficial patron of relations between the two communions.
Archbishop Moxon retired after four years of service as Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and as personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See. On 16 June, Pope Francis received Archbishop Moxon and some family members.
31st October Bishop Brian Farrell and Rev Anthony Currer attended a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the end of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Dean of Westminster Abbey, Rev Dr John Hall, presided and Archbishop Justin Welby preached. Following a resolution of the Anglican Consultative Committee in 2016 the Archbishop formally affirmed the Joint Declaration for the Doctrine of Justification, an affirmation which was received by representatives from the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Received Churches. Bishop Brian Farrell received this affirmation on behalf of the Pontifical Council.
Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission
The Plenary meeting was held in Erfürt, Germany, 14-20 May 2017. The Commission worked through a draft text prepared in February, together with written responses to this text submitted by members. By the end of the week the Commission was able to approve the document, entitled Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be the Church- Local, Regional, Universal, as an agreed statement of the Commission. This is the first ARCIC agreed statement since 2005. Walking Together on the Way was published, together with a Catholic commentary written by Fr Ormond Rush, in July 2018.
A planning group drawn from the Commission, and chaired by Archbishop Bernard Longley and Archbishop Sir David Moxon met in the monastery of San Masseo, Assisi, 13‑19 May, hosted by the Bose Community, to plan the next phase of the Commission's work on how the Church as communion discerns right ethical teaching.
Relations with the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop Justin Welby visited Rome 26-27 October. On 26 October the Archbishop presided at Evensong celebrated at the Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita in which he Commissioned Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi from Burundi as the new director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See. Archbishop Welby met with Pope Francis on the morning of 27 October and presented his new Personal Representative to the Holy See.
Visits and other events
19th-23rd March The Malines Conversations Group met in Clare College Cambridge. Rev Anthony Currer attended from the Pontifical Council. The group considered the question of the recognition of orders from a theological, liturgical and canonical point of view.
6-9 November Father Anthony Currer attended the Fourth International Receptive Ecumenism Conference in Canberra, Australia. There he read a greeting to the Conference from Cardinal Kurt Koch and took part in a panel presentation of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission’s most recent agreed statement, Walking Together on the Way.
30 November Reverend Anthony Currer attended an evensong and Eucharist at Westminster Abbey, giving thanks for the work of the Anglican Centre, Rome. Afterwards he and Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi addressed a gathering of the Friends of the Anglican Centre in the Abbey on the state of current Anglican-Catholic relations.
16 January Bishop Brian Farrell and Father Anthony Currer welcomed a group of Anglican bishops to the Pontifical Council. The group was led by Bishop Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph, and included bishops from the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church of Ireland. Bishop Farrell presented the current state of our relations and there was a time of questions.
World Methodist Council
Methodist–Roman Catholic International Commission
2017 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission which first met in Aricia, outside Rome, in 1967. Since that first meeting the Commission has completed ten rounds of dialogue and this year began an eleventh round on the theme of reconciliation and how as Christians we can be both a reconciled and a reconciling community. To mark the anniversary this meeting was held at Convento di Palazzola, close to the site of the original meeting (15-22 October). On 19 October the Commission travelled into Rome where, together with members of World Methodist Council Steering Committee who were also meeting in Rome, they had an audience with Pope Francis. The Methodist delegation presented the Pope with a bound copy of the dialogue Commission’s most recent agreed statement, The Call to Holiness: from Glory to Glory. Later, on the same day, an ecumenical vespers was celebrated at the Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita at which Bishop Brian Farrell presided and Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council preached.
International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Union of Utrecht
The last meeting of the second phase of the International Roman Catholic–Old Catholic Commission for Dialogue between the PCPCU and the Bishops’ Conference of Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht was held from 11–12 July in Paderborn (Germany), co–presided on the Catholic side by Archbishop Hans–Josef Becker (Paderborn) and on the Old Catholic side by Bishop Matthias Ring (Bonn). The Commission completed its work over the last five years and presented its new consensus document entitled “The Church and Ecclesial Communion. First and second Reports of the International Roman Catholic–Old Catholic Commission for Dialogue 2009 and 2016”. Monsignor Türk participated as Co–Secretary.
Lutheran World Federation
The European ecumenical day “European Roadmap – Europäischer Stationenweg”, Rome, 18 January 2017
A delegation of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) led by the President of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia, Ms Annette Kurschus, also Vice–President of the Council of Evangelical Churches in Germany, visited Rome on the occasion of the European ecumenical day.
The visit of an ecumenical delegation from Finland on the occasion of the feast of Saint Henry, patron of Finland, Rome, 16–21 January 2017
On 19 January, honouring a longstanding custom going back more than 30 years, Pope Francis received in a private audience an ecumenical delegation visiting Rome from Finland, on the occasion of the feast of Saint Henry, patron of Finland, led by the Lutheran Bishop of Turk, Right Reverend Kaarlo Kalliala, His Excellency Ilia, Orthodox Metropolitan of Oulu, and the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Helsinki, Most Reverend Teemu Sippo, SCJ. The visit was marked by an ecumenical celebration at Santa Maria sopra Minerva on 19 January, and Vespers in the Church of the Sisters of Saint Bridget , as well as a meeting at the PCPCU with Cardinal Koch, Bishop Farrell and Monsignor Türk discussing ecumenical relations in Finland.
Seventh Consultation with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE)
The seventh consultation between the PCPCU and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) held in Speyer, Germany, 2–4 February dealt with the questions of the concept of the Church and the definition of the ecumenical goal, following on from reflection in previous years. The meeting, co–presided by Bishop Karl–Heinz Wiesemann, Bishop of Speyer (Germany), and by the President of the “Pfalz” Evangelical Church, Christian Schad, was attended by seven theologians on each side.
Visit of the delegation of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Rome, 6 February 2017
On the occasion of the year of the common commemoration of the Reformation, a delegation led by the President of the Council, the Lutheran Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bavaria, Bishop Heinrich Bedford–Strohm, met with the Holy Father Pope Francis in a private audience together with the President of the German Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and the Ambassador of the Federal German Republic to the Holy See, Ms Annette Schavan. As well as the private audience, a meeting with Cardinal Koch and Bishop Farrell took place at the PCPCU, during which discussion focused on ecumenical relations in Germany. At the end of the visit, the delegation held an ecumenical prayer service at the tomb of the Apostle Peter in the Vatican Basilica.
International symposium “Luther and the sacraments. A Catholic re–reading in an ecumenical perspective”, organized jointly the PCPCU, the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Johann–Adam–Möhler Institute of Paderborn, Rome, 26 February–1 March 2017
Renowned international scholars gathered at the Pontifical Gregorian University for a Catholic re–reading of Luther and the sacraments in an ecumenical perspective. Among others, Cardinal Koch, President of the PCPCU, presented a paper on “Luther and the Reformation”, and Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on “The Church as the Place of Justification”.
Meeting of the “Drafting Group” of the Lutheran–Catholic Commission for Unity, 1–4 March 2017
Eight members and consultors met in order to prepare the texts on the theme “Baptism and Growing Ecclesial Communion” to be discussed at the next plenary of the Commission scheduled for July.
Joint Staff Meeting between the LWF and the PCPCU, Rome, 27–28 March 2017
Cardinal Koch and Bishop Farrell attended on the Catholic side; on the Lutheran side, Reverend Martin Junge, Secretary General of the LWF, and Dr Kaisamari Hintikka, Vice Secretary for Ecumenical Relations.
Meeting of the academic committee of the Johann–Adam–Möhler Institute of Paderborn, Germany, 29–31 March 2017
The meeting focussed on the theme of the Reformation and theological reception of Martin Luther. Bishop Farrell presented the activities of the PCPCU in 2016. The Director of the Institute, Professor Dr Wolfgang Thönissen, presented the report of the authorities of the Institute regarding the ecumenical situation in 2016.
Plenary meeting of the LWF, Windhoek, Namibia, 10–16 May 2017
The main theme of the plenary meeting of the LWF was “Liberated by Grace. Salvation: Not for Sale; Human Beings: Not for Sale; Creation: Not for Sale”. During the meeting, the delegates elected the new President of the LWF, Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa of Nigeria, as well as new vice–presidents of the seven regions of the LWF and new members of the LWF Council. Cardinal Koch and Emeritus Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre attended as representatives of the Catholic Church.
Eighth Consultation with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE)
The eighth consultation between the PCPCU and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) was held in Münich, Germany, from 3–5 July. Monsignor Matthias Türk took part as Co–Secretary. The publication of the final report is envisaged for 2018.
Eighth plenary meeting of the fifth phase of the Lutheran–Catholic Commission for Unity, Opole, Poland, 18–25 July 2017
The Lutheran–Catholic Commission for Unity was co–presided on the Lutheran side by Bishop Emeritus Eero Huovinen of Helsinki (Finland) and on the Catholic side by Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary of the Diocese of Birmingham (England), and continued its study of the theme “Baptism and Growing Ecclesial Communion”. Monsignor Türk took part as Co–Secretary.
Visit of the new President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rome, 7 December 2017
The new LWF President, Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa, Nigeria, and Secretary General, Reverend Martin June, were received in private audience by the Holy Father Pope Francis.
Joint Staff Meeting between the LWF and the PCPCU, Geneva, 17–18 January 2018
Representatives of the LWF and PCPCU regularly meet for consultations at least once a year, alternating between Geneva and Rome. The conversations focus on current issues and planning for the international Catholic–Lutheran dialogue. The Catholic participants were Cardinal Koch, Bishop Farrell and Monsignor Türk. The Lutheran participants were: Reverend Junge, LWF Secretary General, and Reverend Dr Hintikka, Vice–Secretary General for Ecumenical Relations. A cross especially painted for the common ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden, 31 October 2016, was installed in the Chapel of the Ecumenical Centre during an ecumenical service presided over by Cardinal Koch and Reverend Junge.
The visit of an ecumenical delegation from Finland on the occasion of the feast of Saint Henry, patron of Finland, Rome, 19–25 January 2018
On 25 January Pope Francis received in a private audience an ecumenical delegation visiting Rome from Finland on the occasion of the feast of Saint Henry, patron of Finland, led by the Lutheran Bishop of Espoo, Tapio Luoma, together with the Bishop of the Orthodox Church of Finland, Bishop Arseni of Joensuu and the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Helsinki, Bishop Teemu Sippo, SCJ. During the private audience, the delegation presented the Holy Father with a copy of the new consensus text entitled “Communion in Growth. Declaration on the Church, Eucharist, and Ministry”. This new important outcome of the Lutheran–Catholic dialogue in Finland was also presented to the public on 23 January 2018 during a symposium at the Centro Pro Unione, Rome.
As well as the ecumenical celebration at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva on 19 January, feast day of Saint Henry, and Vespers in the Church of the Sisters of Saint Bridget, there was also a meeting at the PCPCU.
Meeting of the “Drafting Group” of the Lutheran–Catholic Commission for Unity, 25 February–1 March 2018
Meeting of the academic committee of the Johann–Adam–Möhler Institute of Paderborn, Germany, 14–16 March 2018
The meeting of the academic committee discussed the theme “Liturgy and Ecumenism”. Monsignor Usma Gómez, head of the Western Section of the PCPCU, presented the ecumenical activities of the PCPCU at the international level in 2017.
Meeting of the LWF Council, Geneva, Switzerland, 27 June–2 July 2018
Presided by the new LWF President, Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa, Nigeria, together with the Secretary General, Reverend June, the new LWF Council met on the main theme “Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8)”. Monsignor Türk took part as an observer.
Ninth plenary meeting of the fifth phase of the Lutheran–Catholic Commission for Unity, Klingenthal, France, 18–24 July 2018
Hosted by the PCPCU and the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Foundation (Basle, Switzerland), the Lutheran–Catholic Commission for Unity, co–presided for the Lutheran side by Bishop Emeritus Eero Huovinen of Helsinki (Finland) and on the Catholic side by Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary of the Diocese of Birmingham (England), continued and concluded its work on the theme “Baptism and Growing Ecclesial Communion” . Monsignor Türk took part as co–secretary.
World Communion of Reformed Churches
The 26th General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) met at the Congress Centre, Leipzig, Germany, from 27 June to 7 July 2017. Reverend Avelino Gonzalez-Ferrer participated as an ecumenical guest and observer representing the PCPCU. On 5 July, during the General Council, a significant milestone on the ecumenical journey was undertaken through the formal association of WCRC to the Catholic–Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The signing ceremony, involving Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed representatives, took place in Wittenberg, Germany. The Secretary of the PCPCU, Bishop Brian Farrell, represented the Catholic Church at the signing and read a message of Pope Francis addressed to the WCRC for the occasion.
On 22 September a delegation of the United Church of Christ of the Reformed Church of America, member of the WCRC, visited the PCPCU on its European trip for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The delegation meet with the Secretary, Bishop Brian Farrell.
On 26 October, a delegation of the Church of Scotland, including the new Moderator, Reverend Derek Browning, visited the Holy See and met with Pope Francis. Reverend Dr George Whyte, Reverend Dr John McPake, and Deaconness Anne Mulligan accompanied the Moderator.
From May 10‑15, 2018,the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) held their Executive Committee (ExComm) meeting in Seoul, South Korea. Reverend Avelino Gonzalez‑Ferrer participated as an ecumenical observer for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and presented a greeting from Cardinal Koch. The ExComm meeting presented and approved a Strategic Plan implementing the Actions of the 2017 General Council meeting in Leipzig, Germany, including continued ecumenical engagement and interreligious cooperation.
On July 3 2018, a group of 15 officers from the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the largest Protestant denomination in South Korea, including the moderator, pastors and educators, visited the PCPCU and met with Rev. Avelino Gonzalez‑Ferrer. The group discussed the current state of ecumenical dialogue in South Korea as well as challenges looking to the future in the search for Christian unity.
Trilateral Mennonite‑Lutheran‑Catholic Dialogue
The representatives of the Catholic Church (PCPCU), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) met in Augsburg, Germany, from 8–15 February 2018 for the fifth meeting of the international Commission for Trilateral Dialogue on baptism. The Co–Presidents were Bishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, IMC, for the Catholic Church, Professor Dr Friederike Nüssel, for the Lutheran Church, and Professor Dr Alfred Neufeld for the Mennonites. Reverend Avelino Gonzalez-Ferrer took part as Co-Secretary on the Catholic side.
On 28 May 2018, the Final Report on Mennonite‑Lutheran‑Roman Catholic Trilateral conversations, entitled Baptism and Incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church, was finalized by the drafting group of the International Trilateral Dialogue Commission on Baptism. The trilateral conversation presents a significant step towards the increased mutual understanding and cooperation regarding baptism as it relates to the justification and sanctification of the sinner. The report was submitted for the approval process by the Catholic Church (PCPCU), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) who made up the commission. Conversations occurred from 2012 to 2017.
The Commission participants were as follows: On behalf of the Catholic Church were Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, IMC (co‑chair, Colombia), Revd. Prof. William Henn, OFM‑Cap. (USA/Italy), Revd. Prof. Luis Melo, SM (Canada), Sister Prof. Dr Marie‑Hélène Robert, NDA (France), and Revd. Avelino Gonzalez‑Ferrer (co‑secretary, USA/Vatican). Lutheran delegation members were Prof. Dr. Friederike Nüssel (co‑chair, Germany), Bishop Emeritus Dr. Musawenkosi Biyela (South Africa), Prof. Dr. Theodor Dieter (France), Revd. Raj Bharath Patta (India/UK); and Revd. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka (co‑secretary, Finland/Switzerland), the Mennonites were represented by Prof. Dr. Alfred Neufeld (co‑chair, Paraguay), Prof. Dr. Fernando Enns (Germany), Prof. Dr. John Rempel (Canada), Revd. Dr. Larry Miller (co‑secretary, France).
Disciples of Christ
The fifth session of the fifth phase of dialogue with the Disciples of Christ took place in June 2017 on the theme “Living the Sacraments”. Two presentation were discussed during the session, drafted respectively by Bishop David Ricken for the Catholic side on the theme “Transformed by the Eucharist: Living Encounter with Jesus Christ”, and by Reverend Newell Williams for the Disciples on the theme “Transformed by the Eucharist: Coming Face to Face with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ”. This meeting concluded the cycle of thematic studies of the current phase and commenced the drafting of the final report. The drafting committee, comprising Reverend Robert Welsh, Reverend Thomas Best, Reverend David Thompson, representing the Disciples of Christ, and on the Catholic side Reverend Michael Witzcak and Monsignor Juan Usma Gómez, met twice in order to complete the report, the draft of which was approved at the meeting held in Green Bay, WI, USA, in June 2018. The document, entitled “Do This in Memory of Me. Christians Formed and Transformed by the Eucharist”, was submitted to the competent authorities, which should consent to publication.
From 10–13 May and 13–16 October, the drafting committee held two meetings with a view to preparing the first draft of the final report. The Commission comprises Reverend Robert Welsh, Reverend Thomas Best, Reverend David Thompson, representing the Disciples, and on the Catholic side Reverend Witzcak and Monsignor Juan Usma Gómez.
Baptist World Alliance
The first round of the third phase of international ecumenical conversations between the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the PCPCU was held in the George W. Truett Theological Seminary of the Baylor University, Waco, Texas, from 10–16 December. The Co–Presidents were respectively: Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, USA, for the Catholic Church, and Reverend Dr Frank Rees, Associate Professor and President of the Academic Board of the University of Divinity of Australia, for the BWA. The Catholic delegation comprised seven members: Dr Peter Casarella (USA), Reverend Dr Stephen Fernandes (India), Reverend Dr William Henn, OFM Cap. (Italy), Reverend Dr Przemyslaw Kantyka (Poland), Sister Marie-Hélène Robert, NDA (France), Reverend Dr Jorge A. Scampini, OP (Argentina), and Sister Susan Wood, SCL (USA). Co–Secretaries were Reverend Dr Steven R. Harmon, Associate Professor of Historical Theology at the University School of Divinity of the Gardner–Webb University, Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and Reverend Avelino Gonzalez–Ferrer, official of the PCPCU.
From December 10‑16, 2018, the second round of the Third Phase of international ecumenical conversations between the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Catholic Church (PCPCU), will take place in Rome, addressing the theme of the context of common witness.
On 6 September 2017 the Salvation Army celebrated the 130th anniversary of its service in Italy. Reverend Hyacinthe Destivelle of the PCPCU took part in the celebration. On 25 March 2018, Lieut.-Colonel Massimo Tursi, Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army for Italy and Greece, invited Reverend Avelino Gonzalez–Ferrer as guest homilist for the Palm Sunday celebrations at the Rome Center at Via degli Apuli, 41 (San Lorenzo).
Organization of African Instituted Churches
On 23 June 2018, for the first time, a delegation of the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) visited the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis. The delegation was headed by General Secretary, Rev Nicta Lubaale Makiika, and OAIC International Chairman, Most Rev Daniel Chukwudumebi Okoh. The OAIC brings together African Independent Churches (AICs), which are home‑grown African churches founded originally during the colonial period, and which have developed indigenous forms of worship, theology and social organization, all deeply inspired by a vision that is both Christian and African.
Notre Dame Planning Meeting for the 2019 Consultation on
Next Steps Following the Joint Declaration of Justification
On 29 May 2018, a Planning Meeting was held at the PCPCU with representatives of University of Notre Dame, the Lutheran World Federation, the Anglican Communion, the Methodist World Council, and the World Communion of Reformed Churches, to discuss the details of a meeting scheduled for Spring 2019 at the University of Notre Dame. These five bodies have adhered to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and now seek ways to advance the agreement reached. Attending the meet were: Most Rev. Brian Farrell (PCPCU), Dr. Timothy Matovina (NDU), Rev. Kaisa Hintikka (LWF), Rev. Tim MacQuiban (Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome), Rev. John Gibaut (Anglican Church), Rev. Msgr. Matthias Turk (PCPCU), Rev. Hanns Lessings (WCRC), Dr. Chuck Lamphier (NDU), Rev. Avelino A. Gonzalez (PCPCU).
Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Charismatics
International Catholic–Pentecostal Dialogue
From 18–19 May 2017 in the office of the PCPCU a planning meeting was held for the seventh phase of dialogue. Bishop Farrell, Monsignor Usma Gómez and Reverend Pastor David Cole met to plan the new phase of dialogue with the classical Pentecostal leaders and churches. The new phase commences in summer of 2018 and will continue until 2022. The general theme is “Lex orandi, lex credenda: kerigma, prayer and sacramentality”.
From 12–18 July in Springfield, MO, USA, the first session of the seventh phase of dialogue was held. During this meeting reflection commenced with the Catholic paper “Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi ‑ Praying, believing, a way of living” drafted by Professor James Puglisi and “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: Pentecostal Perspectives” prepared by Bishop Christopher A. Stephenson of the Church of God. The dialogue session was hosted by the Evangel University and the Central Assembly, due institutions recognized by the Assemblies of God which, officially, do not take part in the dialogue. To be noted is the participation for the first time at the official level of one of the leaders of the Pentecostal World Conference. Also important to mention the meeting with the local Catholic–Pentecostal Commission which has worked uninterruptedly for 40 years with the support of the Diocese of Springfield– Cape Girardeau and the leadership of the Assemblies of God. The dialogue session was co–presided by Professor Cecil M. Robeck Monsignor Juan Usma Gómez, ad interim.
Conversations with the New Charismatic Churches
Since the last Plenary, the fourth and fifth meetings of the “Conversations between a group of leaders of the New Charismatic Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity” have taken place. In the meeting in 2018 discussion focused on the theme “Living Relationship with Jesus Christ: Mission and Evangelization”, with it also being decided to incorporate the missiological reflections in the text on identity already completed. In the meeting in May 2018, discussion focused on the final draft of the text, which in the meantime was re–read by several leaders of the New Charismatic Churches in various continents. The provisional title of text “The Characteristics of the New Charismatic Churches” will be finalized by the charismatics and will be published by the end of 2018 as a first description of these realities, the fruits of conversations held with the PCPCU. On the Catholic side the meeting was attended by: Bishop Brian Farrell, Monsignor Juan Usma Gómez, Reverend James Puglisi, Dr Teresa Rossi (2018) and Dr Charles Whitehead. Representing the New Charismatic Churches: Reverend Richard Roberts, Reverend Ian Nicholson, Reverend John Noble (2017), Reverend Bob Garrett, Reverend Bill Kennedy, and Reverend Pat Sparrow.
Consultation with the World Evangelical Alliance.
The third series of international Consultations between the Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) completed its report “ ‘Scripture and Tradition’ and ‘the Church in Salvation’ – Catholics and Evangelicals Explore Challenges and Opportunities”, which purposely avoids comparative theology and introduces the reader to the discussions on themes of vital importance for Catholics and Evangelicals, identifying the point reached in the dialogue. The pedagogical style of the drafting aims at indicating a new possible way to a shared reflection that could be possible in the light of the asymmetry of the interlocutors, highlighting the prejudices, clarifications, doubts and discussion where further clarification is necessary. The text was published by Catholics in summer 2017. The World Evangelical Alliance needed to resolve different internal tensions before publishing the text in April 2018 together with various critical comments. In their comments, some authors reiterate, on the one hand, the need to give common witness to a secular and multi–religious society as a priority in adopting a hermeneutic of mutual trust and, on the other hand, the need to warn evangelicals about the dangers of entering into dialogue with Catholics.
On 14 December, the leadership of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) visited Rome for a private meeting with the Holy Father. On the same day a meeting was held with Cardinal Kurt Koch and Monsignor Usma Gómez. The leadership was represented by Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of WEA, Professor Thomas Schirrmacher, Associate General Secretary for Theological Concerns, and Reverend Thomas Johnson, responsible for Interfaith and Intrafaith Relations.
World Council of Churches
Catholic representatives have participated in various commission and working groups of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
In particular, from 21–27 February 2017 in Kaduna (Nigeria), Reverend Andrzej Choromanski attended the third meeting of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace (PJP), the theme chosen at the WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea, as the guiding principle of its mandate. The role of the group, which meets on a yearly basis, is to facilitate and coordinate the participation in the pilgrimage of the member churches of the WCC and of its ecumenical partners.
From 22–23 May, with the participation of the leadership of the WCC, the Pentecostal World Fellowship (PWF), the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the PCPCU, an important consultation took place at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey (Switzerland) aimed at better identifying the respective roles of the various ecumenical organizations. The meeting aimed above all at evaluating and defining together more precisely the specific role of the Global Christian Forum (GCF) in the ecumenical sphere after two decades since its inception. Approximately 25 participants affirmed that the ecumenical movement continues to need an international forum of this type where representatives of the historical churches can engage with those from the newer ecclesial realities – above all evangelicals and pentecostals – on their faith history and witness as well as their shared Christian values. It was highlighted that the GCF should remain a locus for promoting an ecumenism of encounter, life and shared witness, without commencing doctrinal dialogues. The Catholic Church was represented by Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the PCPCU, Monsignor John Radano, Reverend Lawrence Iwuamadi, and Reverend Andrzej Choromanski.
From 5–7 June, Reverend Guido Dotti, of the monastic community of Bose, took part in the annual meeting of the Theological Study Group (TSG) for the PJP that took place at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey (Switzerland). The group was asked to deepen the doctrinal aspects of the theme.
From 23–24 August, the Secretary General of the WCC, Reverend Olav Fykse Tveit, and Dr Agnès Abuom, Moderator of the Central Committee of the WCC, visited Rome. During their stay, the delegation met with the President and other members of the PCPCU to discuss current collaboration. The delegation also visited dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the community of Sant’Egidio. A highlight of the visit was the audience with the Holy Father on 24 August.
From 3–7 October Professor Sandra Mazzolini of the Pontifical Urbaniana University of Rome took part in the conference Ecumenical Perspectives on the Role of Women in the Church: Continuing the Conversation held at the monastery of Bose (Italy). The consultation, organized by commissions of the WCC, aimed at proposing a follow–up to the previous consultation Ecumenical Perspective on the Ordination of Women (1979). 28 men and women representing the main Christian traditions shared the outcomes of the path already undertaken, highlighting positive aspects and critiques, while at the same time identifying constructive perspectives for further theoretical and practical developments.
From 1–6 February 2018, at Bossey, Switzerland, Reverend Andrzej Choromanski took part in the first meeting of the organizing committee for the next WCC Assembly to be held in September 2021 in Karlsruhe, Germany.
From 3–10 February in Bogotá, Colombia, Reverend Guido Dotti, monk at Bose, took part in the fourth annual meeting of the Theological Study Group (TSF) and the reference group of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace (PJP).
From 18–20 September, Bishop Brian Farrell and Avelino Gonzales took part in the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration, organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development together with the WCC in collaboration with our Pontifical Council.
Joint Working Group
The Executive Committee of the Joint Working Group (JWG) met in Dublin (Ireland) from 24–26 April 2017 to discuss the recommendations made during the previous plenary (September 2016 and to plan the next plenary. The meeting was hosted by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and was also an occasion to meet with some representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities of Dublin.
The third plenary session of the tenth phase of the JWG’s work (2015–2021) took place from 12-15 September 2017 in Lisbon (Portugal). Over the four days, the group continued its work on the two themes chosen for this phase of dialogue: 1. The role of religions in the promotion of peace in violent situations; 2. the ecumenical challenges and opportunities related to migrants and refugees. Two working groups, with the inclusion of external experts, were established to study these themes. At the end of the mandate, each group will prepare a document of a pastoral nature to be distributed to the local churches. During the plenary, a day was dedicated to a visit to the sanctuary of Fatima, which this year celebrated the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.
The Executive Committee also meet in Targoviste (Romania) from 4–7 June 2018 in order to evaluate the progress being made by the two theme groups and to plan the plenary for the current year. The meeting was hosted by the Orthodox Metropolitan Nifon, and was also an occasion to meet the Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel.
The fourth plenary session of the current phase of work took place from 3–7 September 2018 in Ottmaring (Germany). The meeting took place in an ecumenical centre administered jointly by the Focolare Movement and the Common Life Movement (Protestant). The meeting commenced with reflections on the ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation introduced by Bishop Heinrich Bedford‑Strohm, President of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). A segment of time was scheduled for an evaluation of the recent visit of Pope Francis to Geneva, presented by the Secretary General of the WCC, Reverend Dr Olav Fykse–Tveit.
The two working groups have continued their tasks on the given themes and have made progress towards preparing report to be presented at the conclusion of the mandate. A further meeting for each theme was scheduled before the end of the year.
During the plenary, an afternoon was dedicated to a visit to Augsburg, a city known for its ecumenical past including the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation. During the visit the group met with the Catholic bishop, who spoke about the pastoral life and ecumenical relations in his diocese.
Faith and Order Commission
Four Catholic theologians nominated by the PCPCU have continued their work in three study groups: 1. Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in the world today Catholic representative: Professor William Henn, OFM Cap).; 2. Ecclesiology: towards a common vision of the Church (Catholic representative: Professor Krzysztof Mielcarek) ; 3. Moral discernment in the Churches (Catholic representatives: Professor Myriam Wijlens and Professor Dr David G. Kirchhoffer).
The plenary session was held from 15–225 June at the eMseni Conference Center on the outskirts of Pretoria (South Africa) and was hosted by the Dutch Reformed Church, which was recently re–admitted into the WCC after its exclusion due to its support of apartheid.
An official Catholic response is being currently prepared to the convergence document on ecclesiology “The Church: Towards a Common Vision” published by Faith and Order in 2013. The PCPCU has received various comments to the document from bishops’ conferences throughout the world. These responses, together with those of many theologians and theological faculties, will form the basis upon which a special commission of experts has been entrusted with the task of preparing a response text. Furthermore, Father Andrzej Choromanski is a member of a group of 20 experts from various Christian traditions which has been given the task of analysing the responses received by the Commission to date. This group met from 9–12 January 2018 in Bossey (Switzerland).
Commission for World Mission and Evangelism
Four Catholic members have taken part in the work of various preparatory commission for the World Missionary Conference held in Arusha (Tanzania) in March 2018. More than 50 Catholics, among whom were 21 belonging to the official delegation led by the Secretary of our Pontifical Council, Bishop Brian Farrell, attended the Conference. Approximately 1,000 participants from various Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches gathered to reflect on the theme “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship”. Several Catholics, among whom the three permanent members of the Commission for World Mission and Evangelism of the WCC contributed to the preparation and organization of the conference. The Holy Father sent a message to participants that was read by the head of the Catholic delegation, and that was received to great applause.
The Ecumenical Institute of Bossey (Switzerland). Reverend Dr Lawrence Iwuamadi has continued his role as the full–time Catholic professor at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey. As customary, the PCPCU through the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox Churches granted two scholarships to two Orthodox students at Bossey.
From 9–13 October at Cluj–Napoca (Romania), Reverend Dr Iwuamadi represented the Catholic Church at the biennial meeting of the Commission for Education and Ecumenical Formation of the WCC.
Reverend Dr Iwuamadi, Catholic professor at Bossey, was appointed the Dean of the Ecumenical Institute for the period 1 January 2018 to 21 July 2021, which will also be the end of his current contract. Father Iwuamadi is the first Catholic to be appointed to this position.
The visit of the Bossey students to Rome. The traditional visit to Rome of the students of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey took place from 19–26 January. The group was accompanied by the Director of the Institute, Reverend Dr Ioan Sauca. The group visited the PCPCU, where some officials spoke about the current state of bilateral and multilateral dialogues in which the PCPCU takes part. The students also took part in the papal general audience and in the Vespers for the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. They also visited various dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and met with the International Union of Superiors General, the community of Sant’Egidio and the Focolare Movement. Lastly, they visited the papal basilicas and the Vatican necropolis and took part in the Sunday mass in the parish of the Transfiguration in Rome.
Christian World Communions
The annual meeting of the Secretaries of the Christian World Communions took place in Bogotá (Colombia) from 6–10 November, hosted by the Mennonite World Conference. The Catholic Church was represented by the Secretary of the PCPCU, Bishop Brian Farrell, who presented a report on the ecumenical work of the Catholic Church since the previous meeting.
Global Christian Forum (GCF)
Reverend Andrzej Choromanski participated in the annual meeting of the international committee of the GCF held in Havana (Cuba) from 20–23 March. The committee evaluated the activities of the previous year and discussed current initiatives, in particular the preparations for the third international meeting of the GCF in March 2018 in Colombia.
A consultation organized by the GCF took place from 8–10 June in Accra (Ghana) on mission and proselytism, hosted by a Pentecostal church, The Church of Pentecost. During the three working days, 35 participants from various Christian traditions discussed the ecumenical aspects of evangelization, searching for suitable solutions to the tensions due to different approaches to mission which have emerged in some countries among some Christian communities. The Catholic Church was represented by four people: Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr, Bishop of Wa in Ghana, Professor Catherine Clifford of Canada, Professor Marcial Maçaneiro of Brazil, Reverend Andrzej Choromanski, official of our Pontifical Council.
Reverend Casely Essamuah of the Methodist Church was appointed the new Secretary General of the GCF. Originally from Ghana and currently residing in the United States, Reverend Essamuah has long served as a missionary in various countries. After being confirmed by the international committee of the GCF in March 2018, Reverend Essamuah commenced his mandate last 1 July, succeeding Reverend Larry Miller, who retired after seven years’ service.
From 9–12 February, Reverend Andrzej Choromanski participated in the annual meeting of the international committee of the GCF held in Taizé (France). The committee evaluated the activities of the previous year and programmed current initiatives, in particular the preparations for the next international meeting of the GCF.
The third international meeting of the GCF took place from 24–27 April in Bogotá, Colombia,. During the four working days, 251 participants from 55 countries discussed various aspects of the general theme of “Let mutual love continue” (Heb 13:1). Half of the participants were from the historical churches (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox) while the other half comprised the so–called “young” churches (Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and independent). The number of Catholic participants overall was 35. The Catholic delegation, led by Bishop Brian Farrell, comprised 18 people from throughout the world, including several members of the new charismatic movements. The Holy Father sent a written message to the participants. The meeting demonstrated that after decades since its inception the GCF has become the widest ecumenical platform capable of gathering church leaders from nearly all the Christian traditions.
Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)
From 31 March to 3 April Reverend Andrzej Choromanski participated in the annual meeting of the Executive Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Geneva (Switzerland). It was brought up that many young Catholics throughout the world take part in activities of the YMCA.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
An international group jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Faith and Order commission of the world Council of Churches met in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2-8 September, to draft materials with a local writing group for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2019. The meeting was hosted by the National Council of Churches of Indonesia (the Persekutuan Gereja-gereja di Indonesia) and was chaired by Rev Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus and Rev Anthony Currer. The theme chosen for 2019 is “Justice and only justice you will pursue” (Deuteronomy 16: 18-20). For 2020, Malta has organized the local drafting group.
COLLABORATION WITH THE BIBLICAL APOSTOLATE
The Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF). On 23 May, Cardinal Koch, accompanied by Monsignor Usma Gómez, received Father Jan Stefanow, Secretary General of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF), who updated the PCPCU on reflection and proposals of the Administrative Committee of the CBF.
United Bible Societies. On 5 October, the United Bible Societies’ Church Relations Committee, including its President Reverend Dr Jutta Henner and Catholic representative, Cardinal John Onayekan, visited Rome for a private audience with the Holy Father. There was also a meeting with Cardinal Koch at the PCPCU.