Symposium in Rome on Malines Conversations

14 Jun 2021

The symposium “The Malines Conversations 100 Years On” was held at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Holy See on 11 June 2021, co–hosted by the Belgian and British Ambassadors to the Holy See, Patrick Renault and Sally Axworthy, respectively, to mark the 100th anniversary to be celebrated in Malines later in the year.

The programme included the opening words of Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, Archbishop of Malines, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and featured addresses (either in–presence or video link) by His Grace Rowan Williams, Emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr Alana Harris of King's College London; Emeritus Professor Jan De Mayer of the University of Leuven; Reverend Dr Jamie Hawkey, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey; Reverend Professor Thomas Pott, OSB, of the Monastery of Chevetogne and Consultor of this Pontifical Council; Reverend Professor Vimal Tirimanna, CSsR, of the Pontifical Accademia Alfonsiana and member of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission; Archbishop Ian Ernest, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome; and Reverend Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ, President of the Jesuit Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar. The symposium reflected on the context, impact and legacy of the Malines Conversations, and offered perspectives on the future of ecumenism, with particular reference to Anglican and Catholic dialogue and relations. Father Anthony Currer, official of the Pontifical Council responsible for Anglican-Catholic relations, attended the symposium.

The Malines Conversations, held in Mechelen (Malines) Belgium from 1921 to 1926, were a series of informal conversations between a select group of Catholic and Anglican theologians. The conversations have their origins on the chance meeting and subsequent friendship of Charles Lindley Wood, the second Viscount of Halifax, and Abbé Fernand Portal, a French Lazarist priest. The 1920 Lambeth Conference’s Appeal to Unity provided an opportunity for Lord Halifax to approach the Archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Désiré Joseph Mercier, who was already engaged with the question of unity. The ecumenical spirit of these conversations anticipated the official dialogue taken up fifty years later by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Committee (ARCIC).

Further centenary celebrations are planned in Mechelen on 4 and 5 December hosted by Cardinal Joseph De Kesel.