The 16th International Congress of Jesuit Ecumenists

July 5 - 10, 2001

The 16th international congress of Jesuit ecumenists took place in Alexandria, Egypt, from 5 - 10 July. A full programme, oganized expertly by Henri Boulad (PRO), kept the 30 particpants (from all six continents) busy throughout the working days and evenings, and on the Sunday the group was able to visit the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of St. Makarios. A message from Fr. General underlined the importance of the ecumenical venture among the Society's priorities, and a select number of the participants had been involved with the group since its inception.

The agenda ranged widely, focussing in part on ecumenical issues in the complex ecclesial reality of the Middle East, but also on recent developments in the wider ecumenical sphere. We had the opportunity to meet with clergy and laypeople from the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Evanglical churches, as well as with Muslims. Jacques Masson (PRO) and Christian van Nispen (PRO), with their long years of experience and study of the Church in Egypt introduced us to various of its aspects. Jacques Masson surveyed some of the ecumenical history of the oriental Churches and agreements reached especially among the Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian churches in recent years. Victor Chelhot (PRO) from Damascus presented developments in the local attempts to remove the obstacles to unity between the Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches of Antioch. Since his last presentation to the Jesuit ecumenists in Naples, Rome has added its voice to the conversation.

Three official documents were studied. The "Balamand Statement" on the still very vexed issue Uniatism and accusations of proselytism from the Seventh Plenary Session of the official Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue was introduced and analysed by Ed Farrugia (MAL) of the Orientale. Ted Yarnold (BRI), of Campion Hall, brought a trained eye to the document "The Gift of Authority," issued by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, of which he was for many years a distinguished member. Paolo Gamberini (ITA) from Naples, examined the Joint Lutheran-Roman Catholic Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and offered some important insights into the way it was produced and agreed upon. The declaration is an important model, not just for its synthesis of a disputed doctrine, but for the way in which it affirms particular doctrinal formulations and at the same time recognises that each partner understands these formulas in somewhat different ways.

In addition to these papers, Georges Ruyssen (BSE) presented some of his work recently presented at Centre Sevres on the question of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the context of the Pope's appeal in Ut Unum Sint. Bob Daly (NEN) from Boston College examined the theological significance of ecumenical convergence in liturgy, especially in the eucharistic prayer. Norman Tanner was able to draw on his deep familiarity with the councils of the Church to offer profound and sometimes witty insights into the prospects for Christian unity.

We hope that all the papers will be published within the next six months, as also those from the previous meeting in Kottayam, Kerala, which have not yet seen the light of day. The next meeting of Jesuits involved in ecumenical work will take place in Budapest in 2003. Anyone who would like to be kept informed of plans for the meeting, when they take shape, can contact Tom Michel (IDO) at the Curia

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