The Director of Ecumenical Affairs and Studies, David Hamid, is a consultant to the Joint Working Group of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. This group was formed in 1965 following the Second Vatican Council and is an important platform for the discussion of a range of common pastoral, theological and mission concerns between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church. 34 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion are members of the WCC. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member. The following is the communiqué from the recent meeting of the JWG which was held in Stjärnholm, Sweden.
The Joint Working Group (JWG) between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) held a plenary meeting in Stjärnholm, Sweden, 24-31 May 2002, under the leadership of the two co-moderators Archbishop Mario Conti (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Scotland) and Bishop Jonas Jonson (Lutheran Bishop of Strängnäs, Sweden). This was the third plenary meeting of the present mandate which dates from the 1998 General Assembly of the World Council of Churches.
The meeting was held at the conference centre of the diocese of Strängnäs. The members of the working group enjoyed the generous hospitality and were greatly assisted by the staff at the conference centre, as well by the Revd Christofer Lundgren, the chaplain to the Bishop of Strängnäs, and two theological students, Ms Anna Apell and Ms Anna-Karin Holm, who were stewards to the meeting. The working sessions each day were framed by prayer in the Chapel of Life at the Conference Centre. Morning prayer included biblical reflections on living in an interim period.
The representatives of the WCC and the Catholic Church met separately for half a day at the beginning of the meeting for some specific orientation. The plenary then came together to share some significant moments which have affected the lives of the Churches since the last meeting, particularly, the events of 11 September 2001 and the intensified conflict in the Middle East.
The Revd Dr Konrad Raiser, the General Secretary of the WCC, joined the meeting for part of the time and gave an extensive update on developments in the WCC, highlighting the work of the Special Commission on Relations with the Orthodox Churches.
One of the studies underway in the JWG is on the Ecclesiological Consequences of Baptism. A sketch of the shape that this study is taking was presented to the plenary, and the JWG took note of complementary work underway in the Faith and Order Commission on Baptism.
At last year’s meeting it was agreed to do some further work on the ecumenical role of interchurch families and the ecclesiological implications of marriage between partners of different church traditions. To help focus on this issue, papers from three perspectives: Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Uniting Church in Australia were presented and discussed in plenary and small groups. It was recommended that the study of the Ecclesiological Consequences of Baptism should include some reflection on the issue of interchurch marriages, which is affecting the lives of an increasing number of Christians.
A proposal for a study on Theological Anthropology, which would reflect on the human person as created in the image and likeness of God, was presented and through plenary and small group discussion refined the approach that it would take.
Another study which is under way concerns National and Regional Councils of Churches and Ecumenical Instruments with particular focus on Roman Catholic participation in them. A first draft of a paper was presented and discussed both in plenary and group sessions and a timeline to refine and complete this work was proposed.
A meeting with representatives of the Christian Council of Sweden enabled the members to learn something of the stories of the four major church families in Sweden - Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox and Free Church - as well as to as learn of the functioning and programme emphases of this Council.
The subgroup studying The Nature and Purpose of Ecumenical Dialogue received some direction for the work of its first meeting which will take place in Geneva in September.
Peter Wallensteen, the Dag Hammarskjöld Professor from the Department of Peace and Conflict Research of the University of Uppsala, visited the Working Group and gave a presentation on Global Peace, Global Conflict and Human Responsibility. Professor Wallensteen highlighted new research on the trends since 1946 to the present on armed conflicts throughout the world and on the UN Security Council activity, and commented on the categories of conflicts and the peace agreements reached since 1988. Small groups also spent some time reflecting on the Decade to Overcome Violence, the Brussels Declaration The Peace of God in the World from an inter-religious gathering called by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the President of the European Commission in Brussels on 19-20 December 2001 and The Common Commitment to Peace proclaimed at Assisi on the occasion of the interfaith Day of Prayer for Peace convened by the Pope on 24 January 2002. The Working Group considered some avenues for follow up to these initiatives.
The members had several opportunities to encounter the tradition, history and ecumenical life of the Churches in Sweden. On Sunday, the group visited Strängnäs Cathedral for a celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and High Mass according to the tradition of the Church of Sweden. The preacher at the service was Archbishop Mario Conti. Afterwards, over a festive lunch, the JWG members met many of the leaders of the diocese of Strängnäs at the Bishop’s House. In the evening the group attended the English language Mass at St Eugenia’s Catholic Church in Stockholm presided by Bishop Anders Arborelius, at which Dr Raiser brought greetings. Afterwards a community meal was enjoyed with the multicultural congregation. Through a visit to a country parish the group came to appreciate the continuity of the ministry of the Church of Sweden within the nation, and its institutional diocesan and parochial life that extends from well before the Reformation, as is evident in the witness of so many ancient parish churches.
At the end of the meeting the two Co-moderators expressed their gratitude to the Church of Sweden whose generosity supported the cost of this meeting. They also thanked the Diocese of Strängnäs and the staff of the Centre for their presence and support of this meeting.
It is expected that the next plenary meeting will be held from 5-12 May 2003.
30 May 2002