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 — June 30, 200330 juin 2003

A July 2003 meeting on Christian martyrs during the Inquisition will mark the first time Catholic and Mennonite scholars have worked together on a defining event in the history of the Reformation. Mennonites trace their roots to the sixteenth-century Dutch Reformer Menno Simons, a former Roman Catholic priest who was part of a radical Protestant movement in Europe called the Anabaptists, or rebaptizers. Thousands of Anabaptists were killed or tortured during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The conference is an outgrowth of five years of dialogue between Roman Catholics and Mennonites under the auspices of the Mennonite World Conference and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “If substantial dialogue is to continue,” a statement from the Mennonite World Conference said, “these historical events will have to be dealt with in a way that is satisfactory to the successors of both those who were persecuted and those responsible for these martyr deaths.” The conference is scheduled to take place July 15-16 at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota.

In a March 20 lecture in Rome, Jesuit Robert Taft spoke about a 2001 Vatican document that permits sharing of the Eucharist by Assyrian Orthodox and Chaldean Catholics when liturgies of their own church are not available. What makes the document remarkable, he said, is that it recognizes the validity of the most common Assyrian eucharistic prayer, even though it does not include the words of Christ: “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” There exists no proof that any eucharistic prayer contained these words before the fourth century, the Jesuit said. The document’s development and eventual approval, Taft said, illustrate the methods of “ecumenical theology.” Such theology does not ignore differences or possible mistakes made by either side. It does, however, seek to explain how different expressions of the same faith can be reconciled and accepted by both sides.

The Seventh International Buddhist-Christian Conference to be held on the Los Angeles campus of Loyola-Marymount University, August 6-10, 2004, will have as its overall theme “Hear the Cries of the World: Buddhism and Christianity in Dialogue Toward Global Healing.” The Program Committee invites proposals in the form of workshops, panel discussions or individual papers. Suggested topics include Religion and Ecology, Practice Across Traditions, Women and Religion, Religious Responses to Violence, Religion and Globalization. Submissions should be sent by email to [ ], with a copy to [ ], or else by postal mail c/o Prof. Ruben Habito; Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75225.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is now accepting registrations for the 2004 Parliament to be held July 7-13 in Barcelona, Spain. The upcoming parliament will take place in a beautiful 100-acre park overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and will be the signature event of a 141-day Forum of Cultures. Registration may be done on the Web at [ ].

The World Council of Churches invited officials of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to its Geneva headquarters in February for a debate on development strategy. The two-day seminar, the first in a series, dealt with issues such as the creation of wealth, social justice and the privatization of public goods, particularly drinking water. The next seminar of the three groups is expected later this year in Washington, D.C.

King David High School, an Orthodox Jewish School in Liverpool has a Catholic headmaster. About a third of the students are Jewish; most of the rest are Christians but there are also Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. Being part of a student body drawn from a range of religions backgrounds gives them “a greater awareness of their faith and a greater responsibility towards it than if they were surrounded by others of the same faith,” says head John Smartt.

The Church of North India which encompasses Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and other traditions, approved women’s ordinations in the 1970s. Initially, there was strong resistance from local people. Sonal Christian became the first woman pastor in the Gujarat diocese nearly three years ago and four more women are currently in training to become pastors.

Clergy and lay participants attending the sixth annual conference hosted by the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies near Tampa, Florida in March heard renowned scholars probe the deep Jewish and Catholic roots of religious spirituality. Everett Fox of Clark University said it is a mistake to assume that Jewish spirituality is locked into a rigid set of devotionals. On the contrary, Judaism has survived precisely because its leaders were able to expand and enrich the spiritual experience of being a Jew. Lawrence Cunningham of the University of Notre Dame pointed out that the Hebrew Psalms have been a continuing source of Christian preaching and inspiration for nearly 2,000 years. Professor Pamela Nadell of American University and Peter Steinfels, religion columnist for the New York Times, along with Fox and Cunningham cautioned that before shopping for spirituality among destructive cults and glitzy New Age gimmicks, people should first plumb the spiritual depths that exist within Judaism and Christianity.

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York, and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, New York co-hosted an Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Symposium, April 1, 2003. Guest lecturers explored the topic of Jerusalem: Does it Divide or Unite? through a look at the historical background of the many issues surrounding Jerusalem as well as an analysis of the contemporary situation that faces Jerusalem. The afternoon session featured a panel of distinguished guests, moderated by Dr. Tarek Mitri of Inter-Religious Relations, World Council of Churches. For more information, visit the St. Vladimir website [ ].

In 1990 Aid to the Church in Need financed the critical first efforts of an ecumenical radio station in Russia. “Right from the start, we wanted it to be ecumenical,” recalls Piotr Sakharov, producer of the Catholic program “Dar” (gift) which filled an hour of air time each day. Today Radio Sophia broadcasts for twelve hours daily, thanks to financial help which comes in large part from the West but also from listeners who have supported the station through difficult times. Fr. Sviridov, in charge of the purely religious programming, feels that the many phone-in shows provide an important service. “This is a big need of our listeners, especially the younger ones,” he explains. Studies by the sociology department of the University of Moscow document the loyalty of the 200,000 listeners (out of a possible 18 million inhabitants of the Moscow region).

The Centre for Human Dignity and Museum of Tolerance will be built in 2006 or 2007 in the downtown area of west Jerusalem. The complex, which will house exhibition halls, libraries, conference rooms and restaurants, aims “to promote tolerance and understanding among Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, especially between the Jews themselves,” according to Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre which is funding the project.

The first ecumenical Kirchentag takes place May 28-June 1, 2003 in Berlin on the site of the former Berlin Wall. It is the first time that Germany’s two major Christian lay bodies — the Central Committee of German Catholics and the German Protestant Kirchentag — work together to organise such an important ecumenical gathering. Orthodox, Anglicans, members of independent Protestant churches and of old Catholic churches are also participating in the event. The ecumenical Kirchentag is concerned with matters of faith and with the problems of the modern world. Violence, health, bioethics, intergenerational relations, the Lord’s Supper / Eucharist, church unity, globalization and various other subjects are on the agenda. Website: [ ].

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