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Assisi 2012 – Where we Dwell in Common.

So, I have had a bit of a break from blogging, mostly to focus on other writing, and owing to other distractions. Rome can do that.

However, I find myself now with about 30 pages of back-notes for blogs, and sitting in Assisi for a conference of the Ecclesiological Investigations Network, so it seemed opportune to begin again with some observations from the first day. The theme is Assisi 2012: Where we Dwell in Common – Pathway sofr Dialogue in the 21st Century. The three thematic tracks are intra/inter ecclesial issues (ecumenism/ecclesiology), interfaith/interreligious issues, and Faith and World/Culture.

We arrived yesterday and started with an opening plenary prayer in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, home of the Porzincula, and greeted by Assisi Archbishop Domenic Sorrentino and Friar Fabrizio Migliasso, Custodian of the basilica.

There are a few familiar faces (Peter Phan, Rick Gillardetz, Dennis Doyle, Michael Kinnamon), and a few names I finally get to put faces to (Paul Murray from Durham, the other Viggo Mortensen).  But I confess I am a little surprised how few I knew or knew of – one more reminder of how insulated pontifical academia can get.

Participants number over 200, from 55 countries, and several different churches and faiths. The opening panel offered insights into the theological situation in Italy for the participants, and the opening keynote was offered by Paul Arthur of North Ireland, offering lessons from the peace process there for dialogue initiatives. Peter Phan offered a humorous evening toast, and Dennis Doyle delivered a deadpan response. This morning began with a plenary panel composed of Brad Hinze (US), Mary Getui (Kenya), and Eleni Kasselour Hatzivassiliadi (Greece)  and a response from Deivit Montealegre (Argentina).

The late morning, we had parallel plenaries, with mine focused on interchurch issues, such as:

  • The Burdens of History: Must Tribalism Always Prevail?
  • Hierarchy or Network of Truths? Hermenutical Principles and Challenges of Dialogue about Doctrinal Issues
  • Does a Doctrinal Teaching Office have an Ecumenical Future? (Which focused on a recent report of the Group des Dombes)

The afternoon held smaller breakout sessions with panels of smaller papers, and more direct discussion. I chose one with a Chilean and Tanzanian students from Louven, and Michael Walsh, the British church historian. He offered a look into an as-yet unpublished encyclical of Pius XI, Ecclesia Christi – On the True Church of Christ. It is one of two released in the archives of his pontificate.

It is so healthy, and people are so approachable. It is like a retreat, except that daily life in Rome is like a retreat, so I guess having a packed schedule is the retreat from the retreat. Having the daily intellectual stimulation with world class scholars is a nice break though. It is such a culture clash from the daily pontifical experience though, nobody is here speaking in official capacity, and everyone is quite open. No holds barred in critiquing the narrowing hermeneutic of the Council, calling to task shoddy scholarship, or directly challenging other churches for inconsistencies or unusual doctrinal stances.

I present on Friday, offering some observations on non-priestly ministries as opportunities for ecumenical convergence. Diaconate and lay ecclesial ministry anyone? 

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