Jesuit Ecumenists’ Congress July 10-15, 2017, “Ad gentes” Centre, Nemi lake district, by Rome
Dear Jesuit companions in the Lord,
The next Jesuit Ecumenists’ Congress whose venue is “Ad Gentes” Centre in Nemi by Rome is going to be held on July 10-15, 2017. The last biennial Congress held in Vienna in July of 2015 decided this because 2017 marks several stations in which the ecumenist must tarry. Martin Luther appended his theses on the Wittenberg castle door in 1517; and the Moscow Synod of 1917-1918 took momentous decisions still relevant today. In Crete last year (2016) the Pan-Orthodox Synod was held which many Orthodox see in continuity with the last ecumenical Synod they recognize, that of Nicaea I (787). This evokes the many questions the breakup between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches raised.
As for the Lutheran crisis one can only shake one’s head in disbelief that it took such a long time in coming. The gravamina had been piling up and the writing on the wall was clear. Lateran V (1517), though it pronounced in favour of serious reform, failed dismally to take up the bull by the horns. When later that year Luther’s protests blew up ecclesial complacency into smithereens, a triangle of pressure was formed, for Protestants were eager to win the Orthodox who had earlier broken off to their side, with the result that, while the Orthodox did not join, it became fashionable for the latter to argue with the Protestants against the Catholics and with Catholics against the Protestants.
The Moscow Synod took place with the echoing of Bolshevik guns as a background: the Moscow patriarchate was resurrected from the deepfreeze in which Peter the Great had put it (1728) and a series of very significant reforms were agreed upon and attained new significance after the deep freeze of 70 years of atheist rule. Much of what happened then still conditions the mind and heart of Russian Orthodoxy. The tensions between Constantinople and Moscow are an object lesson on how Orthodoxy functions, although some of the bounce was back in the Chieti agreement of the Joint Catholic-Orthodox Plenary Session in September of 2016. In 2025 we shall have the 17th Centenary celebrations of the first ecumenical council, that of Nicea I (325), which after more than half a century of turbulence was to prove to be the touchstone of ecclesial orthodoxy and stability.
These momentous historical themes invite us to look at them from a different perspective to try and spot God’s hand – finger, is the Ignatian term, which he took from Ex – in the whole process. Enriched with the lessons they transmit we can face the pending ecumenical challenges with greater ecumenical clarity and confidence. As Jesuit ecumenists it is incumbent on us to review these events critically and self-critically, but also with a sense of awe and gratitude that God is always ready at hand.
For the above-mentioned reasons the Jesuit ecumenists during the Vienna Congress thought fit to hold their next congress there where all roads meet, Rome, and to analyse them in the light of Ignatius’ insights for a time of crisis and councils. This perspective is often lacking, which is why history with its errors threatens to repeat itself. Against this, the Nemi Congress can prove useful.
As has been our wont as of a decade when we have a given central theme for a Congress one can guarantee its smooth functioning by asking individuals to give a certain paper to make sure that all essential elements are covered. Attached is the plan as it stands thus far, with a list of the speakers and their themes. There is still room for volunteers to offer a paper or a communication, which may or may not be on the main theme. We have tried to ask both seasoned ecumenists as young Jesuits – but more are welcome. Ecumenism must be kept alive not by artificial respiration, but by conviction, determination and prayer.
May I add that an excursion is planned for less frequented Ignatian places and others related to the themes related to the problems we shall be discussing. Rome has been chosen especially in case V. Rev. Fr. General is in a position to receive us during the session; a petition in this sense has already been addressed to him.
Sincerely Yours in the service of the Church and of the Society
Edward G. Farrugia, SJ, Secretary,
In the name of Dorian Llwelyn, President, and Markus Schmidt, member of the preparatory commission of the Jesuit Ecumenists Congress.