Spring is already in the air here in Rome even though the mornings are still cold. Several events have been the occasion for exciting ecumenical encounters in recent days and I will try to give you an overview of them in my next posts.
Archbishop Ian Ernest and I went to the three-day Vatican conference on the priesthood. This conference was intended as a response to the difficulties that the Roman Catholic Church is going through at the moment, especially after priests used their position of authority to abuse the people who were placed under their care. The symposium did not dwell too much on the reasons for the abuses (the study of which was postponed to another possible symposium). The papers mostly sought to address the realities of the priesthood in the Catholic Church in a pastoral and theological way without limiting it (at least that was the original intention!) to the ministerial priesthood (i.e. the priesthood of ordained Christians). The question of the priesthood of all the baptized (baptismal priesthood) came up with a particular relevance as the Roman Catholic Church has launched itself a synodal process about which I’ll talk more in detail in another post. The Pope’s inaugural lesson was certainly the most inspiring of the communications, for, unlike many others, he approached the realities of priesthood from a spiritual and pastoral point of view and not a purely theological or historical one. Here is the link to a transcript of his speech.
Unfortunately, the communication that we expected the most and which was to focus on the ecumenical issues of the priesthood was quite disappointing. Cardinal Koch limited himself to the relations of the Catholic Church with the Orthodox and the Lutherans, brilliantly ignoring the accomplishments of the Anglican-Catholic dialogues. Overall the presentations were very interesting and led to lively discussions between ++Ian and I on the differences and similarities between the Anglican and Roman conceptions of priesthood. The coffee breaks also allowed me to meet Catholic seminarians from the French Seminary in Rome as well as the Rector of Beda College, one of the English seminaries here. They all invited me to visit them, which will give me material for other articles!