'Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles' by Artist Duccio di Buoninsegna via Wikimedia Commons

Meetings for a New Beginning

From September 7-11th, a group of Catholic and Protestant theologians from Europe, Canada and the United States, all sharing a passion for Christ and for His Church, met in Granada.
Javier Prades

“Panta dokimazete, to kalon katechete!” “Sift everything, hold on to what is good!” (1 Thes 5:21). This recommendation of St. Paul guides the ecumenical education that Fr. Giussani has always proposed to us. In the light of this we can best understand the meeting held in Granada between American Protestant theologians of various denominations, English Anglican theologians belonging to Radical Orthodoxy and Catholic theologians from America and Europe, convoked by Archbishop Javier Martínez, the undisputed point of reference during these days, as well as an example of hospitality for everyone.

Moved by a Promise
What did we live together? I won’t give a rundown of the contents, already reported in these pages. I’ll just give a few of my own personal impressions. I saw simple, attractive men and women who believe in Jesus Christ, who love the Church, and who are involved in the world in which they are living. They came from far away without any obligation or recompense, moved by an intuition of a promise for their life.

The first evidence is that it was a free meeting between people in love with life and who want to communicate it. Watching them relating in friendship, hearing them speaking of their children and of those they have adopted, seeing their interest in immigration in the USA and the war in Iraq, in the formalistic emptying of much of the academic world they themselves are working in, you feel a human warmth that disposes you to listen. Some of the meals together, and the evening of Flamenco, were truly enjoyable.

Love for the Church
The second evidence, which establishes the first, is that they truly believe in Jesus. Despite the inevitable differences due to such varied origins, they all spoke of the experience of faith in unambiguously personal terms. It’s like a breath of fresh air when, in a theological meeting, there is no need to defend the divinity of Christ, the incarnate Son of God, or leave it between politically correct brackets.

Confirming this true love for Jesus was the love for the Church that emerged–always referred to by all as this: the Church–a reflection of the esteem for community life, liturgy, prayer and the Eucharist, and education in faith and in Church tradition. The moments of common liturgical prayer were striking, as well as the exquisite respect for the incomplete communion, avoiding all equivocal gestures of intercommunion. It was also significant that interest for the Church was expressed starting from the awareness that it is already a mundus reconciliatus, to quote an Augustinian term that someone cited. In other words, the Church is the hope of society and the person in as much as it is the locus of the operative presence of Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and thus the germ of a new humanity.

The first fruit of the honor of having shared in this day with American and English theologians is gratitude, which cannot stop short of pronouncing the name of Christ. On the walls of the room where we met was Duccio’s painting of Christ teaching His disciples. You could understand that the image was not just there to recall the past, but to express the present reality; and thus we were disposed to following this meeting, born almost by chance of an exchange of e-mails between a Spanish Catholic archbishop and a number of important Methodist and Anglican theologians. There will be no lack of further moments for deepening the philosophical and theological dialogue already begun, in which it will be possible and necessary to take serious, albeit painful, note of the doctrinal and theological differences that still divide us. On this unforgettable occasion, what prevailed was the enjoyment of an “impossible unity” already in action.