The Joint International Commission for Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church convened for its first meeting of the eleventh round of conversations from October 15-22 at Villa Palazzola (the summer residence of the Venerable English College, Rome). This session was especially notable in that it marked the fiftieth anniversary of the commission’s first meeting held at Ariccia, near Rome, in October 1967. Previous reports are available electronically on the Vatican website and in the Growth in Agreement series compiled by the World Council of Churches. The documents are published by the commission itself and are not authoritative declarations by either the Roman Catholic Church or the World Methodist Council.
The current commission traveled to Rome on Thursday, October 19, to participate in several events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary. After a Catholic Mass near the tomb of St. Peter, members of the commission met with Pope Francis in audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. A Spanish translation of the commission’s last report, The Call to Holiness: From Glory to Glory (2016), was presented to Pope Francis. The Spanish translation will soon appear along with the English text on the Vatican website, accompanied by an official commentary on the text by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In his speech at the audience, Pope Francis affirmed the work of the dialogue, acknowledged the fruits already produced, and encouraged the current commission in their work on “Reconciliation” in order to deepen the relationships between Methodists and Catholics toward the goal of visible unity.
Other celebrative events included a seminar at the Centro pro Unione and an ecumenical service of vespers with the Caravita Community (Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita).
Before and after this special day in Rome, the commission discussed sixteen papers on the subject of “God in Christ Reconciling: Community, Unity and Communion.” Topics included: reconciliation in the Scriptures; the practices and experience of reconciliation in each communion; the ecclesial structures that preserve unity among Methodists and among Roman Catholics; reconciliation in cultural perspective (with specific reference to India and South Africa); and the church’s participation in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation in relation to peace, justice, and the integrity of creation.
Eight representatives from each communion constitute the current commission. Countries represented are Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Ghana, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United States. Five women serve as representatives.
The commission will meet at least three more times to complete the report in time for the meeting of the World Methodist Council in 2021.