(ROME, ITALY – December 21, 2018) Twenty participants from around the world gathered on December 10-14, 2018, for the second meeting in the third phase of the Baptist-Catholic International Dialogue, a series of strategic ecumenical conversations between the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
This year’s assembly was hosted by Roman Catholic leadership at the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI in Rome, Italy. Last year’s delegation was hosted by Baptist leadership at Truett Theological Seminary on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, USA.
The December gathering centered on the theme, “Context of Common Witness,” with discussions reflecting on the global cultural context in which common Christian witness is being conducted around the world. This sub-theme helps to illuminate the overall theme of the third phase of dialogue, “The Dynamic of the Gospel and the Witness of the Church.”
On Wednesday, December 12, the delegation met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. While speaking with Rev. Dr. Frank Rees, Baptist Co-Chair of the dialogue as well as chair of the BWA Commission on Baptist Doctrine and Christian Unity, Pope Francis requested that Baptists be in prayer for him. He affirmed the vision behind the Baptist-Catholic Dialogue and expressed the importance of unity among Christians.
On Thursday, December 13, the participants visited Chisea Evangelica Battista Di Trastevere, a local Baptist church that is deeply committed to ecumenical engagement and sharing in the gospel with Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals. The delegation was welcomed by both the pastor and congregation and enjoyed learning about the church’s ministry to people from around the world, including individuals from Africa and Latin America who are living in Rome, as well as serving the homeless living in the streets.
“Our time together was quite powerful as we explored our common witness to Christ and saw it put to action in Tratsevere where the Baptist Church and Catholic Church share a common wall as well as shared ministry in their neighborhood,” said Rev. Dr. Trisha Miller Manarin, BWA Coordinator of Mission, Evangelism, and Justice.
This year’s gathering represents a long-standing and growing commitment between Baptists and Catholics, with previous dialogues occurring from 1984-1988 and from 2006-2010.
“I am grateful for the strong BWA team who led the most recent Baptist-Catholic dialogue,” said Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “Their expertise is invaluable, and a focus on how we can collectively take the gospel to the world is as pressing today as ever.”
Baptist Commission Members participating in this round of conversations included Co-Chair Rev. Dr. Frank Rees, Associate Professor and Chair of the Academic Board at the University of Divinity in Australia; Rev. Paul S. Fiddes (UK), Dr. Derek Hatch (USA), Dr. Glenroy Lalor (Jamaica), Dr. Tomás Mackey (Argentina), Dr. Elizabeth Newman (USA), and Dr. Lina Toth (Lithuania/UK). Rev. Dr. Anna Maffei (Italy) and Rev. Jeremy Bell (Canada) participated as observers, Rev. Dr. Trisha Miller Manarin served as the BWA Staff Representative, and Rev. Dr. Steven R. Harmon served on behalf of the BWA as secretary for the Co-Chair.
The Catholic delegation consisted of Co-Chair Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, USA; Dr. Peter Casarella (USA), Rev. Dr. Stephen Fernandes (India), Rev. Dr. William Henn O.F.M. Cap. (Italy), Rev. Dr. Hector Scerri (Malta), Sr. Dr. Marie-Hélène Robert N.D.A. (France), Rev. Dr. Jorge A. Scampini O.P. (Argentina), and Sr. Dr. Susan Wood S.C.L. (USA). Rev. Dr. Gabriel Mmassi (Africa/Italy) was a guest presenter at the meeting, and Rev. Avelino Gonzalez-Ferrer of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity served as secretary for the Co-Chair.
The Baptist-Catholic group will meet annually through 2021, with the next round of conversations to be hosted by the Baptist Union of Poland at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Warsaw on December 9-13, 2019.
The Baptist World Alliance, founded in 1905, is a fellowship of 239 conventions and unions in 125 countries and territories comprising 47 million baptized believers in 169,000 churches. For more than 100 years, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need; defend human rights and justice; promote worship, fellowship and unity; and advance relevant theological reflection.