Mennonites from ten countries are about to travel to Rome for continuing consultations on Mennonite-Catholic dialogue and peacemaking. In the past Anabaptists groups like the Mennonites were victims of violence and prescriptions by state churches in Europe.
The first event is a church-to-church visit (18-23 October 2007), hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and including a brief visit with Pope Benedict (scheduled for 19 October).
The visit, in response to an invitation from the Pontifical Council, is a follow-up to the first international dialogue which took place from 1998-2003 and produced a 48-page report, “Called Together to Be Peacemakers.”
The visit, approved by the MWC General Council in March 2006, has a threefold purpose: (1) report on and discuss with the Pontifical Council the member church and General Council response to the report, (2) raise with the Pontifical Council any concerns about the Catholic Church arising in the local or national setting of the member churches, and (3) learn to know one another better.
“The major focus of the visit will be on learning to know one another as churches rather than engaging in systematic theological dialogue,” says Larry Miller, MWC General Secretary.
The visiting delegation was selected to represent both the geographic and theological breadth of Mennonite World Conference. MWC appointed delegates from the five continental regions are: General Council member Mulugeta Zewdie of the Meserete Kristos Church, Ethiopia (Africa); Peace Commission secretary Paulus Widjaja of Indonesia (Asia); General Council and Executive Committee member Thijn Thijink of Netherlands (Europe); Victor Wall of Paraguay, International Community of Mennonite Brethren (Latin America); and MWC president Nancy Heisey of USA (North America).
MWC member churches that accepted MWC’s invitation to all member churches to participate will be represented by Lenemarie Funck-Späth, German Mennonite churches; Ron Penner, Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Canada; and Iris de Leon-Hartshorn, Mennonite Church USA.
Also participating will be MWC staff members Helmut Harder of Canada, co-chair, Catholic/MWC International Dialogue, and General Secretary Larry Miller of France.
At the request of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity the visit will be followed by a 23-25 October 2007 consultation to fashion a Catholic/Mennonite perspective on a proposed “International Ecumenical Peace Convocation.” Slated for 2011, the convocation will be the culmination of the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010).
There will be some attendance overlap at the second event. Other attendees besides Nancy Heisey, Larry Miller, Helmut Harder, Paulus Widjaja and Lenemarie Funck-Späth will include Colombian peace advocate Ricardo Esquivia and Dutch pastor/theologian Henk Leegte. In addition, two WCC representatives are also Mennonites: Hansulrich Gerber (Switzerland) and Fernando Enns (Germany).
With grateful acknowledgments to Mennonite World Conference