One of the great developments from Vatican II was the coming together of various Christian churches in a spirit of dialogue and friendship. ‘Expanding Hope’ is the theme of a Jesuit podcast series for Advent, focussing on the state of ecumenism, fifty years on. And it would appear there is much to be done if the Lord’s prayer ‘that they might be one’, is to be realised.
Gesa Thiessen is a theologian and former lecturer in the Milltown Institute. An assistant minister in the Lutheran Church in Ireland, she now lectures in theology in TCD and with the Dominicans in The Priory, Tallaght. She believes that the ecumenical project is going through a time of winter. But she does see shoots of hope, especially in women who have remained faithful to and challenging of their faith. Listen here.
Former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev John Dunlop spoke in a lengthy interview to Pat Coyle of the JCC, about the early days of ecumenism and the excitement he felt as word trickled through from Rome about the unprecedented developments and insights of Vatican II vis-a-vis churches from other Christian traditions.
He spoke of the struggle that he and other Church leaders had during the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland to keep working together, trying to show real Christian love of neighbour no matter what denomination the neighbour was, and all this against a background of deep religious divison and naked biogotry. And he noted the great contribution of the late Michael Hurley SJ, founder of the inter-denominational Columbanus Community in Belfast and the Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin.
He spoke of his own limitied knowledge of how the Catholic Church was actually structured and the learning curve he was on in those days. And he recalled the time in the early 70’s when a religious sister, studying in the Irish School of Ecumenics, came to stay with himself and his wife and two children in their Manse in Belfast – a real eye-opener for all concerned. Listen here to the full interview.
The importance of really getting to know people from other Christian denominations personally, if the ecumenical project is to develop fruitfully, was underlined by all the interviewees, including Godfrey O’Donnell, President of the Irish Council of Churches.
Godfrey is a former Jesuit and is now Romanian Orthodox priest. He left the Jesuits in order to marry, and then he and his wife felt called to join the Orthodox church. He says we are compelled to ‘stop shouting and start really listening to each other’ if we are serious about the unity of Christians.
In his wide-ranging interview he speaks frankly about the obstacles to unity between his church and the Roman church (the wound of the crusades and a group of western knights helping themselves to the treasures of Constantinople, still hurts), his own vocations, the doctrinal and cultural obstacles on the ecumenical road, and his ultimate hope-filled vision. Listen here.
Lay leader in the Methodist Church, Gillian Kingston, and Jesuit delegate for Ecumenism, Brian O’Leary, are the other interviewees in the podcast series, as reported in the previous edition of Irish Jesuit News. Visit the complete podcast series here.