The General’s international advisory group for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue met from the 5th to the 8th of September 2022. The annual meeting took place at the Curia Generalis SJ in Rome.

The ecumenical part of the meeting had the theme ‘Synodality in an ecumenical context: Recognising and learning from the other’. This part started on Monday, September 5, with a stimulating presentation by Rev. Dr Jamie Hawkey of the Anglican Communion. He is Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen, and Chair of the Westminster Abbey Institute. Dr Hawkey explained how the Anglican Communion, particularly the Church of England, practises synodality. In the afternoon, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, representative of the Armenian-Apostolic Church in Rome, introduced the group to the practice of synodality within his Church. His presentation was thought-provoking and supported the discussion afterwards.

On Tuesday morning, three members of the Secretariat presented their reflections on synodality in their field of expertise. Fr. Heru Prakosa, S.J., talked about synodality in Islam and Fr. Geraldo Luíz de Mori, S.J., reflected on synodality in Pentecostalism. Fr. Milan Žust, S.J., presented synodality and the vision of the Centro Aletti in Rome, based on the reflections and the experience of the Centro’s team. Fr. James Hanvey, S.J., advisor of Fr. General Arturo Sosa, S.J., and director of the Secretariat of the Service of Faith at the Curia Generalis SJ, gave an update on the Synodal Process which Pope Francis has initiated in October 2022 and is completed with the episcopal Synod in October 2023, the theme of which is ‘The Synod’.

With the celebration of Holy Mass at noon celebrated by Fr. General Arturo Sosa the advisory group finished their annual meeting in Rome.

“Religion and Nationalism”

This l reflection was introduced by David Nazar, a Canadian of Ukrainian origin who is currently the rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He shared with how, in a few Eastern European countries, Churches had become significant vehicles of ethnic and national identity, for the best (in the case of resistance against totalitarian regimes) but also for the worse (creation of new enemies), the main challenge for them being how to adapt their mission after the time of resistance. Heru Pakosa (Indonesia) presented an overview of the situation and Jean-Marc Balhan (Türkiye) explained in detail the role of Islam in the definition of what it means today “to be a Turk”. Greg Sharkey (Nepal) presented a synthesis about the links between Buddhism and nationalist sentiment, civil authority and ethnic solidarity in different Asian countries and Sebastian Painadath (India) introduced us with Hindu nationalism (Hindutva), proposing a Christian response to it. As far as traditional religions are concerned, Mpay Kemboly (Congo) presented the tensions between African traditional religions and imported revealed religions and Felipe Ali Modad (Mexico) spoke about power, authority and nationalism in the indigenous spiritualities of Latin America.

On the final day, the individual members of the advisory group presented their annual reports to Fr. General and reviewed them with him. They also sharing about the latest evolution of the situation of dialogue and the role of the Jesuits in it, in their respective region. The meeting concluded with a mass, celebrated by the General, giving thanks for the work of the Society in these important fields helping to bring about understanding between religions.

Fr. Jean-Marc Balhan SJ and Fr. Markus Schmidt, SJ

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