Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > JWG > Third Official Rep. | CONT. > App. I - IV

     INTRODUCTION - select
   III. THE LAITY - select
IV. Social Service and Service to Humanity

   I. COMMON WITNESS - select
   CONCLUSION - select
  PART ONE - select
  PART TWO - select
  Appendix I - select
  Appendix II - select
Appendix III - select
Appendix IV - select
Appendix V - select
Appendix VI - select
Appendix VII - select
   Contributors - select



Collaboration between the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace developed rapidly, as the second report of the Joint Working Group had hoped it would. The decision was taken to organize a conference on the problem of development. It was held in Beirut from April 21-27, 1968. The aim of the conference was to formulate common convictions and intentions based on as comprehensive and objective an analysis of the problems as possible. It was also intended to emphasize with some conviction the responsibility for human, social and economic development which accrues primarily to Christians but also to all men. Theologians and church leaders from developed and developing countries, representatives of international organizations and a number of leading experts in the development field took part in these discussions. The conference report was widely circulated and became a major factor in helping to establish cooperation both at the level of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches and in the individual countries.

Since a joint structure was needed to organize a conference of such magnitude, a joint secretariat had been set up in Geneva and Father George Dunne, S.J. appointed secretary with responsibility for organizing the program. At the end of the conference it became clear that the program would become even more extensive and that the secretariat should therefore not merely continue but even expand. A more permanent structure was called for and agreed to by both parties on condition that its flexibility and task-centered existence should not be lost sight of. In the first instance joint work was to be planned for a period of only three years, i.e. up to the end of 1971. This would preserve its experimental character and it would still be possible, at the end of this period, to guide cooperation into a different direction or give it a different structural form. But even for this limited period an effective organization was essential. A meeting of the exploratory committee in May 1968 drafted suggestions for a Committee on Society, Development and Peace (SODEPAX). The competent Roman Catholic authorities and the World Council of Churches' Uppsala Assembly approved these proposals in principle. The details were worked out in the following months.

The Rev. Dr. Roy Neehall of Trinidad was appointed associate secretary and in addition three other staff members were appointed with more specialized qualifications. The secretariat is responsible to the two co-presidents and to the SODEPAX Committee, which consists of sixty experts and church representatives. This Committee also has a delegated authority in relation to the two bodies sponsoring SODEPAX. It meets annually, current matters being dealt with by a smaller steering committee which meets more frequently.

Major international consultations have been held: at Cartigny in Switzerland in November 1969 on the theology of development; at Driebergen in Holland in March 1970 on communications media in the service of development and peace; and at Baden in Austria in April 1970 on peace and the international community. A dozen smaller seminars have also been held, notably those in connection with the second development decade and with education for civic action.

In addition to international consultations to clarify the churches' motives for social action, a noteworthy aspect of the work of SODEPAX has been its local and regional activity. For example in several African and Asian countries SODEPAX groups have been formed. This advance was stimulated by the ecumenical conference on the churches' role in the development of Asia, held in Tokyo in July 1970. This was jointly organized by SODEPAX and the East Asia Christian Conference (EACC). Within this joint program, aimed at gathering and making available information about justice, development and peace, and at awakening Christians to a sense of their responsibility in this area, SODEPAX gives special attention to the whole range of questions in the field of education in the widest sense, to the mass media, and to cooperation with people of non-Christian religions and ideologies, as well as with secular institutions.

The question of the continuation of the SODEPAX experiment has, of course, been raised. It was considered at the meeting of the Joint Working Group in May 1970 and at the SODEPAX assembly held at Nemi in Italy in June 1970. There it was suggested that at this present stage SODEPAX had achieved its objectives and that its experimental thrust, its flexibility, and its educational scope might now be continued as part of some wider structure. This question was given added urgency by the World Council of Churches' decision to create a Commission on the Churches' Participation in Development (CCPD). However, after a very full discussion of the matter, it was recommended during the Nemi meeting that SODEPAX should continue its activities for a further period of three years. This recommendation is subject to the approval of the bodies which sponsor SODEPAX. Obviously it is still a matter of urgency that the efforts of both parties in the field of development should be concerted.

b) Church and Society

While the joint studies and consultations on social issues between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches are for the most part conducted through SODEPAX, a close collaboration has developed on other problems between the Department on Church and Society, on the one hand, and the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace on the other. Four Roman Catholic observers attend meetings of the working committee of Church and Society, which has a total membership of twenty-five. These Roman Catholic observers are chosen by the Secretariat for Christian Unity in consultation with the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace.

Out of this has come substantial Roman Catholic participation in the World Council of Churches' new study on "Technology and the Future of Man and Society." Eighteen Roman Catholics took part in an exploratory conference on this theme in 1970 at which there were one hundred and three participants altogether. Four of the Roman Catholic participants were present as observer-consultants, the other fourteen as guest specialists. Collaboration in this study is expected to grow as the study progresses.

Certain public reactions, especially on the part of business people, to the encyclical Populorum Progressio and to the 1966 Church and Society Conference, led to collaboration in another field. A consultation was held in Rotterdam in June 1968 to discuss these Christian statements. It was attended by sixty business people. The consultation was jointly arranged by the Department on Church and Society and the International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC), a Roman Catholic body having close but unofficial relationships with Vatican agencies, especially the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace.

A second conference was held at Vevey in November 1969 and a third is planned for May 1971 in London.

c) Service and Aid

Since 1967, Caritas Internationalis and the WCC Division of Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service have held a third joint consultation. This took place from April 28-30, 1968. This consultation stressed, as the first joint consultation had done, the great variety of ways in which the relief organizations of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches can be of mutual assistance in this field. Above all it emphasized the need for mutual exchange of information, for reciprocal consultation, and for the joint planning and coordination of church appeals.

Clearly the policy of holding such study conferences should continue to be encouraged. Contacts between the various sectors of the WCC Division of Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service and Caritas Internationalis are now normal practice but everywhere the situation needs to be frequently reexamined. The inclusion of specialists in this field at such study conferences will be the best way of ensuring effective planning of direct cooperation.

In order to ensure wider and more effective cooperation, the Joint Working Group at its meeting in May 1970 "warmly welcomed the proposal of the Division of Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service and Caritas Internationalis to hold a joint conference of representatives of the staff of the various bodies belonging to the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches which are concerned with relief, aid and development, for the purpose of establishing and extending ways and means of planning joint programs."



Speaking at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva on June 10, 1969, Pope Paul VI mentioned the importance of ecumenical activity at the local level. Since the Roman Catholic Church decided to participate actively in the ecumenical movement, many national and local Christian Councils have invited the Roman Catholic Church to send observers or consultants to their meetings. In some places, the Roman Catholic Church is now a member of the National Christian Council. In a far larger number of cases, the Roman Catholic Church participates in Christian Councils at more than one level, parish, diocesan and provincial. Some of the questions which this development raises concern the Joint Working Group.

In view of the importance of this current development, the Joint Working Group at its meeting in May 1970 asked for a detailed report on the various National Christian Councils and Roman Catholic participation in or collaboration with these Councils to be presented to its next meeting.

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