IV. SOCIAL SERVICE AND SERVICE TO HUMANITY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Church and Society
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.
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.
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.
second conference was held at Vevey in November 1969 and a third
is planned for May 1971 in London.
Service and Aid
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.
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.
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."
V. NATIONAL AND LOCAL COUNCILS OF CHURCHES
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