Audience of Pope Francis
with the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission
5 October 2022
Summary: Pope Francis received members of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission (MERCIC) in a private audience on Wednesday 5th October. The commission, which began work in 1967 and has met since without interruption, is currently meeting in Rome at the Casa Maria Immaculata for the first plenary meeting of its twelth round of dialogue. The Catholic co-chair, Bishop Shane Mackinlay of the diocese of Sandhurst, introduced the commission and its current work which focusses on mission and synodality and particularly on the way that mission shapes the formualtion of doctrine. The Methodist co-chair, the Rev’d Prof. Edgardo Colon-Emeric, presented Pope Francis with the report of the eleventh round of dialogue, God in Christ Reconciling: On the Way to Full Communion in faith, Sacraments, and Mission, briefly explaining the main convergences of the document. Pope Francis responded by reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son underlining the report’s scriptural reflection that both Catholics and Methodists are “sons” who, by sin, have wandered from the Father’s house, and both need to return to the Father to find unity in faith and sacramental life.
H.E. Shane Mackinlay, bishop of Sandhurst, addresses the Pope Francis in English.
I am Bishop Shane Mackinlay, and I am honoured to greet you as the new Catholic Co-President of the Methodist-Catholic International Commission, along with the Methodist Co-President, and with the members of the Commission, who are meeting throughout this week.
Five years ago, you met with this Commission to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its work, which has continued uninterrupted since 1967. On that occasion, you commended the work of the Commission’s eleventh round of dialogue, focused on reconciliation, praying that those “discussions [may] … be … an incentive to Christians everywhere to be ministers of reconciliation,” trusting in “the Spirit of God [who] brings about the miracle of reconciled unity … ordering everything in a unity that is not uniformity but a communion.”
We are pleased to report to you that the Commission has now successfully completed that eleventh round of dialogue, resulting in the document that my colleague will present to you shortly.
This week, we have begun a new round of dialogue, our twelfth. The Commission has a number of new members and is made up of pastors and theologians drawn from every inhabited continent. We are committed to continuing to help our respective churches to listen to one another, and to receive from the graces with which the Holy Spirit has blessed the other – graces that are “also meant to be a gift for us” (EG n. 246), as you point out in Evangelii Gaudii.
Our focus in this round of dialogue is on models of unity in belief and mission. Encouraged by the World Methodist Council’s concern to promote mission, and inspired by your own emphasis on the call to each of the baptised to live as missionary disciples, we are exploring the structures and processes of faith and communion that enable and support the flourishing of the Church’s mission. In reflecting on these structures in our ancient shared tradition, we are very mindful of the forthcoming 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. At the same time, in the more recent practices of our particular traditions, we are reflecting on the theological significance of the synodal path on which you are leading the Catholic Church, and of the various conferencing processes that are so well established in the Methodist Churches for shared discernment and decision-making.
We ask for your prayers and your blessing as we undertake this endeavour on behalf of our two communions, and we assure you of our gratitude for your continuing support, and for your faithful and inspiring witness to the Gospel of Jesus, and to his prayer for unity amongst his followers: “Father, may they all be one, so that the world might believe” (Jn 17:21).
I now introduce the Methodist Co-President of the Commission, Reverend Doctor Edgardo Colón-Emeric, to present you with a copy of the Commission’s report from its eleventh round of dialogue.
Following Bishop Mackinlay’s speech, the Rev. Dr. Edgardo Colon-Emeric, dean of Duke Divinity School, addresses the Holy Father in Spanish. The following text is a translation.
Peace and wellbeing. It is a blessing to greet you and share the fruits of our ecumenical labors. Five years ago, I had the opportunity to present to you a Spanish version of our report from the 10th round of Methodist Catholic dialogue titled “The Way to Holiness: From Glory to Glory.” Today I present you a new report, “God Reconciling in Christ: On the Way to Full Communion in Faith, Sacraments and Mission.”
On the cover of the report, you can see a sculpture of the prodigal son embraced by the father. In this parable, we see a reflection of the dreams of this dialogue. Methodists and Catholics long for something deeper than superficial unity. We dream of full recognition of each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and the tender embrace of the Father of whom we are both children.
In our report we reflected on this dream. We first examined the theme of reconciliation from a Christological perspective. Christ is our peace, God seeks to reconcile all things: mother earth, humans, Christians, Methodists and Catholics. We reflected on the church as servant of and pilgrim of the way of reconciliation; we examined the structures and rituals that promote communion and reconciliation in the church like the papacy, the sacrament of penitence and reconciliation, and the Methodist love feast.
One theme on which we found significant convergence was on the close connection between reconciliation and the mission of the church. Together we reflected on our responsibility in promoting social justice, peace, care for our common home, and also celebration of the journey. Truly, we have found that the way of reconciliation is long but joyful because the way abounds in gifts and the future is fiesta.
When our commission had an audience with you five years ago, you said that “we cannot speak of prayer and charity unless together we pray and work for reconciliation and full communion.” I wanted you to know that before that audience [five years ago], the members of the commission had the opportunity of visiting the Scavi. Before the tomb of Saint Peter, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and a miracle happened. We felt that the weight of centuries of separation was lightened. We felt that were not simply Methodists and Catholics. We were Christians. In the tomb lay our Peter. We prayed to Our Father. We asked forgiveness for Our sins.
Your Holiness, God gives us signs of full communion along the way. May this text and the work of this committee be a seed of unity, not uniformity, that the world may be believe in Christ, our peace.
Following Prof Colon-Emeric’s address, he presents the Holy Father with a copy of “God in Christ Reconciling: On the Way to Full Communion in Faith, Sacraments, and Mission,” the report of the 11th round of dialogue of the Methodist-Roman Catholic international Commission.
Members of the commission
Reverend Dr Edgardo Colon-Emeric, (Co-Chair) USA
Reverend Matthew A. Laferty (Co-Secretary), Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome
Dr Jung Choi, Korea/USA
Dr Geordan Hammond, United Kingdom
Bishop Lizette Gabriel Montalvo, Puerto Rico
Reverend Dr Glen O’Brien, Australia
Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri, Malaysia
Professor Lilian Cheelo Siwila, Zambia/South Africa
Bishop Shane Mackinlay (Co-Chair), Australia
Reverend Anthony Currer (Co-Secretary), Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Dr Catherine E. Clifford, Canada
Reverend Dr Gerard Kelly, Australia
Reverend Dr Jorge Scampini, OP, Argentina
Dr Clare Watkins, England
Sister MarySylvia Nwachukwu, DDL, Nigeria
Reverend Daniel Franklin Pilario, CM, the Philippines
Reverend Martin Browne, OSB, Ireland