ROME (MEOR) – The Rev. Prof. Jong Chun Park and Ms. Gillian Kingston, respectively the president and vice president of the World Methodist Council, made a visit to Rome from 20-25 October 2022, on mission to promote peace as well as support the ministry of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome.
On Thursday, 20 October, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston paid their first visit of the trip to the Rev. Luca Anziani, president of the Methodist Churches in Italy (OPCEMI). During their visit, the World Methodist Council leaders congratulated Rev. Anziani on his recent election as president, thanked Rev. Anziani and OPCEMI for their continued support and partnership with the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, and discussed the Italian Methodist commitment to migrants and refugees. Rev. Anziani shared the importance of dialogue and the role played in such dialogues by minority churches like the Methodist Churches in Italy (OPCEMI). Rev. Anziani presented Prof Park a copy of the new liturgical texts published jointly by the Methodist and Waldensian churches. OPCEMI received the World Methodist Peace Award in 2018. Following their meeting, Prof. Park and Ms. Kingston met with Rev Luca Baratto, Ms. Marta Bernardini, and Ms. Fiona Kendall of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). Rev Baratto overviewed the Federation’s work and Ms. Bernardini and Ms. Kendall gave an in-depth presentation on ‘Mediterranean Hope’, an FCEI project supporting migrants and refugees through a number of programs including humanitarian corridors from Libya, refugee reception in Lampedusa, and migrant worker support in Abruzzi. Prof Park and Ms. Kingston were impressed by the project and were particularly interested with the connection to the 2024 World Methodist Conference theme ‘On the Move’.
Later on Thursday, 20 October, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston also attended a special symposium, co-hosted by the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome and Centro Pro Unione, on the late Methodist theologian Revd Prof Geoffrey Wainwright. The event, titled “The Heritage of Geoffrey Wainwright as Liturgist, Theologian, and Ecumenist”, highlighted the various aspects of Prof Wainwright’s academic work and was attended by over 40 people. There were three main speakers for the event – Rev Prof Bryan Spinks (Yale University), Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck (Wesley House Cambridge), and Rev Dr William Rusch (New York Theological Seminary). Following the main lectures, there was a special panel of Prof Wainwright’s former colleagues and friends who spoke about personal aspects of Prof Wainwright’s life; the panel was comprised of Rev Prof Bernhard Eckerstorfer OSB (Pontifical University of Sant’Anselmo), Ms. Gillian Kingston (World Methodist Council), and Archbishop Don Bolen (Catholic Diocese of Regina). Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary at the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, attended the symposium and greeted Prof Park and Ms. Kingston after the program. Along with Rev Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, Rev Prof James Puglisi SA, director of Centro Pro Unione, and Rev Martin Browne OSB, the new official for Methodist relations at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston joined the event speakers for dinner afterwards.
On Friday, 21 October, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston visited the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, where the tomb of the Apostle Paul is located, followed by a series of meetings with Vatican officials and ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. The World Methodist Council leaders met H.Em. Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, to discuss Methodist-Catholic relations, the recent publication of ‘God in Christ Reconciling’ by the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, and recent developments in the World Methodist Council. Prof Park thanked Cardinal Koch for his support of and the Dicastery’s collaboration with the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome. Prof Park and Ms. Kingston also met with H.E. Frances Collins, ambassador-designate of the Republic of Ireland to the Holy See. Ms. Kingston and Ambassador Collins hail from the same county in Ireland. During their meeting, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston shared with Ambassador Collins about the World Methodist Council’s peace-related projects and discussed the role of Methodists in peace-making in Northern Ireland. Following this encounter, Prof Park and MS Kingston met H.Em Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and several members of his staff. Cardinal Czerny explained the new configuration regarding the work of the Dicastery, which is charged with implementing activities and projects related to the social teaching of the Catholic Church. The Dicastery has shifted to responding to requests from national Catholic bishops’ conferences for accompaniment and expertise on social issues (a bottom-up approach), as opposed to mandating the activities of the national Catholic bishops’ conferences (a top-down approach). Prof Park and Ms. Kingston affirmed the Methodist commitment to peace and to migrants and refugees and encouraged Cardinal Czerny to foster ecumenical encounter as part of the Dicastery’s initiatives. The last meeting of the day was with H.E. Choo Hyo-ho, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See, at his residence in northern Rome. Prof Park and MS Kingston shared with Ambassador Choo regarding the Council’s peace initiatives and spoke in detail about the WMC Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula. Prof Park also shared his desire for a delegation from North Korea to attend the World Methodist Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, in August 2024.
Ms. Kingston was received by H.G. Archbishop Ian Ernest, personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See, on Saturday, 22 October.
On Sunday, 23 October, Ms. Kingston met Prof Mario Cignoni, secretary general of the Bible Society of Italy, accompanied by MEOR administrator Stefanie Gabuyo. Ms. Kingston is the president of the National Bible Society of Ireland. The World Methodist Council leaders worshipped at Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church where the congregation celebrated Harvest Sunday; the service was led by the Rev Dr Daniel Pratt Morris-Chapman. Ms. Kingston preached and Prof Park offered special prayers for peace and reconciliation. Following the worship service, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston met H.E. Jean Jude Piquant, ambassador of the Republic of Haiti to the Holy See, and discussed the work of the World Methodist Council and the importance of religious leaders promoting peace. Prof Park and Ms. Kingston visited the Abbey of Three Fountains, the historic execution site of the Apostle Paul. Later that day, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace opened in Rome under the theme ‘The Cry of Peace’, with Prof Park, Ms. Kingston, and MEOR director the Rev Matthew A. Laferty as members of the Methodist delegation. Prof Park was extended a place of honor during the opening ceremony. Mr. Sergio Matterella, president of the Republic of Italy, and Mr. Emmanuel Macron, president of the Republic of France, addressed the audience.
On Monday, 24 October, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace held various plenary sessions on the meeting’s theme. Prof Park spoke on a panel on “The Word of God Generates Vision” and Ms. Kingston spoke on a panel on “Mother Earth: One Planet, One Humanity.” Rev Laferty was a discussant on the panel “The Great Opportunity: Migrations and the Future.” Throughout the day, the delegation met a number of religious leaders from various faith communities and built new friendships.
On the morning of Tuesday, 25 October, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace continued, with Prof Park and Rev Laferty attending. Ms. Kingston was unable to extend her trip to attend the proceedings on Tuesday and returned to Ireland. Rev Dn. Alessandra Trotta, moderator of the Waldensian Evangelical Church, also joined the Methodist delegation. Prof Park met Rev Ki-seok Hong and Rev Jong Kim, pastors of the Korean Methodist congregation in Rome, accompanied by Rev Laferty and Ms. Gabuyo, for luncheon to learn about the ministry of the Korean Methodist congregation and the broader Korean-language Methodist work in Italy. Following the luncheon, Prof Park and Rev Laferty were joined by Rev Anziani at the Colosseum for Christian prayers for peace. Prof Park was among a small group of senior church leaders from various Christian confessions to lead the prayers alongside Pope Francis. Prior to the prayers, Pope Francis personally greeted Prof Park. After the prayers, the delegation joined other leaders from various religious traditions for the closing ceremony of the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace. A special dinner was held in the Palace of Exhibitions in central Rome for invited participants. The Methodist delegation was seated with brothers of the Taize Community and engaged in a rich conversation of the importance of outreach to young people and trends among this demographic.
Throughout the entire trip, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston were accompanied by Rev Laferty. Additionally, Ms. Gabuyo, MEOR administrator, supported the visit and accompanied the delegation during several appointments.
The Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome is the presence of the World Methodist Council in Rome for ecumenical dialogue, joint action for peace and justice, prayer and reflection, and hospitality.