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Renewing the Church in A Secular Age (March 4-5, 2015)

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The International Conference on Renewing the Church in a Secular Age: Holistic Dialogue and Kenotic Vision took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from March 4-5, 2015. The event was co-organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome) and the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (Washington DC). The conference was the direct result from an initiative of the Research Council for Values and Philosophy (RVP) that began with an open dialogue in 2009 between Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Professor Charles Taylor, author of the monumental work A Secular Age. Professor Taylor extended the project by addressing four specific disjunctions of Church and People relating to (a) seekers who have left ecclesial practice in search of the Spirit, (b) the magisterium charged with pastoral responsibilities; and (c) contemporary moral guidance, (d) in a world of plural spiritualities. The project aimed at, and continues to pursue, the articulation of the following four emerging conjunctions of the Church as (a) not only listening to the experience of the laity (b) but discerning the path ahead, and hence (c) welcoming the seekers and (d) serving their broad religious needs in a context marked by plural spiritualities.

The Conference involved the direct participation of more than 300 participants from over 30 different countries [here the Program]. A Booklet (170 p.) made available not only the Abstracts of all Presentations and the CV's of the main contributors but also included Preparatory Materials during the process leading up to our meeting in Rome. The main speakers at the Conference were the following persons: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (President of the Pontifical Council for Culture) [video], François-Xavier Dumortier SJ (Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University) [video], George McLean OMI (Professor-Emeritus of the Catholic University of America and President of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, USA) [video], Charles Taylor (Professor-Emeritus of McGill University, Canada) [video], José Casanova (Georgetown University, USA) [video], Hans Joas (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany) [video], William Desmond (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) [video], Tomas Halík (Charles University, Czech Republic) [video], Adela Cortina (University of Valencia, Spain) [video], Juan Carlos Scannone SJ (Colegio Máximo de San José, Argentina) [video], Massimo Grilli (Pontificia Università Gregoriana) [video], Anthony Carrol (Heythrop College, United Kingdom) [video], Adriano Fabris (Università di Pisa, Italy) [video], Peter Jonkers (Tilburg University, Netherlands) [video], William Barbieri (Catholic University of America, USA) [video], Louis Caruana (Pontificia Università Gregoriana) [video], Robert Schreiter CPPS (Catholic Theological Union-Chicago, USA) [video], Leon Dyczwski OFM (John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland) [video], Daniel Deckers (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany) [video]. Members of the audience  also made valuable contributions as can be seen here in a sample of the open discussion that followed the interventions of José Casanova and Hans Joas [video] as well as the ones of Charles Taylor and William Desmond [video]. − For a complete overview of the interventions done during the Conference, please, click the picture at your right. A selection of photos taken during the event is also available here [album].

The moderation of the different Sessions of the Conference (Listening Church, Discerning Church, Welcoming Church, Serving Church) was entrusted to the following persons: Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, SDB (India), João J. Vila-Chã, SJ (Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma), Nicolas de Bremond d'Ars (Centre d'Études Interdisciplinaires des Faits Religieux, France), Richard Rouse (Pontifical Council for Culture, Vatican City), Philip J. Rossi SJ (Marquette University, USA), Pavel Hosek (Charles University, Czech Republic), Helen Alford, OP (Pontificia Università San Tommaso, Roma), Taras Dobko (Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine), Staf Hellemans (Tilburg University, Netherlands), James Corkery, SJ (Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma), Mary McAleese (Former President of the Republic of Ireland).

The Conference was the central-piece of a demanding program that included a Faculty-Seminar with Charles Taylor and other distinguished members of the Disjunctions-Project on the morning of March 4, an event that took place at the Aula Senato of the Pontifical Gregorian University (here some pictures), and an edition of the «Cortile dei Gentili» on «La Piazza e il Tempio» on the eventing of March 6, which took place at the Centro di Studi Americani in Rome. This last event took the form of a dialogue with with Charles Taylor moderated by Giuliano Amato and with the participation of François Bousquet, José Casanova, Alessandro Ferrara and Giacomo Marramao [video]. — Here some pictures taken during the occasion [album].

The journalistic response to the events that took place in Rome from March 4-6, 2015 was particularly good and we are very grateful for it. Among the pieces of reporting produced, we were able to register the following:

News Service produced a short video with Charles Taylor and Tomas Halik Our Sunday Visitor published an interview with Charles Taylor on «The Role of Secularism» Avvenire published not only a generic piece titled «Un Cortile con Taylor» but also delivered the following set of interviews: «Nella età Secolare la fede fiorirà» (with Charles Taylor), «Credenti, discernere per agire» (with Juan Carlos Scannone), «Età Secolare: Abitanti o cercatori?» (with Tomas Halik), «Cattolici: La forza di essere glocal» (with José Casanova) Osservatore Romano published both an article of presentation titled «La strada del ascolto» and an italian translation of Charles Taylor's Lectio Magistralis under the title «La possibilità di scegliere» Vatican Radio published an interview with Hans Joas under the title Erneuerung der Kirche – Gespräch mit Hans Joas Servizio Informazione Religiosa offered to its readers «La Chiesa è anche carne», «Unire i credenti con orientamenti diversi», and «Cercatori con i cercatori» RomaSociale.Com did a piece on «Rinnovare la Chiesa in età secolare» while Tracce.it published «Il centro sta nell'apertura» an interview with Adriano Fabris Zenit offered «La Chiesa è anche carne, dunque attenzione al male e alla miseria» and «Agir face à l'abandon de la foi chrétienne». ♦ Further reporting on the events of Rome mentioned appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, in Crux, and in RomeReports. Marco Bernardoni published a review of the event under the title «È oggi il Tempo: Charles Taylor e la conferenza internazionale Renewing the Church in a Secular Age» (Il Regno, 3, 2015). — The Press Conference that took place at the Pontifical Council for Culture on March 3, 2015 was also the occasion for a private meeting between Professor Charles Taylor and S. E. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.

The partnership of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy and the Pontifical Gregorian University that led to the joint International Conference on «Renewing the Church in a Secular Age» received the generous support of the Our Sunday Visitor Institute and the Raskob Foundation. The edition of the «Cortile dei Gentili» counted with support from the Embassy of Canada to the Holy See, the Institut Français/Centre Saint Louis of the Embassy of France, and the Embassy of the United States of America. We also acknowledge the assistance granted by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. As a network of Catholic Institutions of Philosophy, COMIUCAP is proud of its association with the many efforts presupposed by the events that took place in Rome on March 4-6, 2015 and expresses gratitude not only to the representatives of the three Institutions that were at the origin of the events here reported (Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, Pontifical Gregorian University and Pontifical Council for Culture), but in particular to Professor Charles Taylor and to Professor José Casanova, one and the other major interpreters of the problematic addressed during the Conference in Rome.

We are equally grateful to all the Colleagues who took part in the proceedings here in Rome as well as to the many participants from all over the world who came to the Eternal City for this particular occasion. In our gratitude we also include the «many others» who across the continents did not hesitate to give an helpful hand, from the young artist in China who so diligently assisted with the graphics for the event to the members of the OMI Congregation who fulfilled a small diversity of tasks and the group of students from the Gregorian University in charge of the welcoming desk and other duties during the Conference. Special thanks are equally due to the different offices of the Pontifical Gregorian University and in a most special way to Dr. Hu Yeping, Executive-Director of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy.

As a network of Catholic Institutions dedicated to research and teaching in the fields of Philosophy, COMIUCAP is happy to join in all the efforts that serve the global Mission of the Church and its commitment to renewal under the guidance of the Spirit. Fifty years after Vatican II and under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Church needs now, as ever before, the coordinated efforts of all intellectuals entrusted with the gift of Faith so that the Church might in our time continue to respond with intelligent love and profound authenticity to the many, and most complex, challenges it faces in our present global era. For our network, the events that took place in Rome from March 4-6, 2015 constitute a launching pad towards other initiatives to be implemented in the diverse Regions/Continents of the world. Secularization is a crucial factor for the understanding of the human condition not only in the West, but also in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Accordingly, we invite all persons and institutions that are interested and qualify to find ways of becoming partners in the Research Project that COMIUCAP is now implementing among its present members (and the others we hope will want to join).

The papers presented at the International Joint Conference realized at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana in March, 2015 are now available in the following book (ISBN 9781565183179):

Here the Table of Contents. For copies of this book at the cost of 17,50 USD (plus S&H), please, contact Mr. M. Martin at RVP-Books in San Antonio, Texas (e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; phone: 1-210-341-1366 x205).