Joint Working Group between RCC and WCC
Plenary Meeting

Casa San Antonio, Cordova (Spain)
12-19 October 2009


The ancient city of Cordova in Spain, with archeological sites dating back to the Roman Empire, relics of Christian martyrs of the fourth century, and impressive traces of hundreds of years of Jewish and Muslim presence has been and continues to be a city at the crossroads of important historical dynamics. Cordova has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

The Diocese of Cordova hosted this year’s plenary session of the Joint Working Group (JWG), which is the body that monitors and promotes collaboration between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). Bringing together representatives of the RCC and a wide spectrum of member churches of the WCC, the JWG is one of the most inclusive ecumenical instruments in the world.  

The choice of Cordova contributed significantly to an intensive ecumenical encounter. The lively and committed ecumenical engagement of the local Roman Catholic diocese and its partners inspired the JWG, which was warmly welcomed by the Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seville and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cordova, the Most Reverend Juan José Asenjo Pelegrina. The local ecumenical centre, which is led by the experienced ecumenist Rev. Manuel González Muñana, impressed the participants with its well developed concept and practical initiatives from ecumenical courses with children to ecumenical Bible seminars, social projects, and common celebrations and prayer. The programme of visits was completed by receptions offered by the city of Cordova and by the diocese. Members of the group participated in the worship of local congregations. Much appreciated was the visit of the WCC Central Committee member Bishop Carlos Lopez-Lozano of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church from Madrid. 

The JWG met at the Casa San Antonio, the Diocesan Spirituality Centre of Cordova, from October 12-19, 2009 under the leadership of the co-moderators, Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste (Romania) and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (Ireland). This was the third meeting of the group in its ninth phase running between the 2006 and the 2013 WCC Assemblies. The main task of the group was to give shape to its continuing work on the themes of Reception and Spiritual Roots of Ecumenism. The choice of these themes was motivated by the need to harvest the fruits of many years of ecumenical encounter and dialogue. The spiritual roots of ecumenism are at the heart of the quest for Christian unity: that is, they entail conversion and renewal, holiness of life in accordance with the gospel, personal and communal prayer. Careful attention needs to be paid to processes essential for receiving ecumenical achievements so that the prayer, life and mission of the whole believing community will be enriched as it pursues the goal of full visible unity of the Churches.

Two issues, Migration and Youth, were further explored as elements of the work of this JWG mandate. The present global phenomenon of migration is changing the face of the local church in many places of the world. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for deepening Christian ecumenical relations across boundaries of nations and cultures. The JWG is also highlighting the need to give a space of leadership and responsibility to young people in the ecumenical movement. In view of this goal, the JWG is co-operating with the ECHOS youth commission of the WCC and youth organizations in the RCC. The task of the JWG is to strengthen ecumenical cooperation in responding to situations and areas that mark the life of the Churches. 

A central moment of this meeting was a panel discussion on contemporary ecumenical challenges and the present stage of bilateral dialogues between the Churches. The panel addressed some of the principal concerns and opportunities of the present stage in the search for Christian unity. As we approach the centennial of the 1910 World Missionary Conference next year in Edinburgh, the plenary recalled that the pioneers of the ecumenical movement were hoping to achieve their goal within one century. Experience has shown that progress towards unity in Christ is taking longer. It requires a deep change of mindsets, attitudes and habits in order to be credible and convincing. 

The next JWG Plenary is scheduled to take place in September 2010 in the Middle East.