The International Bishops’ Conference met for the first time in its new composition since the change of bishop in Switzerland and Germany. As a result elections were required for the IBC Bureau. Bishop Dr. Harald Rein of Switzerland was elected as the new Secretary of the IBC and Bishop Dr Matthias Ring of Germany became Treasurer.
The precarious financial position of the IBC was an important topic of discussion at this year’s meeting. As the income of the IBC mainly derives from membership levies, and as there are churches which have been unable to pay in full what they owe for some time, the finances no longer stretch to meet the cost of all the international responsibilities. In future the budget will be planned in more detail.
A fund was established to cover the cost of the episcopal oversight of the parishes in France, Italy, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as in Sweden and Denmark. The fund will initially be established through the sale of the property in Paris, through monies from the original Fund for the Mission de France and through the repayment of monies originally loaned to the Church in Croatia. Further income could come from regular contributions from the individual churches. Many churches have in the past covered the expenses associated with the pastoral care for the Delegate regions. In future it is planned that these monies be paid directly into the fund and all ensuing costs will be reimbursed centrally. This new arrangement is also designed to enable a clearer overview of the total costs, which has not been possible until now. It is envisaged that the costs for the oversight of each region will be laid down in a budget which must not be exceeded. The capital should also remain untouched.
Likewise the episcopal oversight of the various Delegate regions was regulated anew. Bishop Schoon (NL) will continue to look after Denmark and Sweden. Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will, after consultation, be taken on by Bishop Okoro (A) in 2011. The parishes in France are under the care of Archbishop Vercammen (NL), who will exercise his oversight together with Fr. Jean-Claude Mokry (CH) and upon consultation the parishes in Italy will, at the latest, be taken on by Bishop Rein (CH) in 2011.
For the first time since the decision of the IBC in Karlik (CZ) in 2009, a bishop of the Old Catholic Mariavite Church in Poland participated in the meeting. Bishop Zdzislaw M. Jaworski, representing leading Bishop Michal M. Ludwik Jablonski, was accompanied by Fr. Piotr Grzegorz Drozdz. This church has been in discussion with the IBC again since 2008 with the aim of the restoration of membership of the Union of Utrecht for the Mariavite Church of Plock. The Church was granted guest status at the IBC for the next five years. This is to allow a continuation of the talks and enable an assessment as to whether membership is possible, as certain questions have yet to be addressed.
As a study topic the bishops explored the possibility of permanent deacons being able to anoint the sick. The problem lies therein that traditionally the sacrament of anointing has been coupled with the sacrament of reconciliation, which is assigned to the priesthood. By way of introduction the focus was above all on the historic offices, from the charismatic through to the fixed offices. A further step is planned at the next meeting when the identity of the diaconate will be considered and the issue as to how far an individual bishop has the authority to determine or alter their responsibilities will be discussed.
Amersfoort and Berne, July 2010
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