The first three (Old) Catholic Congresses were international ecumenical meetings mostly attended by Catholics who for reasons of conscience were not prepared to accept the dogmas of Papal Infallibility and Primacy of the Pope with supreme judicial authority formulated atVaticanI 1870. Further congresses held between 1874 and the founding of the Union of Utrecht 1889 were mainly meetings of the newly formed Old Catholic Church of Germany. They served both the inner strengthening of the church and its external growth. This changed after the founding of the Union of Utrecht in 1889 once the independent catholic churches of western Europe, with the creation of the International Bishops Conference de facto became the Old Catholic denomination.
From German to International Congresses
One year after the foundation of the Union of Utrecht in 1889, the 10. Old Catholic Congress (1890 inCologne) declared itself to be the 'First International Old Catholic Congress'. The second International Old Catholic Congress (1892 inLucerne) developed the common Old Catholic ecclesiology in a list of directional theses. A joint academic Journal was also started, the "Revue Internationale de Théologie", since 1911 "Internationale Kirchliche Zeitschrift". The congresses also attempted from the common ground that had been won -- the old, undivided church of the first millennium -- to move towards friendly churches, whose representatives took a more and more active roll. Later negotiations with the Anglicans and the Orthodox are one result.
After WWII the congresses turned more to questions of parish life. The Congress in Genevain 1990 saw this enlarged to include social and ethical questions
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