The International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference met at the conference centre of the former collegiate church of Wislikofen, Switzerland, from 31 March to 3 April 2014.
The discussions centred on the dialogues concluded with the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites in Poland, the Church of Sweden and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church in India; and on the International Old Catholic Congress taking place in Utrecht in September 2014 in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the Union of Utrecht.
Following internal discussions and a meeting with Presiding Bishop L. Jablonski and Bishop W. Jaworski, the members of the Old Catholic Bishops' Conference voted to readmit the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites in Poland to the Union of Utrecht (see separate communiqué). Before the vote was taken, the Presiding Bishop of the Mariavites delivered a statement to the Old Catholic bishops that expressed willingness to meet all of the conditions for readmission. With all points of discussion thus cleared up, the bishops of the IBC and the two bishops present from the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites signed the previously published agreement. The signing of the Declaration of Utrecht and the Statute of the International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference will take place once the remaining Mariavite bishops have signed the agreement.
Also on the IBC agenda was the concluding text of the dialogue with the Church of Sweden, which is now also available in German. The dialogue commission concluded that the two churches not only live in comparable social and societal situations, but also that they have a great deal in common in terms of their theology and practical church life. The members therefore found that the basis is sufficient to determine church communion and to implement it in practice. The process of reception has begun in both churches and in international committees. The Church of Sweden and the International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference are expected to issue their resolutions on their acceptance of the dialogue text in 2016.
In February 2014 the commission for the dialogue between the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church concluded that the two churches share the same faith, which is also the faith of the Old Church. In view of the recommendations issued by the commission, the IBC therefore stated that the basis is sufficient to add the Mar Thoma Syrian Church to the churches with which the Union of Utrecht is in communion. The process of reception will now be initiated in both churches. The IBC expects to be able to issue a definitive decision at its next meeting in 2015. [statement]
The IBC furthermore decided to discontinue all activities with regard to those groups in the USA that call themselves 'Old Catholic' and have repeatedly sought contact with the Union of Utrecht. Enquiries will now be forwarded to the Episcopal Church, which is in communion with the Union of Utrecht, or to the responsible bishop, W. Michie Klusmeyer. The churches of the Union of Utrecht have no intention to establish jurisdictions in the USA.
A further focus of discussion at the IBC meeting was the 'Globalization and Catholicity' project that stemmed from a joint initiative between the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church and the Episcopal Church and is now a project of the World Conference of Churches. A further consultation with around 60 participants will take place in Manila in 2015. The consultation is part of an ecumenical process known as the 'pilgrimage to justice and peace'.
The IBC meeting also addressed the preparations for the International Old Catholic Congress taking place in Utrecht from 18 to 21 September 2014 (http://www.okcongres2014.com/page/69/welcome). Representatives of all dioceses of the Union of Utrecht are expected to attend. The congress coincides with the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the Union of Utrecht, which will be celebrated at a special service with guests from around the world. In the days leading up to the congress, a special meeting of the Bishops' Conference will take place, with bishops from churches including the Philippine Independent Church and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church also invited to attend. The aim of this meeting will be to draw up a joint declaration on the World Council of Churches paper 'The Church: Towards a Common Vision'.
The next regular meeting of the International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference will take place in the Czech Republic from 14 to 18 June 2015.
Amersfoort/Bern, April 2014
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