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Interchurch Families Visit to Rome

Following our visit to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity during the Second World Gathering of Interchurch Families in Rome in 2003, we sent the Council a report of the conference, and a copy of the Rome document which was adopted there. They subsequently agreed to further informal conversations with us, and recently a group of 20 people from 9 countries represented at the 2003 Gathering met again in Rome, and a smaller delegation visited the Council for a whole morning of talks. AIF UK was represented by Bev Hollins and myself, and Ruth Reardon was there as co-ordinator of the international network. We were led by Fr George Kilcourse from American AIF, and we came from all round the world, Australia, Canada, and several countries in Europe. We met with three members of the PCPCU and a canon lawyer who wasn’t as scary as we thought he might be! We were very aware of many prayers for us on this visit, and thank you for your support.

We were made very welcome at the Council and the conversation covered a wide range of topics at different levels. Interchurch family experiences in different countries were shared, as was our sense of ‘double belonging’ (a term which Council members find very difficult to accept as they look at it juridically rather than personally). We spent some considerable time discussing the question of eucharistic sharing, which was coincidentally in the news as we were in Rome at the same time as the Bishops’ Synod on the Eucharist. We looked at the 1993 Directory and its applications through various sets of guidelines from around the world, including ‘One Bread, One Body’. The members of the Council were not unmoved by the pain expressed by several members of the group about their situations. We felt a real sense of understanding on their part, although it is clear that they consider that applications of the norms have to be made at episcopal level in the different countries.

Later in the day the whole group was able to visit the Council and learn about its work, and leave some AIF mugs, and a bottle of Bourbon brought from Kentucky by George, to remind them of our work.

There will be further reports on these conversations when we have agreed the details with those who were there. We also spent time discussing future international contacts and cooperation. I will send round a full international update before the end of the year. Meanwhile, just a couple of aspects of the visit which were most enjoyable: some delightful restaurants formed the background for much interesting international discussion of subjects such as baptism and marriage among our children and grandchildren, and I would certainly recommend walking round Rome with Bev in clerical dress – people’s faces have to be seen to be believed. It even obtained her a seat further forward at the Papal Audience!

Melanie Finch