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This article was published in the January 2002 issue of The Journal.

Living the Path to Christian Unity

This number of Interchurch Families brings you echoes from Edmonton 2001, the first international conference to be held in Canada. Edmonton was the tenth in the series of conferences that began at Rydal in the English Lake District in 1980, and have taken interchurch families all around the British Isles – England, Ireland (north and south), and Scotland – and to the USA. The Edmonton conference was planned mainly by telephone and internet across Canada by groups in Montreal, Saskatoon and Calgary, co-ordinated by Ray and Fenella Temmerman in Morden, Manitoba, with on-the-spot planning by Cathy Harvey, Edmonton Archdiocesan Ecumenical Officer. It was an amazing achievement, and interchurch families world-wide are greatly indebted to the Canadians.

In a later number we will offer an overview of the previous nine conferences, and also situate Edmonton 2001 between the World Gathering of Interchurch Families held in Geneva in 1998 and that to be held near Rome in 2003. Geneva was organised by the francophones of France and Switzerland; while the Rome planning group (PREPROMA) is working in English, French, German and Italian. In this issue the Edmonton texts are given as much space as possible. The overall theme is that of the conference: Living the Path to Christian Unity, and the texts (necessarily shortened) are gathered into four sections. We start (as we often do) with interchurch family stories. The second section is a collection of texts gathered round the theme of interchurch family spirituality. We were particularly pleased that Bishop Marc Ouellet, recently appointed Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), came to Edmonton; his text on the potential of mixed marriage families is less drastically abbreviated than any other, in view of its importance in furthering dialogue with the PCPCU. Finally, there is a section on past and future. We are grateful to the authors to be allowed to publish these texts in this form here. Many can be found in their entirety at under the "Conferences / International / Canada 2001" section, and tapes of the main presentations can be obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ($40 or £25).

Pastoral understanding

A communiqué on Edmonton produced by a small group appealed for ‘pastoral understanding’ for interchurch families. Pastoral understanding goes much further than pastoral care; it is a two-way process. It implies dialogue, and respect for the conscientious convictions and actions of couples and families in situations where their loyalty to their marriage bond, to their ‘domestic church’, must sometimes necessarily be held in tension with their loyalty to their wider church communities. But pastoral understanding goes even further. It requires a willingness on the part of those church communities to listen to the experience of interchurch families, to be challenged by it, and to consider its wider implications for their own living of the path to Christian unity. To quote Bishop Ouellet: ‘Family is not only a focus of the pastoral care of the Church, but also belongs to the very communion and mission of the Church.’ Interchurch families are called to help make visible the communion and mission that our church communities share.

RR