The Institute invited seven Slovak doctoral students—four Lutheran, two Roman Catholic, and one Old Catholic—along with Prof. Dr. L’ubomir Batka from the Lutheran faculty in Bratislava to participate in an intensive ecumenical seminar in Strasbourg from June 23 to 30. The Lutheran and the Catholic church in Slovakia have have few contacts with each other on account of the very painful conflicts of the past which still make their effects felt in the present. The idea of the seminar was that common work on relevant ecumenical documents far from home could create a new opportunity for young Catholic and Lutheran theologians to talk with one another.
The texts under examination were the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and the new Catholic-Lutheran statement “From Conflict to Communion,” which deals with the question of whether and how Lutherans together with Catholics can commemorate the 2017 anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Under the direction of Institute Prof. Theodor Dieter, the two documents were carefully and precisely read and then discussed in detail. At the same time, the conversations ranged widely and often lasted until late in the night. There was an atmosphere of openness, listening, and desire to understand that furthered the sense of trust, which the particpants welcomed gladly. The group work will continue in Bratislava: a plan was formed for a group of Catholic and Lutheran students to translate “From Conflict to Communion” into Slovak, which will create further opportunities for taking up theological questions on the relationships between Catholics and Lutherans.
The theological work was complemented by a visit to the Council of Europe, expeditions into the city and cathedral accompanied by a lecture on the church history of Strasbourg, and a trip to the Humanist Library in Sélestat, the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, the Oberlin Museum in Waldersbach, and finally a wine-tasting and dinner of tarte flambée.
Among the many positive comments from the participants were these:
“The week of intensive study at the Ecumenical Institute has strengthened my conviction of the necessity of a common ground between Catholic and Protestant positions. I hope that this view and knowledge that I have gained will useful for only for myself but also for my Catholic church community in Slovakia.”
“Thank you that I could spend such a wonderful week in Strasbourg! It really appreciate that I could participate and learn a lot from the discussions we had with Prof. Dieter. They enriched my theological knowledge and encouraged me to continue in the ecumenical dialogue in Slovakia. Thank you for your hospitality! I am really glad I could see this beautiful part of Alsace with its rich traditions. The museums in Sélestat, Colmar, and Waldersbach were awesome! Finally, I have to confess that the wine you have there is a delightful gift from God.”
“I would like to express to my deepest gratitude to you for the possibility to participate in the seminar at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg led by Prof. Theodor Dieter. I also really enjoyed informal conversations and activities with Prof. Dieter and the other students from different Christian traditions. I can definitely say that it was not only a formal study week, but a real ecumenical experience!”
“It was in every respect an instructive week. The impressions were very positive. I can say that with your erudition, experience, and humanity, you won everybody over for ecumenism.”
This seminar was made possible through the financial support of Lutheran parishes in the towns of Ettlingen and Backnang in Germany. Please contact us if you would like to discuss participating in or underwriting further study opportunities at the Institute for theologians from Eastern Europe or the Global South.