A Passion
for Unity

A report of the days of the Granada convention

by Elisa Buzzi

“Meetings for a New Beginning” was the title chosen by Javier Martínez, Archbishop of Granada, for the theological convention that, thanks to his initiative, gathered a large group of Protestant and Catholic thinkers, Americans and Europeans, in the Andalusian city, motivated by a common passion for the Church, her unity, and her mission, rather than by a common diagnosis of the ills of modern culture. “New Beginning” is a good starting point for introducing us to the meaning of an event that, apart from its undoubted scientific and ecclesial value, showed all the decisive force of a true encounter, the unforeseeable astonishment and dynamics of knowledge and of change that spring from such an encounter and challenge the logic of things already known, of positions already taken. In this sense, the idea that moved Archbishop Martinez is quite different from an ecumenical concern in the conventional sense. Much more simply, and radically, here was a case of fostering and deepening the friendship between a group of Catholic theologians who recognize themselves in the Nouvelle Theologie, in the wake of De Lubac and von Balthasar, and the thought of Fr. Giussani, and a group of “post-liberal” theologians, both Catholic and Protestant, belonging to the current of Radical Orthodoxy of the Anglican John Milbank, and of the American Duke School of Stanley Hauerwas. The convention was conceived as a space in which Christians coming from different traditions and intellectual contexts could help each other to rediscover the implications of the Christian fact in every dimension of human life and to understand better the motives for which the meaning and the reasons of those implications have been lost in our culture and society. The structure of the convention drew its shape from this basic concern, and it was articulated in two main sessions. The first, guided by contributions from Stanley Hauerwas (Duke University, USA), Michael Waldstein (The International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, Austria), John Milbank (Nottingham University, UK), and Stephen Long (Garret Theological Seminary, USA), concentrated on the analysis and the discussion of the inevitable “dissolution of the Church” in modern secularized society, in a culture that, in its various forms, whether liberal or socialist, conservative or progressive, founds itself on a common premise–the non-existence of the Church as a visible social body, ultimate reference point for the definition of the identity of those who belong to its communion. The second block of presentations–among the many, we can recall those of Christoph Potworowsky (McGill University, Canada), William Cavanaugh (University of St. Thomas, USA), Javier Prades (Facultad Teologica San Damaso, Spain)–directed the reflection on “the resources of the Church,” or, better, on the resource that is the Church herself, in all the wealth of her tradition and experience, in that unity that manifests itself miraculously in a friendship capable of embracing even the sorrow for a communion that is not yet complete.