Interfaith advisory board reconstituted

BRAINTREE -- After a seven-year hiatus, a group which advises the archdiocese on ecumenical and interreligious matters has been revived.

On Dec. 1, the Commission of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs held a meeting to discuss its mission, strategies for more effective communication with the parishes, and activities that the commission plans to undertake over the next year.

The group exists under the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in the archdiocese. It consists of personnel from the office, including Director of Ecumenical Affairs Father Edward O’Flaherty, and associate directors Father David Michael and Vito Nicastro, as well as parish priests, directors of religious education, and other parish personnel.

The Dec. 1 gathering was the first meeting of the group in roughly seven or eight years, according to Father Michael.

“In the difficult past seven years, a lot of things we have let aside,” Father Michael said. “This is a place to rebuild ecumenism with the clergy.”

Father O’Flaherty said the purpose of the commission is to “animate ecumenical activity in the diocese” and to “educate one another and share experiences of ecumenical and interfaith work.”

“It’s one thing that requires regular conversation to keep it sustained,” Father O’Flaherty added.

Father O’Flaherty outlined some specific activities with which he would like the commission to be involved, including a local commemoration of the centennial of the 1910 World Missionary Conference.

Kenneth Ross, chairman of the Towards 2010 Council, which is planning events to commemorate Scotland’s involvement in the conference, said in a paper posted on his council’s website that the 1910 meeting was an inter-faith Christian gathering to discuss missionary activity.

“It’s one of the notable beginnings of the ecumenical movement,” Father O’Flaherty said.

The commission may also organize activities for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

“Even though the week is between Jan. 18 and 25 for historical reasons, the activities of the week of prayer can be extended throughout the whole year,” Father Michael said.

He suggested the commission may schedule activities around Pentecost, which occurs in the late spring.

Father O’Flaherty said he envisions the commission meeting a few times per year.

The Vatican suggests that each diocese establish a group to promote ecumenical and interreligious affairs. In its 1993 “Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism”, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity directs that each diocese establish a council to promote ecumenical affairs.

Nicastro discussed the importance of interreligious dialogue with the group.

“It’s such a treasure. It’s a responsibility,” Nicastro said. “We are custodians of a living thing. It can die and rot if it is not taken care of.”