The fourth conference of the International Church Reform Network (ICRN) will take place in Bratislava from June 11thto 15thnext. It is a participative conference, which will be attended by fifty people, women and men, from Church Reform movements in all the continents of the world. This network is in existence for seven years.
The first conference was in Austria, which was mainly attended by representatives of priests’ reform movements. By the time of the second conference, in Limerick in 2014, many lay movements were represented.
In 2016 we gathered in Chicago, to which the many reform groups in the United States sent delegates, along with many other countries. This one, in Slovakia, will have its own particular flavour, with an increased number of people from Eastern Europe. Normally we do not have speakers as such at our conferences, but because of the particular history of this location, we will be getting some input on life in the underground Church during the Communist era.
There will be two delegates from We Are Church, Ireland at the conference, and myself representing the Association of Catholic Priests.
A wide range of topics are due to be covered. The womens ordination movements will, I’m sure, be very unimpressed by the latest statement from Archbishop Ladaria of the CDF, reiterating the ban on discussion on the topic. I have no doubt his intervention will have the opposite effect, and I would expect a strong statement from the conference by the end of the week.
I know that the LGBT groups have their eye on the World Meeting of Families, and will be asking that they will be represented at that gathering.
Fundamental Rights in the Church, which I suppose we see as the antidote to clericalism, is something that has exercised us at the last two conferences, and we hope to have something important to say on that also.
People from the Far East, from Africa and Latin America will have their own particular issues, as will the Eastern Europeans.
Apart from all the discussion, what I love about these conferences is meeting and getting to know many dynamic and dedicated people from around the world, who love the Church and the Faith, and are willing to give so much of their time and energy in helping to bring about real and lasting reform.
Working for Church Reform, as I have been doing now for a good many years, can be demoralising at times, when it seems as if little progress is being made. I expect that the week in Bratislava will give me a new sense of hope, and energy to continue the work.