The Discourse of Catholicity
Tuesday & Wednesday, April 12-13

“Catholicity” is the unity in diversity of the Church expressed in a global communion of faith. The term goes to the core of how the Church understands itself and how it can witness to greater unity in the world. The shift from a predominantly Euroamerican focus to a Church that attends equally to the global South creates great challenges in—and tremendous promise for—articulating a new theology of communion.

The call to dialogue, greater inclusion, and the promotion of local and contextual theologies have rightly advanced a new understanding of the Catholic Church's nature and mission. Facing the new challenges is equally stimulated by looking at the sources for the discourse of catholicity in Scripture and through diverse engagements with the theological tradition. This conference looks at catholicity both in terms of reading the new signs of the times and in terms of seeking renewal by a return to the sources.

The rethinking of the discourse of catholicity does not, however, end with futurology, historical retrieval, or a simple juxtaposition of two vantage points. Practices of catholicity need to be reconsidered in terms of a fresh, new theological appraisal of our situation today. This new approach includes looking at spiritual, liturgical, social, and political practices that acknowledge division and fragmentation and promote reconciliation and the living out of a real unity in diversity.

This conference is the fruit of a process extending back to the founding, in 2008, of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology. CWCIT organized conferences in 2008 and 2010 that looked at the global future of Catholicism in new ways.

In particular, CWCIT sponsored an international colloquium, “Forms of Catholicity,” in January 2009. We were able to bring together key international Catholic scholars who have helped to forge “the discourse of catholicity” as a theological idiom. The point of departure was an address originally delivered in Manila by Prof. Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S., of The Catholic Theological Union. In his talk, Schreiter argued cogently for a discussion that would address the gap between Concilium and Communio, i.e., between—to cite his words more precisely—the strand in Catholic thought that he links to Gaudium et Spes and the strand that he labels “neo-Augustinian.” This gathering included a presentation by Schreiter, a paper by Jorge Scampini, O.P. on catholicity and ecumenism, and a paper by Miriam Wyjlens on catholicity and canon law.

In this year's conference, CWCIT has gathered scholars who are forging a discourse of catholicity that will serve the Church of the 21st century.