For the past few weeks in Rome there have been countless celebrations of “50 years since” Vatican II created commissions, congregations, documents, you name it. A group called “Council 50” is joining the party this weekend with their own international conference. The effort will bring 100 delegates and participants from around the world: Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Togo, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, the United States, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
I first attended a planning meeting for Council 50 back in February 2014, when my colleague and I fondly dubbed it, “The Great Mystery,” for a then-foggy agenda (likely lost in translation) and an all together unfamiliar Italian meeting style. Now, having lived in Italy, I suspect this was more of normal processing/chaos that is often kept hidden in the interest of la bella figura, but nevertheless results in something lovely (/functioning/superior, etc). Living in Italy is having to trust what seems like chaos (the looming piles of papers in government offices, for instance, the lack of computerized systems…), and suspending “American logic,” with faith in what one cannot understand.
The organizers of Council 50 have diligently met and shaped a program that is both clear and open for Mystery. When I was part of the planning team, the aims were to bring the People of God together from around the world to share how they are “being Church,” in their political-sociological-historical-cultural contexts. To raise up the work of base communities and extra-parochial Christian missions and produce a Charter informed by the weekend’s dialogues. The Charter, “A Pact of the Disciples of Jesus,” is based on the structure of the Pact of the Catacombs and proposes a commitment to “reorient our world… into a world of peace, justice and solidarity,” and “work for the revival of our Church.” Currently there is a draft framework that will be cultivated and shaped by the participants of the conference.
On Saturday there will be a keynote address by one of my increasingly favorite theologians, Dr. Nontando Hadebe, a theologian from South Africa and Zimbabwe (and contributor to the “Catholic Women Speak” book), and workshops co-facilitated by some familiar names such as Jamie Manson from the National Catholic Reporter and Christian Weisner from International Movement We Are Church, and many less familiar names that I am excited to hear from.
Italian Carabinieri officers check a nun as she arrives to attend Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (Photo courtesy Reuters/Tony Gentile.)
This past week Rome has been in the news for threats of violence and terrorism, and I’ve witnessed a very visibly increased military presence everywhere from my local metro stop to surrounding St. Peter’s Square.
Yesterday the U.S. State Department issued Security Warnings for the Vatican and the Duomo in Milan, and “general venues such as Churches, synagogues, restaurants, theatres, and hotels.” The Year of Mercy has sparked even greater security concerns, with millions of pilgrims headed to Rome. My Italian tutor even expressed that she wished Pope Francis would cancel the Jubilee because she doesn’t trust the security measures (not to mention it is riddled with typical planning delays and daily criticisms in Italian papers).
But as Fr. Lombardi has said, this is why we need a Jubilee Year more than ever:
“I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more necessary. A message of mercy, that love of God which leads to mutual love and reconciliation: This is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”
Admittedly, I am nervous here. But this weekend, I will trust the Great Mystery – in what feels like chaos and in what I cannot know – and gather with the international community to share in the Gospel call for justice and peace.