Seán Rooney, librarian at the CCF in Tooting Bec (you might have met him if you are doing the CCRS), recently returned from the International Congress of the European Association of Catholic Theology at the University of Strasbourg, France where he delivered a talk as part of the so-called 'Junior conference' for people in an early stage of their academic career.
The theme of the whole conference was 'The Challenge of Fraternity', and the scores of professional theologians in the plenary sessions were addressed on this fascinating and fruitful topic by leading figures in theological scholarship such as Jürgen Moltmann, André Wénin and Tom Wright.
Seán's talk, delivered with the help of Fred Grant, was given in the Disability Theology workshop space, organised by Cristina Gangemi's Kairos Forum, where such leaders in disability theology as Professor Hans Reinders, Professor John Swinton, Sr Veronica Donatello, Professor Thierry Collaud and Dr Pia Matthews also spoke. His talk asked the question 'Can we learn to be friendly with everyone?' It comprised a reflection on his personal experience, a study of scriptural references and a gathering of insights from contemporary Catholic sources, including Pope Francis.
The main conference was a grand affair, with the opening ceremony being held at the Council of Europe and being addressed, among others, by senior figures from the Council of Europe and a judge from the European Court of Human Rights.
The highlight for many, though, was a double session in the main auditorium with a talk on
'Fraternity in the Writings of St Paul' by Tom Wright (former Anglican Bishop of Durham and prolific author of theology text books) and a talk (in French) on 'Fraternity in Genesis' by Professor André Wénin of the Catholic University of Louvain. The point that sticks in the mind from Tom Wright came out during questions and answers. In response to a quotation from the OT that appeared to endorse slavery, Tom Wright made the point, relevant surely to all biblical scholars, that (to paraphrase) 'you have to look at the thrust of the biblical narrative as a whole, not individual verses in isolation'.
The conclusion of André Wénin's talk, also memorable, provides a summary for the whole conference: (translated and paraphrased) 'Fraternity is an ethical project, not a natural fact'. Think about it! It's deep.