Salvation and Healing in a Diaconal Church
International Diaconate Centre (IDC) organizes a Study Conference in Lourdes
A Conference Venue Not Chosen at Random
Lourdes as the conference venue underscored the topic by its particular atmosphere. “Here, in Lourdes, the sick and the disabled are at the centre. We, the healthy persons, are at their service, and in this way encounter Christ” the local Bishop, Nicolas Brouwet stated. This Lourdes atmosphere did not allow for an extremely highbrow approach. The keynote speaker was Filipino Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of Caritas Internationalis. In his lively and engaging lecture, he called on the diaconal Church to combat the exclusion of ever more people from a society in which fewer and fewer people possess more and more. For the Church, however, this entails an increasingly downward orientation. He reminded the persons in charge of the diaconate, bishops, priests and representatives of the sister Churches of the close connection between the English words “human” and “humus”. The Church must dare to come closer to the soil (humus) in order to be closer to people. The Cardinal also suggested that, in the future, bishops be handed “a basin of water and a towel”. These would remind them of the task given by Jesus: to bend and wash the feet of the poor.
The Diaconate as an Opportunity for Ecumenism
The diaconate is a ministry lived and studied in many Lutheran, Evangelical, Anglican as well as Orthodox Churches. The IDC maintains contacts with diaconal networks such as the Diakonia World Federation. One of the lecturers, therefore, was the Lutheran theologian, Dr. Kjell Nordstokke. As an expert in diakonia, he argued in favour of a diaconal Church, He understands diakonia as a healing of the social, but also of the religious exclusion. The deacon and-in his perspective- also the deaconess- are “go-betweens”, who connect and mediate. His analyses clearly show that both the Catholic and the Lutheran Church are faced with the same issues in many areas and can learn a lot from each other. Diakonia is, consequently, a big opportunity for ecumenism.
New President from the USA
During the Study Conference, the new Board was also elected. After two terms in office, the Frankfurt deacon, Pr. Dr. Klaus Kießling stepped down. Deacon Gerald W. DuPont from the USA, formerly President of the National Association of Deacon Directors in the USA was elected as his successor. This represents an important bridge to the diaconate in the US, which is home to almost every third permanent deacon in the world. The new President will be supported by Dr. Gilbert de Lima, Diaconate Director, Mumbai, India, Monserrat Martínez (Spain) as representative of the Deacons’ Wives and Deacon Mark Woods (England). Dr. Stefan Sander will continue to support the Board as General Secretary.
Serving the Renewal of the Permanent Diaconate
The International Diaconate Centre (IDC) is an association with over 1100 members from 50 countries. It promotes the establishment of the diaconate worldwide; it provides networking for Diaconate Directors and develops formation concepts. Gebhardt Fürst, Bishop of Rottenburg, is the IDC’s Protector. There are 46,500 permanent deacons worldwide, around 200 minister in the Swiss dioceses.
Deacon Martin Brunner-Artho
Missio Director, IDC Delegate