Conferences and Seminars

by David Schütz, Executive Officer of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission

This past weekend, about 30 members of the various Ecumenical and Interfaith Commissions from Catholic Dioceses around Australia gather together under the auspices of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Council for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations for an inservice training conference at the Catholic Leadership Centre in Melbourne. The event was hosted by our local EIC and the guest speaker was Rev. Prof. Philipp Renczes SJ from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Fr Philipp is the director of the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies at the Greg, which means that he was perfectly qualified to give the public lecture on Sunday afternoon on the topic of the latest document from the Vatican on Jewish-Catholic relations “The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable” (December 2016). We were very privileged to have our local friend and scholar Dr Fred Morgan, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Israel, give the response, which raised some hard questions about our relationship. Both papers, which were really ‘cutting edge’ in terms of future directions for Catholic-Jewish relations, will be made available in due course along with the video and the audio recordings. About 100 people attended the lecture, including a number of our friends from the Jewish community.

(Contact David Schütz at if you wish to be put on a list to receive this material when it is ready for dissemination.) 

Multicultural Australian society is a perfect setting in which to explore in real life the cultural and spiritual variations and common and permanent characteristics of Marriage. This was the intention and aim of the Interfaith Symposium on Marriage hosted by the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne over three days from 29 September to 2 October, 2013.
With the generous assistance of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, the Victorian Council of Churches, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the Islamic Council of Victoria, the Buddhist Council of Victoria, the Hindu Foundation of Australia, the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria, and Australian Catholic University, we put together a program that featured 36 speakers and panellists from a variety of religious backgrounds. 
The program aimed to provide participants with knowledge and insight into how each religious tradition understands the institution of marriage, prepares for and celebrates weddings, and supports married couples through the many joys and difficulties of life. Presentations included: the meaning of the marriage rites as practised by the different faith traditions; the legal, ethical, and pastoral aspects of marriage; and the lived experience of married couples and families in the various spiritual communities.

“What is the value of suffering according to your tradition? Can it be seen as a sign of grace?”

This dramatic question was put to Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist teachers at the ‘Interreligious Symposium on Grace’ on Sunday 14 October, 2012 to an audience of about 40 people at the Mary MacKillop Heritage Centre in East Melbourne. The Symposium was hosted by the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission in the context of the Year of Grace being celebrated throughout the Catholic Church in Australia.

The responses to this fundamental question from Dr Rosemary Canavan, Rabbi Ian Goodheart, Ms Ayse Guc, Swami Paramananda and Ven. Toby Gillies showed the diversity of the religious traditions, but also how fruitful dialogue and collaboration between the traditions can be.

In August 2012, Prof. Paul Murray of Durham University was in Melbourne as the guest of the Victorian Council of Churches (VCC) to speak about the approach to relations between different Christian churches known as ‘receptive ecumenism.’ This was the subject of the Ecumenical Consultation which the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission hosted on 3–4 August at the Treacy Centre in Parkville. About forty leaders in ecumenism and faith formation from around Victoria (including Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Uniting, Church of Christ, Salvation Army, Mar Thoma and Antiochian Orthodox Christians) came together for two days to discuss the challenge of forming new members of our faith communities. This is a common challenge faced by all Christian churches and it is one that is approached differently and with different degrees of success by each community. Therefore, in a spirit of what Professor Murray calls ‘catholic learning’, the consultation heard about the various visions, programs, methods and challenges surrounding handing on the faith in our various communities in order that we might learn from and be enriched by one another’s gifts.


"Sharing the Gift": An Ecumenical Consultation on Receptive Ecumenism (19-20 August 2011)
Tracey Centre, Parkville

The Archdiocese's Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission hosted an ecumenical discussion on Receptive Ecumenism at the Tracey Centre, Parkville. Attended by heads of Churches and leading members of the ecumenical committees of the local churches, the guest speakers were Father Gerald Kelly (Catholic Institute of Sydney) and Myriam Wiljems (University of Erfurt, Germany). Broad discussions were held on what the churches are giving and receiving from each other and what they could potentially give and receive from each other were held.

"Mediation Matters" was a joint initiative of the Buddhist Council of Victoria Interfaith with a number of other faith communities, including the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Meditation Matters was a one day, multi-faith collaboration of 15 renowned presenters sharing their insights and knowledge on meditation. It took place at the Prince Philip Theatre at Melbourne University on Sunday, August 7th, 2011.

This free event was supported by the Victorian Multicultural Commission. It was an unforgettable and rewarding experience in meditation.

Interfaith Symposium on Death and Dying: Program and Presentations
On 7th to 9th April, 2010, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission held a three day Interfaith Symposium on the theme of "Death and Dying". 

The conference took place at the St Patrick (Melbourne) Campus of Australian Catholic University with the generous support of the Victorian Multicultural Commission. The purpose of the Conference was to explore the many different and common attitudes towards death and dying in the religious communities of Victoria.

The program covered the broad categories of:
Afterlife: Theology and Anthropology
Death and Dying: Rites of Passage  
The Process of Dying: The role of faith in Palliative Care and the experience of dying
All the papers are available here in audio or text. 

On Sunday, 8 August 2004 at the Yarra Theological Union, Box Hill, Bishop Christopher Prowse opened the Second Interfaith Symposium which was sponsored by the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese. The theme of the Symposium was ‘Forgiveness’, particularly appropriate at this juncture in history where a world of conflict and division calls all to forgive and to accept forgiveness.
The speakers shared the teaching and experience of forgiveness within their different religious traditions. They were Melissa Brickell (NATSICC); Rabbi Ralph Genende (College Rabbi at Mt Scopus and Congregational Rabbi of Beit Haron); Venerable Phuoc Tan (of the Quang Minh Buddhist Temple, Braybrook); Sheik Isse Musse (Imam of the West Melbourne Mosque). Fr John Dupuche, Chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee, led the Symposium, presided.

About 80 people attended the Symposium which was notable for the sense of vitality. The interfaith gatherings are a sign of hope for the future harmony of our community.

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