We also wanted to identify and highlight other topics that could be equally or more relevant for Catholic communities of the Global Church. In addition, the conference delved into the cultural, political, social, and ecclesial conditions that play a significant role in the local evaluation of these themes. Finally, reflections on theological resources and structural issues were offered for discussion in order to foster discernment on the way toward a more synodal Church.
Born in Mumbai, India. He is currently Professor of Practical Theology at the Salesian Pontifical University. He received his Doctorate in Theology, with specialization in Youth Ministry and Catechetic from this same university (1993). He is credited with introducing empirical-theological research in the Italian and Indian context with several publications and has participated in different international research groups on religion, education, and democracy.
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PROF. DR. SANDRA ARENAS (CHILE)
Doctor (Ph.D.) in Systematic Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. From 2013-2020, she was a professor at the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. In January 2020, she became Dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy at the Catholic University of Temuco, Chile. Her main areas of work are: Vatican II studies, ecclesiology and ecumenism.
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PROF. DR. CAROLINA BACHER (ARGENTINA)
Doctor (Ph.D.) in Theology from the Catholic University of Argentina (2019), with specializations in Social and Educational Organizations. She works as an associate professor for Pastoral Theology at the Catholic University of Argentina and as a researcher at the Catholic University Silva Henríquez (Chile). She was also invited as an expert for Argentina’s national and local synodal consultation processes and is a member of “Teologanda”, a Latin American women-theologians organization.
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PROF. DR. BERNARDO BROWN (ARGENTINA/JAPAN)
Doctor (Ph.D.) in Cultural Anthropology from Cornell University. He works as an assistant professor of International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. He is also part of the Initiative for the Study of Asian Catholics (ISAC) and is specialized in the culture and history of Catholic Sri Lanka and more broadly on the Anthropology of Christianity in South and Southeast Asia.
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CATALINA CERDA-PLANAS (CHILE/GERMANY)
She is currently a researcher in the area of mission and education at the Institute for Global Church and Mission in Frankfurt am Main and a researcher at the Catholic University Silva Henríquez (Chile). She holds a Master’s degree in Fundamental Theology and Political Sciences and just completed her Ph.D. in Practical Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and the Julius Maximilians University in Würzburg, Germany. Her work focuses on studies on religion and youth, pastoral theology, and empirical theology. She is currently leading the „Synodal Way – World Church Perspectives” Study conducted by IWM and KAAD.
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PROF. DR. KRISTIN COLBERG (USA)
She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School and a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame. She has been teaching as an associate professor at St. John’s in Collegeville since 2012.
Colberg teaches classes in systematic theology, ecclesiology, theological anthropology and theological method which examine fundamental issues in theology. She also has worked extensively with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, striving toward Christian unity through ecumenical dialogues.
In 2021 she was named to the Vatican’s theological and methodology commission assisting the leaders of the Synod of Bishops‘ general secretariat.
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DR. PAULA DEPALMA (ARGENTINA/SPAIN)
She is a native from Argentina and received her doctorate in Teología dogmático sacramental in 2015 from Pontificio Ateneo Sant‘ Anselmo in Rome, Italy.
She teaches Liturgy at the San Pio X University Center, at the Pastoral Institute of UPSA (Pontifical University of Salamanca) and at the Faculty of Theology of Granada.
She is editor at PPC and member of the advisory board of the journal Galilea of the Pastoral Liturgical Center of Barcelona. She is a member of Teologanda (Asociación de Teólogas Argentinas), of the Asociación de Teólogas Españolas (ATE) and of the European Society in Theological Research.
PROF. DR. RER. POL. BERNHARD EMUNDS (GERMANY)
Studies of Catholic Theology, History and Economics in Bonn, Paris and Frankfurt. Doctor rer. pol. (Ph.D.) in Economics from Goethe University, Frankfurt. He is professor of Christian Social Ethics and Social Philosophy at the Graduate School of Theology Sankt Georgen in Frankurt and the director of the Nell-Breuning Institute.
DR. ZIAD FAHED (LEBANON)
He has a Doctorate in Theology and is Director of University Mission Office & Full Professor at Notre Dame University-Louaize, Lebanon. His main research interests are religions and politics, Interreligious dialogue and pluralism, the role of the Church during the war in Lebanon, the theology of the mission, and the contribution of the Church in building the Lebanese political system. At the present, he is studying the impact of monotheistic religions on Lebanese society, as well as the challenges they pose to the coexistence among different Lebanese religious communities.
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DR. NORA KALBARCZYK (GERMANY)
Studied Islamic Studies and German Studies in Berlin and Cairo with a scholarship from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. After completing her master’s degree, she worked as a research assistant in a German-British research project (Ruhr-Universität Bochum/University of Cambridge), earning her doctorate with a thesis on Arab-Islamic legal hermeneutics in 2016. Subsequently, she worked as a consultant in Islamic Studies at the Christian-Islamic Encounter and Documentation Office (CIBEDO), the German Bishops’ Conference’s specialist office for Christian-Islamic dialogue. Since March 2021, she has been Secretary General of KAAD, the institution that suggested the now ongoing „Synodal Way – World Church Perspectives” Study.
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PROF. THLIC. MILOŠ LICHNER, D.TH., SJ (SLOVAKIA)
The Jesuit priest is a professor at Trnava University in Slovakia and currently holding the position of Vice-Chancellor for foreign affairs and marketing. He specialized in Latin patrology with particular focus on the theology of St. Augustine and the post-Augustinian tradition along with early Christian dogmatic theology. He is the President of the Slovak Patristic Society as well as the former President of the European Society for Catholic Theology.
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P. DR. DR. MARKUS LUBER SJ (GERMANY)
The Jesuit priest received his doctorate in missiology in 2005 from Pontifical Gregorian University/Rome and his doctorate in philosophy in 2020 from Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main. He has been working at the Institute for Global Church and Mission since 2009 and is currently its acting director. He oversees the research field of „Intercultural Theology“ and is also one of the coordinators of the institute’s annual international conference 2023.
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PROF. DR. JOSÉE NGALULA (KONGO)
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sister Josée Ngalula joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Andrew. After studying philosophy at the Major Seminary of Lubumbashi, she pursued further theological studies (doctorate) at the Catholic University of Lyon in France. She is currently Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Institut Saint Eugène de Mazenod, Kinshasa, and of Missiology at the Institut Africain de Sciences de la Mission, Kinshasa. She is also Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Université Catholique du Congo, Kinshasa, and is active in the formation and continuing education of the laity in the Archdiocese of Kinshasa.
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PROF. DR. AGBONKHIANMEGHE OROBATOR SJ (NIGERIA)
He is a member of the AOR Province and is a native of Nigeria. He received his doctorate from the University of Leeds in England in 2004 and was rector of the Hekima community. From 2009 to 2014, he was appointed provincial superior of the East African Province of the Society of Jesus (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan). Currently, he serves as the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar president. His research focuses on theological ethics and ecclesiology of the global South, with particular expertise in African theology.
PROF. DR. YURIY PIDLISNYY (UKRAINE)
A native of Ukraine, he studied foreign languages in Ukraine and Philosophy in Liechtenstein. He received his doctorate in 2004. Since 1998 he has been working at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in different positions: founding director of the Institute for Marriage and Family, director of the UCU Library, teaching philosophical courses in different programs and departments. Currently, he is working as Chair of the Political Science Department and director of the BA Program „Ethics-Politics-Economies” at UCU.
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PROF. DR. CHIBUEZE C. UDEANI (NIGERIA/GERMANY)
A native of Nigeria, he studied Philosophy and Theology in Nigeria and Austria. In 1997 he received his doctorate in Theology from Innsbruck University. He completed his habilitation project „Intercultural Hermeneutics in Understanding Culture and Religion“ in 2011 at the University of Vienna. Since September 2012, he has been chair of the department of Missiology and Dialogue of the Religions at Julius-Maximilians-University Wuerzburg, Germany.
The basis of the exchange was the study „Synodal Way – World Church Perspectives“ on the project of the same name, carried out at the Institute for World Church and Mission by Dr. Catalina Cerda-Planas. In two stages, surveys were conducted among scholarship holders of KAAD, IWM and ICALA (Stipendienwerk Lateinamerika-Deutschland e.V.) on the four main topic areas of the German Synodal Way. The conference with participants from all continents served in a first step to contextualize the empirical results. The speakers Prof. Francis-Vincent Anthony SDB (Asia), Prof. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ (Africa), Prof. Carolina Bacher (Latin America), Prof. Miloš Lichner SJ (Eastern Europe), Prof. Ziad Fahed (Middle East) commented the results through regional analyses. In a next step, a connection of contexts and thematic focuses was sought to further contribute to understanding.
This was done through workshops oriented both regionally and to the issues of „Power and Separation of Powers in the Church“ (Dr. Josée Ngalula, Congo); „Priestly Existence Today“ (Dr. Bernardo Brown, Japan); „Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church“ (Dr. Paula Depalma, Argentina); and „Sexuality and Partnership“ (Dr. Yuriy Pidlisnyy, Ukraine).
In his opening reflection, „Thinking and doing Synodality from an intercultural perspective.“, Fr. Dr. Dr. Markus Luber SJ, acting director of the Institute for World Church and Mission, pointed out that the intention of holding the online event was not to propagate the resolutions of the German synodal project. Rather, he sees in the topics central aspects of a reform concern that is also demonstrably recognizable in other local churches through the empirical survey. This does not exclude the recognition of different weightings and alternative emphases. For this reason, he said, it was also a concern of the study to find out what other issues might require more attention in different regions of the Catholic Church. He reiterated that the exchange was designed as an open discussion. However, he ruled out insisting on the status quo, because that would not be compatible with Pope Francis‘ vision of constitutive synodality. The Secretary General of KAAD, Dr. Nora Kalbarczyk, explained in her opening speech the motives for carrying out the study. She emphasized that reflection on synodality and the call for reform cannot be separated from the crisis in the Catholic Church triggered by the reality of abuse. The virtual meeting was held under the heading of intercultural dialogue.
Accordingly, Father Luber emphasized that ecclesial exchange and interaction with one another require cultural sensitivity when considering the individual topics. It must be recognized that people inevitably exist in social spaces and regional contexts. In LG 23, the Second Vatican Council therefore also expresses an appreciation of ecclesial plurality. However, there is also a tendency in the demand for recognition of plurality that can be associated with indifference. It loses sight of the aspect of justice, which knows no cultural boundaries. He could not see a holy synodal spirit there, where the call for plurality is made in order to save oneself the trouble of confrontation, Father Luber said. That is why it is important to develop cultural sensitivity, but also to avoid putting people in cultural cages. Christian faith in particular always means the possibility of transcending cultural boundaries in view of the transcendent vocation.
Prof. Bernhard Emunds, Prof. Sandra Arenas
Overall, a great need for exchange became noticeable. A synodal spirit became noticeable where the church polarization tendencies were not yielded to. It became clear that dialogue is possible when exchange takes place at eye level. In the end, we are convinced that the conclusion of the synodal project in Germany, despite all the controversies, has sent out important impulses to the universal church. But its conclusion also marks the necessary beginning of a new phase of worldwide understanding. The project, the study and the conference were able to make an initial contribution to this. The results and contributions will be published as usual in the series „Weltkirche und Mission“ of the IWM.
Markus Luber SJ