Reconciliation between the
Catholic Church and the Mennonites
The Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Mennonite
World Conference met for the first time. The meeting was held in Strasbourg, France
in 1998-OCT 1 to 18. Its title was "Toward a Healing of Memories."
Mennonite representatives came from Canada, Congo, France, Germany, Guatemala,
Netherlands, and the U.S.
Mennonites trace their history back to the Anabaptist movement which was one product of
the Protestant Reformation. Mennonites stress "discipleship, community, and an
ethic of love and nonresistance. Mennonites are historically distinctive in North America
for simplicity of life and the rejection of military service, public office, and oaths."1 A defining feature of the Anabaptist movement was their
rejection of infant baptism as practiced by the Roman Catholic church and by the Lutheran
movement. They baptized adult believers instead. The term "Anabaptist"
comes from the Latin word "anabaptista" which means "one who
is rebaptized." i.e. a person who was baptized first as an infant and later as
an adult. It is a misnomer, because Anabaptists do not recognize infant baptism. It was
originally used as a term of derision; but the name stuck.
Some Anabaptist faith groups have survived to the present day, including: Amish, Beachy
and Brethren groups, Dunkards, Hutterites, Landmark Baptists, and Mennonites. Anabaptists
were viciously persecuted during and following the Reformation. Many migrated to Poland
and the Ukraine. Today they are mainly concentrated in Germany, France and North America.2 They now total over 300,000 in the U.S. and Canada; additional
Mennonites live elsewhere in the world.
According to the Mennonite World Conference News Service the purpose of the
Strausborg meeting was to "emphasize reconciliation rather than doctrinal
differences." 3 Larry Miller, Mennonite World
Conference executive secretary commented, with reference to this outreach by the Roman
Catholic church: "I think the fundamental reason is that the Catholic Church
cares theologically and deeply about the unity of the church. The leaders of the
Pontifical Council really believe that it is the will of Christ that his disciples seek
better relations, that division among Christians is a stumbling block to the world."
The Mennonite 1998-NOV-10, Page. 11. The Mennonite is
published 48 times a year by the Interim Publication Board for the General
Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church. See: http://www.mph.org/themennonite/