On July 5 the second part of the International Theological Seminar ?Religion and the Church as a Challenge to Modernity: Germany and Ukraine? (28.06 ? 05.07.2012) has come to an end in M?nster. It was jointly organized by M?nster University, St. Clement?s Center ?Communion and Dialogue of Cultures?, the European Humanities Research Center at the National University of ?Kyiv-Mohyla Academy? (NaUKMA), the Research and Publishing Association ?Dukh i Litera? (Spirit and Letter), the St. Thomas Institute of Religious Studies and Kyiv Theological Seminary and Academy.
The first part of the meeting took place in Kyiv (May 29 ? June 4, 2012). During the German session of the seminar, six new topics were discussed: Church and Society, Church and Modernity, Church and State, Church and Politics, Theology and Magisterium, Faith and Reason. In compliance with the goal of the seminar, brief introductory theses of the speakers served as a starting point for common discussion. Such discussions proved to be vivid and fascinating already in Kyiv; in M?nster, when all the participants came to know each other better, the conversation on faith acquired an especially deep dimension.
This dimensionwas even more developed as result of direct acquaintance with the context of religious life in Germany. Visits to the Convent of Franciscan Sisters, Borrom?um Seminary of Muenster, a number of the most ancient basilicas of Westphalia, and the Vespers at the Dominican Church allowed the Orthodox to enrich their knowledge concerning traditional Roman Catholicism. At the same time, meetings with Catholic youth organizations, such as the Student parish of M?nster University, the parish of St. Theodore in Cologne, and the Institute for Theology and Politics in M?nster presented Western spirituality from an unexpected viewpoint. Kyivites (not only Orthodox, but also Catholic and Greek-Catholic) were surprised by the unusual image of modern German Catholicism inclined to bold liturgical experiments, innovations in pastoral and missionary activity, fervently emphasizing the social dimension of Christian life. Thus, to comprehend present religious debates in Germany adequately, it is necessary to take into account this contrast of ?the Ancient? and ?the Modern?.
This theological drama unfolded against the picturesque staging of the university town M?nster that enchanted us completely with its Romanesque and Gothic steeples, the abundance of libraries, democratic kneipes, bicycles and other expressions of throbbing student life. We attended an organ concert at the basilica of St. Lambert (the gifted organist and professor of organ Tomasz Novak, among other pieces, extemporized on the theme of a Ukrainian carol), walked through beautiful Cologne, observed the Westphalian Museum for Religious Culture in Telgte. We were also able to acquaint ourselves with German Orthodoxy by visiting the trilingual, German- Slavonic- Russian, Liturgy in the Gothic basilica of Stt. ConstantineandElenainCologne. Finally, having happily joined the ranks of the M?nster cyclists, we went on a bicycle tour to Burg H?lshof, the residence of the 19th century German poetess Ennete von Droste H?lshof.
Thanks to the atmosphere of friendship, openness and curiosity, the two intensive weeks of the seminar, during the course of which discussions would continue from the early morning until late at night, have given us much more than a compendium or a lecture course would. The main thing that they have taught us is respect towards the otherness, which is so deficient today: however opposite our positions concerning this or that issue might be, each of those positions is rooted in some irreducible existential experience, which requires a serious attitude. Such a respectful attitude towards the Other promises a continuation of the fruitful conversation, and, hopefully, further joint projects.