The first part of the International Theological Seminar ?Religion and the Church as a Challenge to Modernity: Germany and Ukraine? (May 29 ? June 4, 2012) has just come an end. It was jointly organized by Muenster University, St. Clement?s Center ?Communion and Dialogue of Cultures,? the European Humanities Research Center at the National University of ?Kyiv-Mohyla Academy? (NaUKMA) and St. Thomas Institute of Religious Studies.
The event was conceived first of all as an opportunity for an in-depth dialogue between Ukrainian and German participants. The students of the department of Catholic theology of Muenster University headed by Prof. Dr. Tomas Bremer and Prof Dr. Klaus Mueller met with a Ukrainian ?combined team,? which represented Orthodox, Catholic and Greek-Catholic faiths and different institutions: Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary, St. Thomas Institute of Religious Studies, National University of ?Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, as well as their teachers (Dr. Kostyantyn Sigov, Rev. Sylvestr Stoychev, Dr. Andriy Baumeister, Rev. Petro Balog OP, Rev. Wojciech Sur?wka OP). For the Ukrainian group, the coming of the German team became the evidence that theology and the questions of faith can be an important motivation for travelling in our life, no less important than a Euro-2012 soccer game.
As a joint Ukrainian-German event, the Seminar is designed as two one-week sessions (conducted in English) in Kyiv and in Muenster. The meetings of the Kyiv session took place within the walls of the National Reserve ?St. Sophia of Kyiv,? NaUKMA, KyivTheological Academy and Seminary, the St. Thomas Institute, and the Institute of Philosophy of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
The sessions in Kyiv touched upon a few timely topics: liturgical consciousness of the Church; theology and science; ecclesial identity as Roman Catholic / Orthodox Christian; local Church and universal Church; tradition and innovation; national and ecclesial identity. Six more topics are planned for the second session in Muenster .
The format of the sessions is rather unusual for the context of Ukraine: student reports are rather short ? two 15-minute presentations from each side on the same topic, which serve as an introduction for the discussion among all the participants.
The discussion appeared to be very vivid. It continued in personal communication beyond the framework of the sessions. The well-chosen choice of topics let the participants easily understand, which questions and aspects of Christianity are mostactual for each of the traditions, and to enter into a deep and serious, although at the same time friendly and disciplined, discussion of those key questions. Such a format of a youth research and educational seminar urges for a wide sharing of thoughts and questions, which are born directly during the conversation. Thus, the course of the discussion in Kyiv proved to be refreshingly candid; from time to time it brought the participants to unexpected insights concerning the other confession, but also concerning their own tradition.
A rich cultural program let the guests from Germany become acquainted with the spiritual culture of Ukraine, not only in its conceptual dimension, but also more directly. They visited St. Sophia Cathedral, National University of ‘Kyiv-Mohyla Academy’ and the Holy Assumption Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. They also made a journey to the Orthodox spiritual and cultural center ?The Ark? at the St. Parasceva of Serbia parish in the village of Lyshnya.
In Lyshnya, they had a meeting with children with symptoms of cerebral spastic infantile paralysis and their teachers from a boarding shool in the city of Kharkiv, who had their summer camp at St. Parasceva’s parish. Together with them and with the local folk ensembles (Kyiv folk ensemble ?Tsviten,? ?The Juice of Life? choir from Lyshnya and the choir ?Swan?s Song? from the village of Mostyshche) they took part in the celebration of the Pentecost, folk singing, games and dances, which followed the festive liturgy.
The Kyiv session ended with an impressive concert of two ensembles of early music ? ?Silva Rerum?and ??letheia? ? accompanied by a May thunderstorm, which opened the big latticed windows of the ?Way of Ukrainian Valour? museum in the Holy Spirit church at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. The listeners perceived this unexpected gift of nature as consonant with that non-trivial event in the intellectual and spiritual life of Ukraine, which the international student theological seminar illuminated.
From June 28 to July 5, 2012 the program of the Seminar will be continued in Muenster.