Linda Hogan – « Building Bridges for the Future: Sarajevo 2018 »

Linda Hogan

« Building Bridges for the Future: Sarajevo 2018 »

Concilium 2018-5. Ökologie und Theologie der Natur
Concilium 2018-5. Ecology and Theology
Concilium 2018-5. Ecología y teología de la naturaleza
Concilium 2018-5. Écologie et théologie de la nature
Concilium 2018-5. Ecologia e teologia della natura
Concilium 2018-5.

Linda Hogan, João Vila-Chã, Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator

In July 2018 Catholic theological ethicists from around the world met in the historic and beautiful city of Sarajevo.  They met with the agenda of Bridge Building for the Future.  An initiative of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church network (CTEWC), the conference drew 500 theological ethicists from 85 countries, balancing roughly 100 participants from each of the five continental regions.  The global political context that framed the reflections is radically challenging: our environment is compromised; immigrants, refugees, and the poor are threatened; and, very few national leaders show any regard for greater global cooperation.  These times, it was noted, call for a deepening of networks of resistance and a commitment to bridge-building for solidarity amongst communities and individuals world-wide.

The Sarajevo conference was the third international cross-cultural conference organised by CTEWC.  The network was inaugurated with an international meeting of Catholic theological ethicists in Padova in 2006, followed by Trento in 2010.  The network has also convened five regional/continental conferences: Nairobi in 2012; Berlin in 2013; Krakow in 2014; Bangalore in 2015; and Bogota in 2016. In each case the purpose was to advance the CTEWC mission in different contexts.  That mission has become the driving force of all of the interactions.  The mission statement posits that “Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC) recognizes the need: to appreciate the challenge of pluralism; to dialogue from and beyond local culture; and, to interconnect within a world church not dominated solely by a northern paradigm.”  The mission is advanced, not only through conferences but also through a book series published by Orbis Press, academic exchanges of professors between institutions North and South, a doctoral training programme for African women and post-doctoral and mentoring opportunities for new scholars.    

In Sarajevo the conference was designed primarily for engagement.  It was recognised that this is a time for action, a time to share visions and strategy, a time to raise up and promote the common good.  At the opening a letter from Pope Francis commended the work of CTEWC.  Members had already been welcomed to the Vatican by Pope Francis in March 2017 to discuss the work of CTEWC.  Pope Francis commented that CTEWC’s approach can make its own contribution to the challenges we face.  He wrote, ‘I encourage you, as men and women working in the field of theological ethics, to be passionate for such dialogue and networking.  This approach can inspire analyses that will be all the more insightful and attentive to the complexity of human reality.’  The three days of the conference were structured around three foci: i) Our Origins and Contexts; ii) Challenges We Confront Today; iii) Our Summons to Move Forward. 

The first plenary focused on why we network and participants heard from senior voices: Antonio Autiero, (Germany/Italy) and Paul Schotsmans, (Belgium), emerging voices: Sr. Vimala Chenginimattam, CMC, (India) Gusztáv Kovács, (Hungary) and Margaret Ssebunya, (South Africa/Uganda) and isolated voices: Zorica Maros, (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Nhu Y Lan Tran, CND, MD, (Vietnam). Further plenaries throughout the conference provided opportunities for analyses of contextual theology, interreligious dialogue, human rights, theology of the people and virtue ethics.  The climate and political crises were explored, as were issues of ethics and public discourse and networking for social impact.  Panels were always intercontinental, with junior and senior scholars sharing their perspectives and approaches.  For example, in a highly engaging discussion, Teresa Forcades of Spain, Alexandre Martens of Brazil and Eric Genilo from the Philippines each spoke about the values that guide their ethico-political engagement. While Joshua McElwee, Rome Correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter led a workshop on working with the media. Over 120 posters captured participants’ current and past research, with topics ranging from cyberethics, the ethics of social entrepreneurship, the ethics of apology in post-conflict Rwanda, to sexual violence as culture of sin.

The global perspective was consistently in view, but the Bosnian context was also always present, both as a microcosm of current political, economic and environmental challenges, and as a metaphor for solidarity and hope.  The images of the bridges of Sarajevo served as a reminder, not only of Sarajevo’s long tradition of interreligious dialogue, but also of the chaos and brutality that ensues when the institutions that support this co-operation fall apart. Bosnia’s Youth for Peace spoke movingly about their determination to ensure that their futures are not determined by the grievances of the past, and to work for a culture of justice and peace, and Cardinals Cupich and Turkson, each at different stages of the programme, reflected on the contribution that theological ethics can make. With the introduction of the new leadership of CTEWC, Kristin Heyer (USA) Shaji George Kochuthara (India) and Andrea Vicini (Italy/USA), a new phase of the network was inaugurated at Sarajevo, ensuring that vision of CTEWC will continue to impact theological ethics into the future.


Linda Hogan is  Professor of Ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin, where she was Vice-Provost from 2011-2016.  Professor Hogan has degrees from the Pontifical University Maynooth and from Trinity College, Dublin, where she gained her Ph.D.   Her primary research interests lie in the fields of theological ethics, human rights and gender.  Amongst her recent publications are Keeping Faith with Human Rights Georgetown University Press, 2015.