Wednesday 29 January 2003

Paul Couturier Anniversary Year 2003

24th March 2003 marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the death of the Abbé Paul Couturier, the visionary priest from Lyon who was the great advocate of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Not a member of the official hierarchy, nor an academic, his life's work to pray and work for the unity of all Christians according to the mind of Christ was achieved through strong bonds of friendship across cultural, national and ecclesiastical divides. These influences on the life of many upon and beyond his own Roman Catholic world resonate to this day, and include the ecumenical community at Taizé in France, the joint eastern-western monastery at Chevetogne in Belgium, the Orthodox whom he first encountered as refugees from Russia, the Reformed Churches, and from the 1930s his interest in the Anglican Communion.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourvière,
an ancient pilgrimage site crowning the city of Lyon,
where the Abbé went to say his first mass
after release from the Gestapo prison

Perhaps it is not unfair to say that the huge commitment to ecumenism at the Second Vatican Council, and the commitment of church leaders and theologians to build church unity in the late 20th century, owe much to Paul Couturier's life of prayer and devotion to the mutual gifts of Christian friendships.

His work is still continued by the Centre Unité Chrétienne in Lyon. The network of friendships, joint projects, international links, and ecumenical bonds between churches and countries has continued to grow. Throughout 2003 it was possible to celebrate the Abbé's memory with events and publications, and so ensure that, even when official progress may be slow and painstaking, the close contacts among ordinary Christians continue to drive forward the cause of Unity.

'Heart speaks to heart' (St Augustine).
'That they all may be one'.
Cor ad cor loquitur.

Sunday 10 November 2002

The Spiritual Ecumenism of Paul Couturier and the Challenges of the Present Day: Lyon 2002

The now renamed Passerelle Abbé Paul Couturier
Lyon & Francheville
8 - 10 November 2002

Interconfessional University Colloquium

Centre Saint-Irénée - Centre Unité Chrétienne - Faculté de Théologie de Lyon 


Friday 8 November - Catholic University of Lyon - Salle Jean-Paul II

7-30 pm
Welcome to Participants
by Mgr Francois Tricard, Rector of the Catholic University of Lyon, and Xavier Lacroix, Dean of the Faculty of Theology

9-00 pm
Introduction to the Colloquium
Fr Pierre Lathuilière, director of the Centre Unité Chrétienne

Paul Couturier, a Lyon priest in his time
Address and Discussion led by Étienne Fouilloux, Professor Emeritus at Lyon 2

Saturday 9 November - Maison St Joseph

9-00 am
The Abbé Couturier and England
Address and Discussion led by the Revd Canon Roger Greenacre, former co-president of the joint Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission

10-45 am
Discussion on historical themes
Brother Emile from Taizé: The Perspective from Taizé
Christian Chanel: Painstakingly Planting Spiritual Ecumenism in Sweden
Mme Marie Gostanian: The Twenty-Four Hours Prayer of Nerses

11-45 am
Ecumenical Service with the brethren from Taizé

2-30 pm
Spiritual Ecumenism - an Orthodox View
Address and Discussion led by Fr André Borelly, Orthodox priest and philosophy lecturer

4-00 pm
The Christian Faith and the Necessity of Unity
Address and Discussion led by Bernard Rondorf, Professor in the Faculty of Protestant Theology at Geneva

5-45 pm
Discussion on theological themes
Father Jean Alberti: Canon Richard, theologian, interpreter and mentor for the Abbé Couturier
Mme Nathalie Malabre: Carlhian, Remillieux and Couturier
Pastor Marc Spindler: The missionary dimension of Spiritual Ecumenism
Father Pierre Michalon: The Invisible Monastery

8-30 pm
The Christian Faith and the Imperative of Unity
Address and Discussion led by Dom Thaddée Barnas of the Abbey of Chevetogne in Belgium

10-00 pm
A Musical and Spiritual Introduction for the Night
John 17.21 sung in Arabic - Father Paul Rouhana

Sunday 10 November - Maison St Joseph 

9-00 am
The Abbé Couturier, Spiritual Ecumenism and the Community of Grandchamp
Address and Discussion led by Sister Minke, former prioress of the Protestant Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland

The Abbé Couturier and Taizé
Fabien Gaulué, researching a doctorate in history

10-30 am
Short discussion on spiritual themes
Dominique Beloeil: The introduction and growth of the Week of Prayer for Unity in Western France, 1945-1959
Father Paul Rouhana: Spiritual Ecumenism as a service to the Christian presence in the Middle East
Father Pierre Lathuilière: The unity of prayer and worship
Father René Beaupère: Spiritual brightness with a grey background - Couturier the teacher

11-30 am
Ecumenical Service led by the Sisters of Saint Andrew

2-00 pm
The Future of Spiritual Ecumenism
A 'round table' of ecumenical networks, led by Mme Anne-Maire Gérard, former editor-in-chief of 'Unité Chrétienne'

Conclusions and Thanks
Fr René Beaupère, director of the Centre St-Irénée, and Father Pierre Lathuilière

4-30 pm
A Tour in the Footsteps of Paul Couturier

Honorary Council of Reference

Cardinal Louis-Marie Billé
Archbishop of Lyon

Pastor Jean-Arnold de Clermont
President of the Protestant Federation of France

The Rt Revd Geoffrey Rowell
Anglican Bishop of Europe

Metropolitan Jérémie
President of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France, and of the Conference of European Churches

Cardinal Walter Kasper
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Pastor Konrad Reiser
Secretary General of the World Council of Churches

Mgr Norvan Zakarian
Bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Lyon

Centre Unité Chrétienne
2 rue Jean Carriès
69005 Lyon

Tel: +33 (0)4 78 42 11 67
Fax: +33 (0)4 72 77 68 99

Also, see the website of the Catholic University of Lyon

Tuesday 29 October 2002

2003 Events - London, St Albans, Brugge, Lyon

Tuesday 21 January
 'The Invisible Monastery'
An evening celebrating Paul Couturier, architect of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 7-9 pm
At the World Community for Christian Meditation, St Mark's Church, Middleton Square, London EC1. Address by Fr Mark Woodruff

Saturday 22 March
Spiritual Ecumenism
A Day Conference, 10-30 am to 4 pm at Westminster Cathedral Hall to celebrate the influence of Christians' "spiritual emulation" of each other, the influence of prayer for unity on the life of the churches, and the real advances in ecumenism through living in the "Invisible Monastery".


  • Couturier and the Church Unity Octave in the history of Catholic Anglicans - Brooke Lunn, Editor of the Catholic League's 'Messenger'
  • The Anglican Benedictines of Nashdom and Blessed Maria Gabriella of Unity - The Rt Rev'd Dom Basil Matthews OSB, Abbot of Elmore Abbey (formerly Nashdom; the remaining members reside now at Salisbury)
  • Couturier and Shrewsbury, Methodism's Ecumenical Pioneer - David Carter, Joint Methodist & Catholic Theological Commission (2003 is also the Tercentenary of the Birth of John Wesley)
  • The Invisible Monastery 1953-2003 and the Dynamic Role of Spiritual Friendship - Paul Renyard, Chaplain, the Living Spirituality Network
  • Couturier, Spiritual Emulation and the Chemin Neuf Community - Dr Timothy Watson, University of Newcastle, and Member of the Communauté du Chemin Neuf
  • Paul Couturier and his Contacts with Anglican Benedictine Nuns - Sister Mary Michael CHC, Community of the Holy Cross, Rempstone (since relocatet to Costock, Leics)
  • Spiritual Ecumenism in Action : Pastoral Unity in the East End - Roderick Leece, Ecumenical Officer, Stepney Area of the Anglican Diocese of London
  • Spiritual Ecumenism - Christian Community Restoring the Environment : Living Waterways - David Bookless, Director, A Rocha UK
  • Paul Couturier, the Week of Prayer and Unity of Humanity in the Creator - Fr Mark Woodruff, Secretary, Society for Ecumenical Studies
See the "Book" page above, to obtain these talks.
Weekend of Celebrations in Lyon 22 - 23 March
Saturday 22 March
2-30 pm to 5-30 pm : An afternoon on Paul Couturier's life and ideas, with witness accounts of those who knew him, at the Université catholique de Lyon, Salle Jean-Paul II, 25 rue du Plat, Lyon 2
2 pm to 5-30 pm : Celebration for Young People of all denominations at the Temple du Change, Place du Change Lyon 5
6 pm to 7 pm: Ecumenical Liturgy for the faithful of all Christian Churches, in the Cathedral of St John
Sunday 23 March
Each Christian confession invited those of other Churches to special Services or Eucharists. The Catholics gathered the Church of St Francis de Sales, rue Auguste Comte, Lyon 2e, a building where the Abbé loved to say Mass, and where he organized the first meetings of the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians
11-45 am : Unveiling of a Commemorative Plaque in honour of the Abbé Paul Couturier, in the presence of Monseigneur Philippe Barbarin, and the Senator-Mayor of Lyon Gérard Collomb as well as the mayors of the 2nd and 5th arrondissements, to mark the renaming of the St Georges Footbridge as the Passerelle Abbé Paul Couturier, quai Tilsitt-Lyon, Lyon 2
2-30 pm : A tour 'In the Footsteps of the Abbé Couturier', visiting places associated with Paul Couturier in his life and activity : the Institution des Chartreux, where he taught for several decades; the Church of Saint Nizier, where he made his first Holy Communion; the cemetery of Loyasse where he has lain at rest for half a century 
Pastor Conrad Reiser, President of the World Council of Churches, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, were invited to preside jointly at this weekend of celebrations.
Monday 24 March
The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Death of Paul Couturier
The Abbé was specially commemorated at Sung Mass at 5-30 pm at Westminster Cathedral on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord. Bishop Alan Hopes, vicar general, read a letter of greeting and commendation of the work and prayer of the Abbé Couturier. This was also the eve of the Centenary of the opening of Westminster Cathedral in 1903.
There followed a Reception and an address on The Life and Vision of Paul Couturier by Dr Timothy Watson of the University of Newcastle and a member of the Chemin Neuf Community.
Dr Watson's address and Bishop Hopes' homily were published in The Unity of Christians: Vision of Paul Couturier (see the Book page above)
27 - 30 March
International Ecumenical Fellowship British Region - Annual Meeting
The BRIEF residential gathering at Hengrave Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Themes include the Ecumenical Spirituality of Paul Couturier, and ecumenical studies in the context of the university and in training for ministry. Address by Fr Mark Woodruff

Saturday 10 May
Dare to Share
The Focolare Movement and Churches Together in England joined forces to present a lived experience of new life in the ecumenical structures, at the Institute of Education, London.
Saturday 17 May
'That they all may be one' - But How?
The Society for Ecumenical Studies, the Newman Association and the ecumenical St Albans Centre for Christian Studies hosted this major conference at St Albans Abbey.
The keynote speakers were
  • Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales (subsequently Canterbury)
  • Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity
  • The Revd Elizabeth Welch, Moderator of the United Reformed Church 2001-2
To read their speeches, go to the  'More Reading' page.
27 - 29 June
Spiritual Ecumenism : The Vision of Paul Couturier for the Unity of Christians
An international interconfessional weekend at the English Convent, Brugge-Bruges, Belgium, to study and celebrate the influence of Christians' "spiritual emulation" of each other, the influence of prayer for unity on the life of the churches, and the real advances in ecumenism through living in the "Invisible Monastery".
Addresses included:
  • Paul Couturier and the Monks of Unity - Dom Thaddée Barnas OSB, from the Abbey of Chevetogne, Belgium, Editor of Irénikon
  • The Holy Spirit and Ecumenism - Professor Adelbert Denaux, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, International President of the International Ecumenical Fellowship
  • Paul Couturier and England - Prebendary Brooke Lunn, St Paul's Cathedral, London, Editor of the 'Messenger' of the Catholic League)
  • Christ in the Hymns of Charles Wesley : A Spirituality for all Christians - Fr Francis Frost, Foyer Sacerdotal, Ars-sur-Formans 
  • St Thomas More on Unity : A True Spirituality for Ecumenism - Dr Kevin Eastell, Director of the Moreanum, Université Catholique de l'Ouest, Angers, President of the Catholic League
  • Couturier and Shrewsbury - two Ecumenical Pioneers - David Carter, Joint Methodist Roman Catholic International Commission
  • Paul Couturier, the Chemin Neuf Community and the Invisible Monastery - Sister Muriel d'Hoffschmidt, member of the Communauté du Chemin Neuf at La Hulpe, Belgium
  • Paul Couturier, the Week of Prayer and the Unity of Humanity and Creator - Fr Mark Woodruff, Secretary, Society for Ecumenical Studies
The addresses were published in Unity of Christians: Vision of Paul Couturier. See the "Book" page above, to read online or obtain a copy.

26 - 29 August
 Conference in Commemoration of Abbé Paul Irénée Couturier 1881-1953
The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the leadership of Joe Farelly, who had known Couturier, arranged a Conference as a tribute to Paul Couturier, in particular to commemorate his hard work to promote ecumenical understanding between Catholics and Orthodox. The event was also a collaboration with the Society of St John Chrysostom and the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius.
Addresses included:
  • Paul Couturier : Anglican and Catholic Encounters Remembered - Canon Richard Rutt, former Anglican Bishop of Leicester, now a senior Catholic priest in the Diocese of Plymouth
  • The Abbé and the Reverend Henry Fynes-Clinton of the Church of St Magnus the Martyr in Early Ecumenical Relations - Fr John Salter, priest in the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch, and President of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association
  • Evangelisation and Unity: The Significance of John Wesley - David Carter, Joint Methodist & Catholic Theological Commission (2003 was also the Tercentenary of the Birth of John Wesley)
  • Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Catholics of the Eastern Rite - Archimandrite Serge Kelleher, Dublin, editor of the Eastern Churches Journal
  • Convergence between Evangelicals and pre-Reformation Churches - Dwight Longenecker
  • An Anglican and a Catholic View of Mary 1686-1703: Two Tracts Compared - Peter Sibley, ESBVM Archivist
  • Father Ignatius Spencer, 1789-1865: Remembering Another Pioneer - Amanda Hill
  • Lutheran Ecumenical Engagements - The Revd Thomas Bruch, Lutheran Council of Great Britain
  • The Diaconate as an Ecumenical Opportunity - The Revd Paul McPartlan, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Heythrop College
  • St Basil's House and the 'Invisible Monastery' - Joan Rutt, former Secretary of the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius
It took place at Woldingham School, a Catholic Secondary Independent School founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, some of whose members made notable contributions to the foundation of the Ecumenical Society and to the cause of Christian Unity.


The Catholic League arranges ecumenical pilgrimages each year, usually staying in religious houses where a strong and friendly spiritual relationship has been built up over many years. Ecumenical Pilgrimage was strongly recommended by Paul Couturier as it leads to 'spiritual emulation' and greater depth and longing in the prayer for Unity. The following visits took place in 2003, and featured commemorations of the father of Spiritual Ecumenism:
Paris 16 - 20 May
An Easter weekend with the Benedictine Nuns of the Blessed Sacrament, at Montmartre
Paris 20 - 24 June
Corpus Christi weekend with the Benedictine Nuns of the Blessed Sacrament, at Montmartre
Bruges 10 - 14 September
Holy Cross weekend with the Benedictine Daughters of the Church at the Béguinage