Under the leadership of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, the Centro Pro Unione in Rome, Italy, is celebrating its 50th year of operation. With a mission of advancing relationships and respectful communication between Christian traditions, as well as other religious faiths, the Centro has proven over the decades to be a pillar of ecumenical dialogue and research.

“The Centro has continued the main goals of research, formation and the exchange of ecumenical information and dialogue for these past 50 years,” said Fr. James Puglisi, SA, Director of the Centro. “During the Vatican II Council years (1962-1965) the Centro was the privileged scene of many encounters between the Catholic experts at the Council and the invited observers from the Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant communities,” he explained. In October 1968, Father Thadeus Horgan and Brother Roland Lawson officially opened the Centro. In 1969, they were joined by Father Daniel O’Shea, who built and catalogued the first ecumenical research library at the Centro.

Fr. Puglisi noted that the Atonement Friars were working toward Christian unity well before the Second Vatican Council. He said “[The Friars] promoted the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Italy since their arrival in 1946. The League of Prayer ‘Pro Unione’ began in 1956 by Fr. Celestine Leahy.” Clearly, the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement had ecumenical roots from the foundation of both communities. Since its founding, the Centro has been at the forefront of the ecumenical movement, providing researching and dialogue to key discussions about faith as well as hosting a variety of lecture series and events promoting understanding and unity.

To commemorate this milestone anniversary, the Centro hosted an ecumenical tea on May 17. Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity gave a brief discourse called “Dialogue as the Life-Blood of the Ecumenical Movement.”The Israeli, English, Georgian and Canadian Ambassadors to the Holy See were joined by the Director of the Anglican Center, the Universal Biblical Alliance, and Rabbi Jack Bemporad of the Center for Interreligious Understanding. Prince Jonathan Doria Pamphilj gave a speech on the role of his family in supporting the work of the Centro and ecumenism. Vatican Radio, as well as the Osservatore Romano, covered the event and it was a great reminder of the peace that comes from unity in Christ.