Overview of International Activities and Discussions

Today, facing growing uncertainty and shifting global dynamics, international Catholic-inspired organizations are presented with a unique opportunity. As the Forum offers a dedicated space of exchange for our organizations, the Vatican dicasteries and the Secretariat of State, we see that current events are giving rise to a profound moment of global reflection. The ensuing dialogue is now crucial to healing the wounds of the present, identifying weaknesses in past approaches and making decisions that are truly at the service of humanity’s common future.

The fragility of our world now on full display, and indeed that of the human condition itself, offers a clear reminder of the care needed for humanity and its common home. The interconnectedness of our world and its societies, as well as the growing effects of globalization, are visible now more than ever. Amidst increasingly strained economic and political relationships, human flourishing and peace depend upon the recognition of our shared journey and a renewed commitment to live together as one human family.

As promoters of humanity (2017), working towards an inclusive society (2019), Catholic-inspired organizations have an irreplaceable contribution to this dialogue, each according to their unique identity. The words of the Forum’s founding document are opportune in this regard: “In reading the signs of the times, organizations of Catholic inspiration, according to their identity, seek to make a shared assessment of these new challenges, deepen together their analysis of the interacting factors, consider anew the question of the future of our communities, safeguard those dynamics that contribute to social cohesion, and to exchange essential points of advocacy and action carried out before intergovernmental bodies.” (1) Seen from this perspective, and with the pandemic only serving to reinforce its value, our document on inclusion provides a solid base and a supplementary tool for our activities before international institutions.

Through analyzing these present challenges and seeking creative and forward-looking solutions, international catholic inspired organizations contribute to building a future for the one human family. In light of this profound moment of global reflection and the focal points offered by the participating organizations, this two-year working program will consider the kind of future we want to build together, beginning today. In the words of Pope Francis, “Let us seek solutions together, boldly undertake processes of change and look to the future with hope.” (2)

The approach of 2017-2019: Moving toward convergence

During the 2017 – 2019 Forum program, organizations worked with one transversal theme (inclusion) in thematic groups to generate greater convergence and to take steps toward interaction in policy building. Organizations considered “a more inclusive society” through their various areas of thematic expertise by using a common methodology of identifying keys to the concept, challenges and positions taken. Their findings were then brought together and analyzed in a multi-disciplinary group of representatives from the various thematic groups. The resulting “mix” of themes and analysis saw both the concept of inclusion engaged from all thematic perspectives and each individual thematic perspective enriched by the analysis of the other themes. The resulting “convergence” was experienced in the Forum Assembly last December (2019) through shared analysis, relationship building, synergies and the publication of the inclusion document.

The approach of 2020-2022: From convergence to increased collaboration in policy building

The present Forum program takes the achieved convergence of the organizations and the discussion group methodology as a starting point. Instead of working with a single transversal theme as was the case with “inclusion,” we suggest working with more specifically defined topics that parallel the respective international agendas of the organizations. In the diagram on the following page you will see that the overall themes remain but have been given more specific orientations. The groups themselves will further define these orientations in deciding on the specific topic(s) they intend to share and discuss. This approach offers two core advantages: it clearly enlarges the scope and vision and it increases the possibilities for organizations to mix and reorganize themselves within the groups of their choice.The outcomes of these discussions will - as was the case in the previous Forum program - be taken up during four interdisciplinary meetings, yet this time by specifically looking through the prism of four core subjects: (1) the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, (2) the shaping of a new multilateralism, (3) follow-up on the various aspects related to integral human development and (4) reading future pathways through Christian anthropology. These subjects, in se, are an interplay of the various thematic approaches. The implications of the Covid-19 crisis, as much as the shaping of a new multilateralism, strongly impact development, environment, education, family, health, human rights, migration, and youth. The two other prisms are much more related to a specific Catholic/Christian reading of existing national and international policies. These interdisciplinary meetings will thus take the overall analysis a step further by examining the dynamic interaction of all the various elements. Thematic groups are invited to choose the specific topics of exchange in a way that serves the discussion of the four “prism” subjects in the interdisciplinary meetings, always starting from their own organizational perspective. The facilitators will organize and plan the discussions, agenda and the dates of the virtual meetings throughout the coming period until April 2022. They will inform the Secretariat on the topics and regularly brief on the outcomes. The discussions will follow a pattern of identifying the challenges, suggesting possible positions and defining focal points of advocacy. These will fuel the discussions of the interdisciplinary meetings, which will be composed of one or maximum two facilitators per thematic group, one person identified by the existing platforms, participants of the Vatican dicasteries and the Forum Committee members. The outcome of their discussions will subsequently be shared with all Forum participants.

A flexible and adaptable approach

These interactive discussions will continue throughout the full program and into the Forum Assembly to be held in April or May 2022. The summary report documents from the thematic discussions will again be assembled into a Forum wide publication at the end of the two-year program. The process, when taken as a whole, will lead to greater Forum wide communication, message building and synergies in advocacy both internally within the Forum and externally toward broader society. Participants are encouraged to suggest new and creative ways of working together as the Forum network “is brought forth in a spirit of communion and characterizes itself by an approach that is dynamic, voluntary and non-hierarchical.” (3)

The Secretariat remains at the service of the Forum at large and will not intervene in the discussions themselves nor draft their meeting reports. It will offer logistical support, assist in establishing the parameters of discussion and follow their progress. Contributions to the discussions and document submissions may be made in one of the following four languages: English, French, Italian or Spanish. The working language of the multidisciplinary group will be mainly English. It is important that group facilitators can ensure their continual presence and follow up for the discussions until the Spring 2022 Forum. In a similar way, the person designated to contribute to the inter-disciplinary meetings should be able to participate in all of the meetings without having to be replaced. Meetings of the inter-disciplinary group will take place in Rome (travel conditions permitting) and as was the case in previous meetings, the Forum committee will ensure that accommodation and meals are provided, but the cost of travel will remain the responsibility of the participants.

We hope that this offers clarity regarding the proposed path ahead and we invite you to contact the Forum Secretariat with any questions, desires or suggestions you may have. With gratitude for your attention and hopeful for your active engagement, we take this opportunity to extend our prayerful best wishes and regards.


Johan Ketelers
on behalf of the Founders, the Board and the Secretariat

(taken from the May 18th, 2020 letter to participating organizations)

(1) Founding Document of Forum
(2) Francis, Message for the Launch of the Global Compact on Education, September 12th, 2019
(3) Founding Document of Forum

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