Number of Observers Nearly Doubles Since Start of Council

A total of 28 churches and church associations are represented by observer delegates at the fourth session of Vatican Council II, five more than last year, and 11 more than at the first session in 1962.

With this increased representation, the number of observers has almost doubled since the first session. Including observers and their substitutes, 42 representatives of other Christian communities were accredited to the first session. There were 70 last year, and this year there are 82. The number of official guests attending the council at the invitation of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity was 8 in the first session, 11 in the third, and is now 15. As in previous years, not all those listed by the secretariat are able to be present throughout the session, and the total includes alternate observers.

The observers, whose seats in the front of the council chamber in St. Peter’s flank the table of the Council of Presidents and the speakers’ rostrum, have been joined this year by delegates from six churches or federations. The ancient Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria has sent an official delegation for the first time. So have the Orthodox patriarchate of Bulgaria and the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia. Other bodies officially represented for the first time are the United Church of Christ in Japan, the Protestant Federation of France, and the Australian Council of Churches.

The representation covers a broad spectrum of Christianity, ranging from 13 Orthodox and other Eastern Churches through the major Protestant denominations, with the exception of Baptist and Pentecostal communities.

Fifty-three of those accredited attended one or more of the previous council sessions. Twenty-five on this year’s list are from the United States. They include some of the leading figures in the ecumenical movement.

Three members of the U.S. contingent were also representatives of their churches at official theological talks held this summer with representatives of the U.S. Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical Affairs. They are Dr. Peter Day of New York, ecumenical officer of the Protestant Episcopal Church, who is one of the Anglican Communion’s substitute delegates to the council; the Rev. Warren A. Quanbeck, professor of systematic theology at Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., an observer for the Lutheran World Federation; and Archpriest Alexander Schmemann, professor of dogmatic theology at St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox seminary, Yonkers, N.Y., who is again a guest of the unity secretariat.

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