A brief history of the Journées Romaines Dominicaines

The "Journées Romaines" began in 1956, a few years before Vatican II, on the initiative of a Dominican, fr. Georges Anawati, OP, and some White Fathers, who were willing to develop within the Catholic Church a better awareness of Islam and of the need of more inter-religious dialogue. These meeting use to take place ever second year

            At the General Chapter of Madonna dall'Arco (1974), the Order decided to create a special structure, called later on Secretariat for Islam, whose purpose will be to coordinate the activities of the friars working in Muslim countries. This was one of the fruits of Nostra Aetate declaration (1965). A friar, fr.  Emilio Panella, was then appointed for this Secretariat within the Curia of the Order, under the responsibility of the Socius for the Apostolic life. One of his first initiatives was to organize, right after the Journées Romaines of summer 1977, a first meeting of what will be called "Journées Romaines Dominicaines". Again, fr. Georges Anawati, OP, was one of the main leaders of this meeting, which took place in Grottaferrata, near Rome, organized by fr. Emilio Platti in 1977, 1981, 1985, 1989.

            Around 25-30 friars a few sisters used to attend, in a very friendly atmosphere. Despite of that, some tiredness appeared and a serious difficulty to have new people coming. Fr. Emilio Platti found difficult, being not always in the Curia, to gather more people, especially young friars. Decision was made then by fr. Timothy Radcliffe, Master of the Order elected in 1992, to give the direct responsibility of the Journées Romaines Domicaines to the Socius for the Apostolic life, at that time fr. Jean Jacques Pérennès. A deep survey of the apostolic activities of the Order in the Muslim countries was made, which allowed, after a break to start again the Journées Romaines Dominicaines, with new blood. Around 70 friars and sisters attended the meeting at the Angelicum in 1995, very much attracted by two speakers who had a deep experience of the topic: fr. Oshida from Japan and fr. Serge de Beaureceuil from Afghanistan. More Dominican sisters were involved and more countries represented. An effort was made as well to have it in English and French.

            The meeting was due to take place every four years. For practical reasons, the meeting of 1999 was cancelled at the last moment, but a good number of friars came again in Rome in 2001 and 2005. This due to the commitment of the Socii for Apostolic life, fr. Yvon Pomerleau and then fr. Chrys McVey.  Journées Romaines Dominicaines of 2009 will be 8th meeting of this kind.  It is now organized by a team of friars and sisters, the Commission for Dialogue with Islam, appointed by the Master of the Order, which works under the responsibility of the socius for the Apostolic life, fr. Prakash Lohale and the socius for the Intellectual life, fr. Márcio Couto.

            Inviting new friars and sisters aces is still an issue. But progress has been made in terms of networking. A new emphasis has been put during the last years on the theological reflection needed by those who minister in such a context. It is usually a very joyful encounter, very helpful for those who attend.