THE Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary held its sixth international ecumenical congress in Dublin last week.
This remarkable society was started, in 1968, in a very small way by a London Catholic layman, the late Martin Gillett.
Against all expectations, apart from his own deep convictions, it has grown to be an organ of serious Marian study in the UK and the USA.
Last week's Congress, the first to be held by the Society outside of England attracted 150 participants from England, Ireland, Denmark and Belgium, amongst them Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Methodists.
There was a message of blessing and encouragement from Pope John Paul, Cardinal Heanan and the Archbishop of Canterbury are the Society's Presidents. The latter in his message to the Congress spoke of our Lady as the spiritual mother of all Christians.
Talks by established theologians of various church traditions, covering a wide spectrum of Marian topics: Mary and the Holy Spirit, the Immaculate Conception in ecumenical perspective, Mary and feminism and Marian devotion in contemporary Russia.
There was daily Mass for Catholics and separate Eucharistic services for others. But morning and evening prayers, deviated for the Congress on the pattern of the Liturgical Office, were said together.
The Congress ended with Mass at St Stephen's University Church, built by Newman when he was Rector of the University, in 1854.