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Virginia Beach, Virginia. July 29, 1996.

The Association of Interchurch Families (AIF) held its ninth biennial conference at Virginia Wesleyan College from July 24-28. This first meeting of AIF in North America gathered interchurch families, ecumenists, and family ministry directors from Canada, England, France, Italy, Northern Ireland, and from a number of U.S. cities including Albuquerque, Cincinnati, Louisville, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Omaha, and St. Paul-Minneapolis. Interchurch marriages are commonly defined as a special type of so-called 'mixed marriage' between two baptized Christians in which both spouses remain active in their respective churches, both participate to varying degrees in one another's church, and both are actively involved in the religious education of their children. The great majority of such interchurch marriages are between a Catholic and a Christian from another tradition or denomination.

Speakers at the conference addressed the theme: 'Interchurch Families: Catalysts for Church Unity.'

Conference Speakers:

The Rev. Dr. Judy Bennett, Associate Director of the Virginia Council of Churches and a Methodist, provided the context and ethos of interchurch marriage in the United States with her keynote address, "Bone of My Bone, Flesh of My Flesh: Interchurch Families as Symbol and Sign.'

Nicola Kontzi, a German Lutheran who is Associate Director of the Dominicans' Centre St. Irenee ecumenical center in Lyons, France, spoke on 'Interchurch Families--Hope for the Churches: History and Perspectives.'

The Rev. Canon Martin Reardon, an Anglican priest and Director of the multilateral Churches Together in England project (which has full, official Roman Catholic participation) presented a plenary session entitled 'Christian Unity and Interchurch Families: An English Perspective.'

Theologian and internationally respected canon lawyer Fr. Ladislas Orsy, S.J., of Georgetown University's School of Law, focused the conference's attention with his address (a synopsis of which is included), 'Interchurch Families and Eucharistic Sharing: Present and Future.' Interchurch families and ecumenists agree that the question of the Eucharist and possibilities for sharing communion present the most neuralgic pastoral and theological concerns. Fr. Orsy focused primarily on the issue of what the Catholic attitude ought to be toward the non-Catholic Christian partner who wishes to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.

Members from various countries presented reports of what is happening "at home". Among these were Eric and Pamela Fievet of the "Foyers Mixte" in France.

Following the conference, various people present, such as Fr. George Kilcourse, conference organizer, and a Canadian couple shared their thoughts on the conference, and their hopes for the future.