Pro Mundi Vita

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Pro Mundi Vita (PMV), an international study and research center located in Brussels, served for almost 30 years as a clearing house for information about the challenges facing the Christian churches and, specifically, the pastoral response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Second Vatican Council. Shortly before Vatican II, a group of Western European and Brazilian bishops, major religious superiors, aid agencies, and scholars created a kind of clearing house named Pro Mundi Vita, motivated by concern over the lack of Church personnel in non-Western countries. Under the inspiration of a Dutchman, Montanus Versteeg, OFM, its center was located in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Following an international conference in Essen, Germany, in 1963, presided over by Bishop F. Hengsbach, the center moved to Brussels. Its first secretary general, Jan Kerkhofs, SJ, a professor at Louvain University, transformed the PMV foundation into an international study and information center, with an international team of multilingual scholars and an intercontinental board of directors.

The Center focused on the challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the main Protestant Churches, and the pastoral responses inspired by VaticanII. PMV developed its activities in three directions. First, it published scientific studies (country profiles and major problem areas) that were sent free of charge to thousands of bishops, major superiors, and international Christian organizations. Second, a service for episcopal conferences and Church institutes in need of pastoral surveys and advice was established. Third, international meetings on a wide variety of topics were organized. The center published hundreds of bulletins and studies in English, Spanish, French, German, and Dutch that dealt with topics as varied as the Christian and Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist dialogues; the Church in Russia, South Africa, and China; the family, pluralism, and polarization in the Church; and the evolution of vocations. It also published hundreds of dossiers in four series on Latin America (in Spanish), Africa (in English and French), Europe and North America (in English and French), and Asia (in English). PMV also published a worldwide information bulletin, Ministries and Communities, and a quarterly, CECC Newsletter, on China. The center had launched a group of China scholars called "Catholics in Europe Concerned with China." Together with a China committee of the Church of England, PMV established the Ecumenical China Liaison Group. Often in cooperation with the Lutheran World Federation, PMV organized some forty international meetings on China alone. PMV coedited the review, Religion in the People's Republic of China: Documents.

PMV carried out surveys in Thailand, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Brazil. Particular attention was given to the role of women in the Church. The first ecumenical conference co-organized with the World Council of Churches, took place in Louvain in 1975, and many publications dealt with this topic: Women in Japan, Women in China, Women and the Priesthood, Cooperation of Women and Men in Church and Society. Among the main international conferences was a 1973 colloquium, New Forms of Ministry in Christian Communities, that in turn inspired the 1977 Hong Kong meeting of the federation of asian bishops' conferences, cosponsored by PMV. In 1970 in Brussels, PMV coorganized the first world conference of the review Concilium. In 1978 PMV launched the European Values Study (EVS), surveying the evolution of values in the Western world. Later, the EVS became an independent foundation in Amsterdam and continues its surveys of all European countries, the United States, and Canada. After a period in the course of which PMV was transferred to Louvain, organizational and financial problems forced the center to close in 1991.

[j. kerkhofs]