An historic conference of Carmelites is underway at Aylesford Priory in Kent. Since July 23, friars, sisters and lay members from 17 countries have been reflecting on the contribution of the order to issues of justice and peace. The Carmelites are due to take up their new role as a Non-Governmental Organisation at the United Nations next month. Canon David Grimwood, director for Social Responsibility in the Rochester and Canterbury Diocese, is directing the three-week conference. Among the Carmelite speakers are Biblical scholar Carlos Meister from Brazil, Fr Miceal O'Neill who has spent several years in Peru, Ismael Checa and Tracey O'Sullivan. Other contributors include: Ian Linden, recent director of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, speaking on globalisation; Jen Richardson examining the causes of poverty; Canon Anne Dyer on justice issues from a woman's perspective; Sr Jean Quinn, DW, director of Sophia Housing, Dublin; Ciaran Early OMI and Gemma McKenna, directors of 'Partners in Faith' Dublin. During their first week, members visited various parts of Kent to see local Christian justice and peace initiatives. This second week is devoted to examining peace and social issues from a Biblical perspective and the Carmelite tradition. "As an order we feel called to be prophetic and iconoclastic," said the Prior of Aylesford, Fr Wilfrid McGreal. He said the order was concerned about the violence by a small number of people during the recent G8 conference. Fr Wilfrid said: "We are also concerned about the apparent contradiction between the prophetic statements of the Pope on issues of justice and peace, and the actions of some South American bishops such as Cardinals Sodano and Estevez, (who supported Chilean dictator Pinochet) which undermine these statements." During the final week, members will be discussing future approaches and drawing up a statement. The meeting is due to end on August 10.
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