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Engaging Roman Catholicism Pre-Forum Conference

Detailed information about the 2017 Forum is not yet available but will be posted in the future. Please review the information from the 2016 Forum for a look at the quality of instructors, teaching, and content that will be available in next year’s Pre-Forum Conferences.

On 20 – 21 May preceding the 2016 European Leadership Forum, Leonardo De Chirico will lead a Pre-Forum Conference on Engaging Roman Catholicism that begins with dinner on Friday evening and lasts from 9:00 until 17:30 on Saturday, 21 May.

Evangelicalism currently has an incoherent relationship with Roman Catholicism. Many evangelicals are uncertain about what Roman Catholics actually believe. Do they believe in the same Gospel, or something entirely different? This question is important for leaders of evangelical churches and evangelical believers across Europe and the world. The leadership of the Forum is convinced, in line with the historic Protestant view, that Roman Catholicism is a severely flawed system in need of a radical biblical reformation in its basic theology and practice. It is essential for evangelical leaders, in a time of growing confusion regarding evangelical identity, to understand why we believe what we believe, and how to explain the Gospel in a compelling and persuasive way.

This Pre-Forum Conference will provide an overview of Roman Catholicism, its unique beliefs and practices, as well as the theological methodology that distinguishes it from evangelicalism. By completing required readings prior to the conference, participants will come prepared to discuss Roman Catholicism and the major issues surrounding evangelical engagement with Roman Catholics. The content for this Pre-Forum Conference is a condensed version of the Rome Scholars Network, a weeklong seminar sponsored by the Reformanda Initiative for evangelical leaders and scholars in Rome from June 25 – July 1, 2016.


Leonardo De Chirico is the pastor of Breccia di Roma, a church that he helped plant in Rome in 2009 and Vice Chairman of the Italian Evangelical Alliance. Previously, Leonardo planted and pastored an evangelical church in Ferrara, Italy, from 1997 to 2009. He earned degrees in History (University of Bologna), Theology (ETCW, Bridgend, Wales) and Bioethics (University of Padova). His PhD is from King's College (London); it was published as Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. In 2015, he published A Christian Pocket Guide to Papacy through Christian Focus. He is a lecturer of Historical Theology at Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione in Padova, Italy. Additionally, Leonardo is the Director of the Reformanda Initiative, which aims to equip evangelical leaders to better understand and engage with Roman Catholicism, and the leader of the Rome Scholars Network (RSN).



Single Room: 80 euros

Double Room: 60 euros                     

Scholarship: 20 euros

The cost includes:
  • Lodging the night of Friday, 20 May
  • Three meals (Friday dinner, Saturday breakfast and lunch)

**Please note that the above costs are in addition to the normal Forum conference costs.


All participants in this Pre-Forum Conference must first apply and be accepted to the 2016 European Leadership Forum. If you have been accepted to attend the Forum and would like to attend this Pre-Forum Conference, please contact Kevin at


All participants of the 2016 Pre-Forum Conference on Engaging Roman Catholicism must complete several pre-readings prior to the conference. Book excerpts and articles will be provided electronically. You will need to acquire a copy of A Christian Pocket Guide to Papacy, however.

The pre-readings include:  

* Book: A Christian Pocket Guide to Papacy by Leonardo De Chirico (available from Christian Focus or Amazon)

* Book (Chapter 4): Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment by Gregg Allison (to be sent by email to Pre-Forum Conference participants at a later date)

* Article: "Salvation Belongs to the Lord: Evangelical Consensus in Dialogue with Roman Catholicism" by Leonardo De Chirico

* Article: "What Do You Think About Pope Francis?" by Leonardo De Chirico and Greg Pritchard


Participants should plan to arrive at the hotel in Wisla on Friday, 20 May, by 17:00 in order to register, check into the hotel, and join the group for dinner at 18:00.  If arriving by plane, participants should plan to arrive at the Krakow or Katowice airport no later than 14:00.

Friday evening, 20 May (18:00 - 21:00)

Dinner (18:00-19:00)

Session 1: Why Evangelicals Need to Engage Roman Catholicism (19:00 - 21:00)

Do the debates of the Reformation still matter for evangelicals today? How should evangelicals understand Roman Catholicism and why is it important for evangelicals to continue to engage the Roman Catholic Church from a biblical perspective? This opening session highlights the relevance and urgency for evangelicals to both better understand and more winsomely engage the Roman Catholic Church, including its theology and practices.


Saturday morning, 21 May (9:00 - 13:00)

Session 2: Comparing the Evangelical and Roman Catholic Theological Methods

The Roman Catholic faith is not based on the Bible alone, the written and authoritative Word of God, but on a much wider and fluid and on-going reservoir of divine revelation. According to Rome, God’s Revelation is on-going and the present-day voice of God is the official teaching. It may take 1900 years to state a new dogma, but the fact that Scripture is not the final authority makes the Catholic system unreliable in its very fabric. To greater or lesser degrees all Catholic doctrines and practices are the result of this flawed theological method which is not governed by Scripture alone, but by a self-authenticating tradition which is administered by the authority of the Roman Church. This talk will examine the Roman Catholic theological method which blurs Scripture and tradition and exalts the teaching office of the Church and compare it with the evangelical method whereby the Scriptures are recognized as the highest authority not only in shaping beliefs but also in correcting them. This does not mean that the evangelical practice of this method is flawless, but it does indicate the fundamental commitment to Sola Scriptura.

Session 3: The Reformation and the Gospel

The sixteenth century Protestant Reformation called the church back to the biblical sources (formal principle) and back to the central message of the Gospel of justification by faith alone (material principle). The controversy revolved around the authority of Scripture over the traditions of the church, the primacy of grace over the meritorious nature of religious works, the orientation of the whole of life towards the glory of God over against a spirituality marked by the veneration of the saints and unbiblical practices. This lecture will explore the nature of the sixteenth century debate in light of different Trinitarian frameworks, different anthropologies, doctrines of salvation, and the church.

Session 4: Communicating about the Gospel with Roman Catholics

What are the greatest sources of the Roman Catholic misunderstanding regarding the Gospel? What are most important biblical concepts with which to dialogue with Roman Catholics? This session will bring together what participants have already learned about Roman Catholicism to reflect on effective methods of engaging Roman Catholics in meaningful and impactful evangelism.

Saturday afternoon, 21 May (14:00 - 17:30)

Session 5: Roman Catholicism: A Worldview and a System

Roman Catholicism is a complex reality. A global view of Catholicism must take into account its doctrine, culture, and its institutions. It is a religious worldview which has been promoted throughout history by the ecclesiastical institution whose center is in Rome. Although there is considerable diversity in its forms of expression, Catholicism is a basically unitary reality with discernible underlying tenets. Any analysis which does not take into account the fact that Catholicism is a system will fall prey to a superficial and fragmented understanding of the phenomenon. This lecture will compare and contrast systemic vs. atomistic approaches to Roman Catholicism and demonstrate the need for an evangelical assessment to grasp the basic contours of this worldview and its system.

Session 6: The Second Vatican Council and Beyond

The Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965, also known as ‘Vatican II’, is widely regarded as one of the most significant events of the twentieth century. Beside the immense influence exerted on Catholic theology and life, the Council has brought aggiornamento to the Roman Church. Aggiornamento, or a bringing up to date, does not denote reformation in the evangelical sense but neither is it a merely political and linguistic device aimed at concealing an unchanging reality. It is instead the Catholic way of responding to the need for some form of renewal without altering the fundamental structure inherited from the past. This lecture will examine the historical significance of Vatican II and its theological outcomes that continue to shape Roman Catholic identity today.



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