1960 – 1990. Common denominators in the more than 50 year long history of Communicantes (legally founded in 1974) are not too difficult to find. This was, and still is, dialogue and exchange between Church in the Netherlands and Church in Eastern Europe. In the same time, the so-called aggiornamento of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was an important point of reference and source of inspiration of our founder Father Jan Bakker s.s.s. Because the Church in Central and Eastern Europe was unable to orient itself fully towards church renewal, Communicantes understood itself as a help for those who felt committed to the aggiornamento. Different activities stand out. (1) A common or shared inquiry into the height, breadth and depth of the aggiornamento in both the Netherlands and in Central and Eastern Europe, including: theological exchange on a personal level and informal theological courses in Central and Eastern Europe by Dutch theologians in the 70s and 80s; the smuggle of innumerable publications in the field of theology and philosophy; informal visits to Central and Eastern Europe; translation and printing of the Dutch New Catechism. (2) Informing Church in Central and Eastern Europe about developments in the Netherlands; and vice versa. (3) Material support.
1991 – 2010. Many of these activities continued after the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, because of the possibility to engage in project work on a much larger scale than before, great emphasis was put on promoting the renewal of army, prison, university and other forms of pastoral care and of formal and informal Catholic education (from Kindergarten to Catholic university). Here, aggiornamento remained very much our focus, both on the level of practical and theoretical dialogue. Generous funding by Dutch orders and congregations allowed Communicantes to further mainly Roman Catholic based projects with some 6.5 million Euro in aid.
2011 – Today. Due to a rapid decline of grant money, our focus on aggiornamento has shifted once more. Challenges remain. Secularisation of society, also in many Central and Eastern European countries, has led to a converging reaction inside the Church, that is, a reaction of self-secularisation, either by reducing the practical relevance of Church to social action or by retreating from secularised society altogether. Our focus is now with Catholic Social Teaching, which we like to present and discuss in a twofold manner. First we want to draw attention to the relevance of Catholic Social Teaching for positioning Church in modern society. Next we would like to discuss the way in which Catholic Social Teaching can both challenge and contribute to modern, secular society and to the public debate. (See the dialogue between philosopher Jürgen Habermas and Cardinal Jozef Ratzinger in 2004.) These are topics common to Central and Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the Netherlands. Communicantes wants to draw together its network of partners and friends and their experience in the field of dialogue and exchange. We aim at a Catholicism that is open to the world without giving up, however, on the basic tenets of Catholic faith as laid down in Catholic Social Teaching.