The sacramental nature of peacemaking rituals: a case for a sacramental spirituality of reconciliation

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South African scholar and peace activist John de Gruchy sees a close relationship between sacraments and peacemaking processes. Even though a Protestant, he calls the Church a sacramental community and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) a ‘civic sacrament’. This raises the question of the relationship between processes and rituals of peacemaking and sacramentality. Moreover, how does reconciliation, as a core doctrine of Christian theology, relate to sacramentality and peacemaking efforts in society? Is reconciliation sacramental? Hans Boersma’s sacramental ontology provides a theological basis for an affirmative answer. Furthermore, the notion of Christ (and the Church) as primal sacrament(s) (Semmelroth, Schillebeeckx) gives a further basis to see processes of peacemaking as sacramental. The article argues for a sacramental spirituality of reconciliation (Schreiter). However, applying the arguments to two concrete cases, the TRC and the twinning of Coventry and Dresden, shows some difficulties in claiming sacramental status for reconciliation efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-30
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal for the Study of the Christian Church
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

This article is an extended and reviewed version of a paper originally given at the Societas Liturgica conference, in Leuven, August, 2017.


  • sacraments
  • reconciliation
  • peacemaking
  • spirituality
  • Hans Boersma
  • Otto Semmelroth
  • Edward Schillebeeckx
  • Robert Schreiter
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
  • civic sacrament
  • twinning of Coventry with Dresden and Kiel
  • Rowan Williams


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