The Challenge TO Democracy: The Challenge OF Democracy (John Main Seminar 2022)

Democracy is too important to leave just to politicians. This seminar, led by Herman Van Rompuy, takes place in a responsive conversation with other meditators representing different ages and cultures in our community.

Democracy is too important to leave just to politicians. However imperfectly, democracy more than any other kind of government creates the conditions allowing humanity to reach its full potential. We all have to transcend personal interests in order to live in a democratic society and accept responsibility for our own freedom and future. It is also part of our spirituality because democracy is an ongoing conversation that demands truth, other-centredness and serves justice.

Like human beings themselves, democracy is flawed, yet resilient and capable of self-improvement. So, its connection with the gospel values of equality and compassion calls for our attention as meditators who work for inner and outer peace. Everyone benefits from the external peace necessary for us to grow and flourish with our gifts and expand our capacity for love. Today, as peace and democracy are under intense pressure, the meditator who knows the source of inner peace has a special call to support, heal and affirm our democracies today.

This year’s John Main Seminar will be led by a rare kind of politician – respected and admired by all parts of the global spectrum – who has devoted his life to the democratic process: Herman Van Rompuy. Herman has gained a unique knowledge of the world, its cultures, virtues and vices. His life has also been a spiritual journey, grounded in faith and leading him to a daily practice of meditation and to sharing in the mission of our community. Herman has been happily married for 45 years and has a family of 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

Because Herman believes that ‘conversation is the life-blood of democracy’ he will lead the Seminar in a responsive conversation with other meditators representing different ages and cultures in our community. A diverse group of younger meditators will engage with him as will a group of women and men from different backgrounds who share a conviction that meditation does make a difference – to the meditator and to the world we love and live in.

The talks and responses will explore:

  1. Democracy, values and meditation
  2. Global rivals: the Cold War between Democracy and Despotism
  3. Defending and supporting democracy in times of rising populism
  4. Government of the People by the People for the People: what changes are needed?

Herman Van Rompuy

Herman van Rompuy is a Belgian politician who served as Prime Minister of Belgium and later as the first permanent President of the European Council, 2009 to 2014. He is acknowledged as a seasoned statesman of stature and wisdom. He also contributes from his contemplative experience in regular talks to his fellow meditators in the WCCM.

Tayna Malaspina

Taynã Malaspina

Taynã Malaspina, from Brazil, is WCCM Director of Meditation for Young Adults. She and other younger members of the community will be part of this conversation with Herman.

Jenny Scott

Jenny Scott

Jenny Scott, a leading communications expert, will be the chairperson for these hope-filled and energising days


Jane Mellett

Jane Mellett lives in Dublin, Ireland and is the Laudato Si’ Officer with Tròcaire (the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland). Prior to this, Jane was a parish pastoral worker with the Archdiocese of Dublin serving in parish ministry for many years. A graduate of St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, Jane holds a Masters Degree in Theology (specializing in New Testament Scripture) as well as a Masters in International Development from Kimmage Development Studies Centre, Dublin.

Suzana Moreira photo2

Suzana Moreira

Suzana Moreira,from Brazil, is Master in Theology (PUC-Rio) and Coordinator of Eco-conversion Programs in the Laudato Si' Movement. She holds a master's degree in Systematic-Pastoral Theology and a bachelor's degree in Theology from PUC-Rio.


Two registration options are available:

Option 1, Pre-seminar Retreat ‘Our Conversation is in Heaven’ & John Main Seminar, led by Laurence Freeman & Giovanni Felicioni; Mon 14 – Sun 20 November 

Option 2, John Main Seminar only, led by Herman van Rompuy; Thurs 17 – Sun 20 November 

Our Conversation is in Heaven

Pre-seminar Retreat led by Laurence Freeman & Giovanni Felicioni

ARRIVAL : Monday 14 November, check-in: 14h00 – 17h00

Participation in the retreat requires participation in the seminar.

DEPARTURE AT CLOSE OF SEMINAR: Sunday 20 November, 15h00

In preparation for the seminar this retreat, led by Laurence Freeman and Giovanni Felicioni, offers an immersion in a contemplative rhythm of life amidst the beauty of the natural surroundings of Bonnevaux. Our retreat will consist of meditation sessions, a talk by Laurence, and yoga with Giovanni. There will be ample time for silence, solitude and resting in nature.
There is a thin veil between the material and the mystical – maybe none. Love unifies everything: meditation is the work of love and contemplation is the overflowing fullness of the fullness of love. So, how we live together, how we converse is shaped by the depth of our prayer. Authentic spirituality is not `above` justice or human suffering. Spiritual truth is reflected in the gritty realities of the world whether it is honoured or denied. Feelings and relationships are part of our spiritual path but so too are social and political responsibilities. We are a single body, embodied in Christ.
The old translation of St Paul`s phrase `our conversation is in heaven` sounds strange to us today. But reflect how our search for a peaceful world requires the recovery of the lost art of conversation – and we may see the link between silence and this fundamental value of civilisation.

Laurence Freeman

Laurence Freeman

Laurence Freeman is a monk of the Benedictine Congregation of Monte Oliveto. He is the Director of Bonnevaux and of The World Community for Christian Meditation.

Giovanni Felicioni - ABP vice-president

Giovanni Felicioni

Giovanni (Bonnevaux Associate Director) has been a part of the WCCM since the beginning, being involved in its official foundation in 1991. He is an Oblate, a certified Advanced Rolfer™, a Rolf Movement™ practitioner and Yoga Teacher.

This event takes place at Bonnevaux and offers an opportunity to discover the rich cultural and historical French and European heritage of the 12th-century Abbaye de Bonnevaux, as well as to explore the varied and natural beauty of the land which we cultivate as a model of ecological responsibility.

CONTRIBUTION for the John Main Seminar and Retreat  : 

  • 390€ only off-campus places available (see below)
CONTRIBUTION for the John Main Seminar only: 
  • 195€ only off-campus places available (see below)


— Please ensure you have travel insurance in place as we cannot refund cancelled travel for any reason.
— If you cancel your Bonnevaux booking up to 30 days before the event starts, you will be refunded the full cost of the event.  Cancellations occurring within 30 days of the event start will be offered a voucher for a future event. Bonnevaux reserves the right to cancel events at any point – cancellations occurring within 30 days prior to the event start date will be subject to the voucher refund policy only.

Membership Fee ** – 10€

Membership fee is paid once per year, valid strictly from Jan – Dec.

** by French law you must be a ‘member‘ of the charity (association ABP) Abbaye de Bonnevaux – Centre Pour la Paix in order to participate at an on-the-ground event at Bonnevaux – 86370 Marçay, France.

Membership is non-binding. It simply means that you are invited to attend the annual general meeting if you wish and that you may receive information about our events during the year.

The Abbey of Bonnevaux is the spiritual home of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) which includes a Conference and Retreat Centre dedicated to peace. The on-the-ground activities of the Abbey are organized under the responsibility of l’Association Abbaye de Bonnevaux – Centre pour le Paix (ABP).  The Association, which is governed by the French law of 1st July 1901, is registered in Poitiers under the reference RNA: W863007299.
Address : Bonnevaux, 86370 Marçay, France.
Phone number : 06 33 43 71 71 / 06 61 96 57 74.
José Pype (President of the Association); Giovanni Felicioni (Associate Director and Programme Manager)
Site hosting: Flywheel


Option 1: Pre-seminar Retreat & John Main Seminar
Option 2: John Main Seminar only

Unfortunatelly, all places on-campus are already taken. Remaining places for either option have accommodation only off-campus at 390€ for Option 1 and 195€ for Option 2. These include all meals and instruction.

Please book and pay for your room directly with the hotel St George or the gite La Cadoue with whom we have a friendly partnership. Our minibus will shuttle you back and forth once a day. Please mention you come on behalf of Abbaye de Bonnevaux :

– The hotel St Georges de Vivonne (https://hotel-st-georges.com) – 10 mn drive from Bonnevaux.

– The gite La Cadoue (https://www.lacadoue.fr/copie-de-bienvenue-chez-nous) – 10 mn walk from Bonnevaux.

Please book your accommodation before you book your place on the retreat


For the on-line version of the John Main Seminar & Retreat

Click on the button below.

How did the John Main Seminar start?

The first seven Seminars were held at the former Benedictine Priory of Montreal, beginning the year after John Main’s death. They were relatively small-scale events and the presenters were all prominent members of the Community with high standing in their professional fields.

The 1991 Seminar was a transformative event for the WCCM, inded the birth of the organisational aspect of the ‘monastery without walls’. It was held in New Harmony, Indiana. The participants were representative of a growing global family. The presenter was Bede Griffiths, the pioneer of interfaith dialogue and friend of John Main who spoke on Main’s vision of community under the theme of The New Creation in Christ. Immediately after the Seminar he remained with the leadership of the Community and contributed to a three-day process out of which the WCCM’s organizational and structural constitution were established.

Learn more on the John Main Seminar here

All our events taking place at Bonnevaux offer an opportunity to discover the rich cultural and historical French and European heritage of the 12th-century Abbaye de Bonnevaux, as well as to explore the varied and natural beauty of the land which we cultivate as a model of ecological responsibility.

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