top of page

Historic Parliament of World’s Religions By Antonio Pagliarulo

Original link:

By Antonio Pagliarulo

(TWH) – This year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions was a historic first for the Pagan community. Held virtually for the first time from October 16-18, the 2021 Parliament brought together people of faith from across the globe for workshops, plenary sessions, and conversations addressing critical topics, including women’s rights, climate change, and the pandemic’s ongoing impact.

Thousands of participants representing more than two-hundred self-identified faith groups and traditions attended the weekend’s robust selection of programs. And presiding over those programs was a Wiccan Priestess—Phyllis Curott.

As Program Chair, Curott curated the Parliament’s offerings, ensuring gender parity, diversity, and widening geographic reach in overall programming, including sessions related to Paganism and Witchcraft. These efforts, and her years working in this interreligious space, are modeled on groundbreaking religious leadership where Curott and others continue to forge ties among different faiths and the Pagan community.

“Things are changing in ways that should give us hope for the future, for us and for Mother Earth,” Curott said in post-conference interview. “That a wicce (I prefer the original term) was Program Chair for the 2021 Parliament – the one where the Pope finally offered his blessing and the [Greek Orthodox] Patriarch returned – means the impossible is possible, if you have the courage of your convictions, take the long view, and sustain the effort.”

That Pope Francis provided a blessing is indeed historic. The Roman Catholic Church, after all, has condemned the practice of Witchcraft, fueling propaganda and misinformation about Witches and Pagans. And yet there was Curott, in a publicly prominent role, and a schedule of conference events led or attended by those from the Pagan community.

“I’ve always refused to be defined by negative stereotypes – the ones others have of us or that we might have of others,” Curott continued. “I’ve worked in the interfaith world for almost forty years because it’s an open-minded community of religious leaders, activists, and influencers. Change their negative stereotypes about Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans, and you begin to change the world’s negative stereotypes. Freedom and the chance to offer our wisdom to the world follow.”

This point of view is confirmed by Rev. Stephen Avino, Chief Operating Officer and Acting Executive Director of the Parliament. “Our faith and spiritual communities have continuously risen to be antidotes to these moral and physical viruses that plague our world and we needed to gather to highlight this action-based work, share best practices, learn from one another, and celebrate the successes. This was a time to work for a better world.”

Pagans began participating in the Parliament in 1993, but their presence – while significant – was not without controversy. That year, the Greek Orthodox delegation withdrew from the Parliament shortly after protesting the inclusion of Witches. Curott was one of those Witches. At the time, she was First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess. But last month, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, returned to the Parliament, addressing the closing plenary where Curott also spoke.

Phyllis Curott

“The Pope’s letter and the Patriarch’s speech weren’t explicit acknowledgments of our legitimacy,” Curott admitted, “but it is implicit. The question is: why now? And what does it mean for our future? They came to urge the world’s faiths, all the world’s faiths, to address the accelerating climate crisis. It gave me hope to hear those leaders and their representatives speak words like atonement, penance, and repentance, to hear them acknowledge the wisdom of Indigenous peoples who live in harmony with the Earth. Do they recognize us as the heirs, reconstructors, and rebirthers of Euro-Indigenous wisdom traditions? Perhaps, perhaps not. ”

Even so, it was a moment of reckoning that elevated the global profile of Witches.

Several programs at the Parliament focused on the prevalence of Witchcraft today. Among those programs were: Why is Wicca the Fastest Growing Spirituality in America?; Impact of the Witch Hunt Trauma on Modern Women; and A Conversation between an Independent Catholic and a Witch (wicce).