Monthly Archives: October 2017

Europe, a promise of peace

Europe, a promise of peace

A meeting at the Vatican to rethink about Europe. Together for Europe was there.

«In our time, Christians are called to revitalize Europe and to revive its conscience, not by occupying spaces, but by generating processes capable of awakening new energies in society”. Pope Francis said these words at the end of his address to the 350 participants, present at the Vatican for a meeting sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (Comece) in collaboration with the Secretary of State. The title was “(Re) thinking Europe – a Christian contribution to the Future of the European Project” (27 -29 October 2017). This conference was meant to create an opportunity where one could discuss the contribution Christians can give to the European project, with the hope that dialogue put into practice can be of help to Europe and its institutions at this very critical stage.

During meetings held in previous days, Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and President of Comece, gave a picture of the continent’s realities, perspectives, challenges and hopes. He spoke of issues, such as environment, work, refugee crisis, that have to be faced “with a very clear vision of our present, and above all of the future

Msgr Jorge Ortiga, Archbishop of Braga and delegate for the Portugese Bishops’ Conference said, “the European Union needs a soul, it needs something new. This is not the case of just considering the territory or the economy; but it is the responsibility of building one society, one body that expresses diversity, respect for every culture, every country with its different characteristics

András Fejerdy, professor at the Catholic University of Budapest said: “Even if the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, divisions in our minds still exist. Maybe, we who live in the eastern part of Europe know the history, culture and thought of the Westerners better. On the other hand, we face many misunderstandings because of lack of knowledge. I participated in a workshop with representatives from the East and South of Europe, and it was interesting to see that we all share the same hopes and fears about the future of Europe”.

Katrien Verhegge, director general of Kind en Gezin, in Belgium, said: «It is in this context that we promote our message of unity and diversity. For me this means going back to what is essential: love and the golden rule. We can unite ourselves in living the golden rule, “in not doing unto others what we would not have others do unto us”. If we start to live this in our rethinking about Europe, we will already be making a step foward”.

For Pedro Vaz Patto, president of the Portugese Peace and Justice Commission, this is actually a moment “of crisis of confidence in Europe. As Christians, we have tried to contribute towards a Europe in search of a soul. The EU motto is “unity in diversity”. We Christians believe in God, who is one and who is Trinity. So our faith helps to live this unity in diversity, first of all through our witness. Among Christian Movements, Churches, individuals”.

Ilona Toth, Focolare Movement’s delegate for Togther for Europe was among the participants. Together for Europe brings together more than 300 Christian Communities and Movements spread across the Continent. While preserving their independence, these collectively form a network to pursue shared goals, each contributing through its own specific charism. Toth said that: ”The Together for Europe Project is very much in line with what was discussed during this conference and many showed interest in it. We have been invited to Brussels to start work of collaboration, while envisaging the importance of empowering Europe’s peoples to build their history”.

Significant the presence of leaders of different Churches, including Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and representatives of the Conference of European Churches (CEC): General Secretary Rev. Fr Heikki Huttunen and Vice-President Rev. Karin Burstrand.

At the end of his address, Pope Francis said that the commitment of Christians in Europe “must represent a promise of peace” and that “it is not the time to dig trenches, but to work courageously to realize the founding father’s dream of a united and harmonious Europe, a community of peoples who wish to share a future of development and peace”.

Source: SIF  

Address of Pope Francis >

Video: https://vimeo.com/240377109

Friends of Together for Europe meet in Vienna

Friends of Together for Europe meet in Vienna

From 9th to 11th November 2017, the Friends of Together for Europe will come together in Vienna, a bridge between Easter and Western Europe, for their annual congress.

A total of 120 participants from around 20 Eastern and Western European countries and 40 Movements are expected to attend. Their main aim will be to pool ideas on three topics:

  1. What culture is generated by the history of Together for Europe?
  2. What is our specific contribution to Europe?
  3. Dialogue between East and West: a mutual enrichment

This network of people embraces all of Europe from England to Russia, from Portugal to Greece. Their shared mission: through the upcoming meeting, to strengthen communion among their individual charisms and build united and multifaceted Europe, with strong social cohesion and cultural diversity.

The meeting will open, on 9th November 2017, in the Stephansdom Cathedral of Vienna, with an Ecumenical prayer for Europe. All those who wish for peace in Europe and in the world, are invited to take part in this moment of prayer.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Helmuth Kraetzl, Catholic Church, Archpriest Vicar Ivan Petkin, Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Austria, Chorbishop Emanuel Aydin, Syrian Orthodox Church in Austria, Patriarchal Delegate Tiran Petrosyan, Armenian Apostolic Church, Patrick Curran, Archdeacon of the Eastern Archdeaconry of the Anglican Church in Europe, together with all the present will bring before God needs and opportunities of our continent. The intention of the prayer is extremely timely: unity in diversity, peace in justice.

Following personalities will address the gathering: Thomas Hennefeld, Superintendent of the Reformed Church of Austria and President of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria, and Joerg Wojahn, Head of the European Commission Representation in Austria.

Download the invitation>>

Decades of surprise

Decades of surprise

‘Behind the iron curtain’ was a metaphorical attribution given to those countries that from the end of the Second World War until 1989 were part of the communist bloc. The ‘iron’ curtain in question represented the ideological split which divided Europe in two halves, an ideological split physically represented by the Berlin Wall.

When for research purposes I visited Prague, in former Czechoslovakia, the memory of Jan Palach was very much alive with many university students considering him a hero: on 16th January 1969 Jan Palach set himself on fire to draw the attention of the world to the exasperation in which his nation lived. My impression was that in the capital city of Czechoslovakia two parallel worlds coexisted: one official and visible, and another hidden but ever so present.

I had a similar experience living in Hungary in the 1980s. At that time, only a censored and sanitized version of news from Eastern European countries reached the West… Not much was known about Hungary outside the events of 1956. Initially I travelled to Budapest on a research scholarship into children’s literature, but my stay developed into a chain of surprising events and considering the political and historical context – small miracles.

Thanks to the translations I became known for, I received an award which allowed me to remain in Hungary as a lecturer at the Janus Pannonius University of Pecs. In a context of politics manipulated by interests and ideology, the ability to incorporate any kind of positive message into teaching required a sense of personal responsibility and freedom.

On one of my train journeys, while waiting at one of the endless border custom checks, I spotted a bird jumping on the barbed wire fence dividing the two countries. This sight prompted me to ponder how long those barriers would remain and I drew some hope from Giambattista Vico, a philosopher from Naples, Italy, who spoke about the fact that things which are outside their natural order do not remain so.[1]

In 1989, immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall I happened to conduct a sociological study on the change of toponyms of the streets and squares of Budapest and on destiny of statues left in that country by communist realism. These were eventually to be transferred to a specially designated garden which served as a sort of a ‘historical ZOO’ where parents would bring their children on Sundays… Some of the Soviet red star sculptures would have to wait for years to be taken down owing of their sheer size and weight.

After 16 years in Hungary, and after visiting other former Warsaw pact countries such as Slovakia or Poland, and places such as Auschwitz I understood better the reason of my being and I have become more and more grateful to God for the possibility to help make Europe and the entire world a family.

I also feel how right Victor Hugo was in in his famous [mis]quote : Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.[2]

by Tanino Minuta

[1] Giambattista Vico, Opere Vol. I, Tipografia della Sibilla, Naples, 1834, p. 12. [free translation]

[2] http://nuovoeutile.it/222-frammenti-sulla-creativita-a-cura-di-annamaria-testa/ [http://www.quotecounterquote.com/2011/02/nothing-is-more-powerful-than-idea.html]

 

 

Studying, living, and teaching history

Studying, living, and teaching history

9 November 1989: an unforgettable date in recent history marking the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the evening of that same day I was too transfixed in my chair in front of the TV to notice an unexpected event the import of which my own young generation at the time could not possibly grasp.

I had studied (and held a degree in) modern history. I studied all about the Cold War and the building of the Berlin Wall, which in those November days was being reversed to rubble. A few months later we were to learn from the press the stories of the peoples of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania who, by means of more or less peaceful revolutions, were freeing themselves from seven decades of Soviet burden.

I could never have dreamt on that November day, that the stories and images from the media would have become incarnated for me, in real people whom I was about to meet, as only a short month later I descended in Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, brought by train from Rome crossing Slovenia and Croatia. I was offered the post of Italian language and history teacher in a secondary school in the Hungarian capital. A small group of people with big smiles and a bunch of flowers welcomed me in the smoky atmosphere of the station. This was my first encounter with a country in Eastern Europe: the cordial encounter with these normal people who soon became a family to me, in distinct contrast to the atmosphere of sadness and distrust that still prevailed, with unambiguous signs of ‘control’ (groups of Soviet soldiers discharged onto footpaths by imposing military trucks). This despite the fact that a Hungarian Republic had been proclaimed in October 1989. It would take more than two years for the last soldier donning the red Soviet star to leave the country for good.

The first months of ‘freedom’ were a transition phase both politically and socially: whilst the democratic government was making its first steps and had to cope with many unknowns (and strikes!), a variety of products, some from abroad slowly filtered into the shops. Daily life was still complicated, at least for me, coming from the West. I was used to a certain style of cooking, but it was impossible to find the same ingredients on the market. One day in 1990, the taxi and the public transport drivers blocked all bridges over the Danube in protest against the increase in the price of petrol. In a flash there were endless queues outside shops selling bread and soon all shops were empty. «it’s like in ‘56» – people would say, meaning: there was nothing left to eat. People were unable to reconcile these conditions with a belief that the worst had already passed never to return.

Only when I began to teach did I fully appreciate the different social history in which I was now living, where all historical references were seen from the perspective of Moscow and revolved around the concept of class struggle. I found myself having to explain to my ingenuous students, things which until then I had taken for granted. Among the most obvious was an episode just prior to Christmas in 1990. In order to practice Italian conversation, we spoke about Italian Christmas traditions. I described enthusiastically images of the Nativity and the crib present in those days in every Italian family. After I spoke for about half an hour, a girl with dark hair put up her hand at the back of the class and asked: «Professor, but who is this Jesus?».

by Maria Bruna Romito

 

The Swiss Coordination team and “the brother” Nicolas of Flue

The Swiss Coordination team and “the brother” Nicolas of Flue

The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, and the 600th of Nicolas of Flue – what do these two commemorations mean to us today? 260 followers of the Swiss network of Together for Europe, belonging to many different Churches, met on 9th of September to reflect together on this topic in the Flueli-Ranft Hall, where “brother Nicola” lived.

“What is the significance of the life and work of Nicola of Flue for us personally, for our Churches, our Communities, and for our network of Together for Europe?” – this was the central question of our convention.

The participants hailed from all parts of Switzerland, representing 30 Christian Movements and Communities. The meeting was planned and organised together by the members of the Swiss TfE Coordination Team (from 10 Movements and Communities).  Since the very beginning of the meeting it became clear that the encounter and mutual exchange of ideas was what everyone came for. The hall soon filled with many enthusiastic groups engrossed in dialogue.

The programme of the meeting varied from four short talks (representing different approaches to the life and work of Nicola of Flue), to a choir specially assembled for the event, a theatrical representation of “brother” Nicola’s prayer, a round table discussion which was profound and well attended.

Pastor Geri Keller and Roland Groebli, both experts on Nicola of Flue, Fr. Raffael Rieger of Schoenstatt, representative of the Swiss TfE Coordination Team, and Alisha Furer, historian and a representative of the youth held the round table which lasted for an hour. Selomie Zuercher of the “Jahu” Community of Bienne, a student of history, chaired this moment of dialogue. Through quotations from brother Nicola, the participants were invited to express their own experiences and limitations: “What stops me from opening up towards people of different denominations or religions? What helps me to do so? Do I have experiences of such “togetherness” to share? These and other inputs were an invitation to fight prejudice and to make the first steps, even in the simple day-to-day gestures, such as, for example in a shared bus journey to work.”

The fascination with brother Nicola is due among other things to his many identities: Nicola the mystic, the mediator, the peasant, the politician, the husband, the father and the spiritual director. In brief: Nicola the man, or brother Nicola, as one who is very close to people, and very close to God.

A variety of participants, drawn in in the first place by their interest for Nicola of Flue, expressed their enthusiasm for having met the network of Together for Europe. As one person said: “Thank you for your commitment to building TOGETHERNESS in Europe! I am also part of it now!”

Written by Elisabeth Reusser

For further information please visit the Swiss web site of Together for Europe: http://miteinander-wie-sonst.ch/miteinander/aktuelles