Courage, Europe!

Courage, Europe!

Friends of Together for Europe: From 10th to 12th November 2016, 129 participants from 13 European countries met in the International Formation Centre of the Focolare Movement in Castel Gandolfo (Rome). There were eight languages represented, with simultaneous interpreting provided for four of these. The representatives of 39 Movements and Communities shared – as one said – “a small miracle of Pentecost”.  

All participants whether leaders or representatives of the Movements, expressed continued gratitude and joy for the Together for Europe events in Munich (June-July 2016). The participants shared their conviction that, after the Paris attacks one year ago which happened while the Friends were meeting in Holland, after Brexit, the news of which arrived shortly before the Munich TfE international congress and rally, and after the challenging outcome of the US elections just a few days ago, Together for Europe is needed today more than ever!

At this time we ask ourselves pressing questions: what will the future journey of Together for Europe be like? Which practical steps will be required to be taken by individual Movements and Communities as well as on a national level and within Together?

The meeting was characterised by numerous suggestions and proposals to this end which were developed in talks, individual meetings and working groups yielding various ideas to plan for 2017. Two of these are as follows:

  • 25th March 2017 will be the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, considered one of the single most important events of the process of European integration. Important political figures will meet on that occasion in Rome’s Campidoglio, seat of the Italian Government. The network Together for Europe will show its presence at an evening vigil, to be held the night before the event, with hopefully similar vigils held in other European cities where TfE is represented. It also intends to present to politicians gathered in Campidoglio a document outlining TfE’s vision of Europe;
  • A new desire for “creating places to meet” was expressed. As a part of the programme for 2017 we would like to increase communion among Movements at the local level and relaunch the “Programme for the City“.

Below is some feedback gathered during and after the meeting:

Elke Pechmann (Offensive Junger Christen OJC eV.): “Together for Europe is not a luxury, it is not something ‘extra’, but rather a significant investment in the present and future of Europe.’’

Larisa Musina (Transfiguration Fellowship of Minor Orthodox Brotherhoods, St. Philaret, Moscow): “In order to become real friends, we need to get to know each other well. We will broaden dialogue between countries of Eastern and Western Europe. Along with other Eastern European countries Russians have much to offer to Western Europe.”

Pavel Snoj (Focolare Movement, Slovenia): “We will update the other Movements on our return to Slovenia about this meeting. We will take this opportunity to invite two bishops (a Catholic and a Lutheran one) so that they can see that lay people along with the Churches in Europe are getting organised to help bring about a better future for our continent.”

Selomi Zürcher (JAHU, Switzerland), speaking on behalf of the youth of her working group: “We feel that the future of Europe concerns us. We appreciate the experience and wisdom of adults present. In turn we ask them to have faith in us and a willingness to learn from us, so that the Europe of our fathers can also become Europe of the children.”

Constanze Wolf (Focolare Movement, Germany): “I am looking forward to sharing my enthusiasm for Together to other young people. I started spreading the word about it in the parish and at work and I hope that next year in Vienna, at this annual meeting, there will be even more of us.”

Summing up: now more than ever, the experience of reconciliation and friendship offered by the people of Together for Europe is necessary, so that through it, it becomes possible to discover how to play on Earth – as Chiara Lubich said – the “music scores written in heaven.“

The next meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe will take place from 9th to 11th November 2017 in Vienna.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Friends of “Together for Europe” in Paris

Friends of “Together for Europe” in Paris

From 7th-9th November the “Friends” of “Together for Europe” gathered in Paris for their annual meeting. One hundred and twenty five leaders of 46 movements and communities of different Churches and 13 European countries – from Russia to Portugal , Denmark to Slovenia, were present at the meeting which took place in the historic setting of Montmartre.

The theme that had been chosen was: “Yes” to the poor and marginalized, as was expressed in the message of Stuttgart 2007.

The many contributions revealed how much the Communities and Movements are linked to the commitment to and with the most needy. It is not just acts of solidarity, but of friendship and brotherhood.

An intense moment was spent with Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche Community. He opened the gift of his experience with these words: “Jesus says: “The kingdom of God is like a wedding feast” – but everyone is too busy – and the king who had issued the invitations sends his servants to seek the crippled and the lame in the hedgerows and at the crossroads – this is what I have tried to live in my life.” Jean Vanier is dedicated in particular to the mentally handicapped “the people most oppressed.” “They have changed me, I have seen that the Kingdom of God is theirs.” There are now 140 communities, ecumenical and interreligious, in which “fragile and strong” live together.

The prayers of Catholics and Evangelicals, which introduced the work of the first two days, were followed by that of the Russian Orthodox with its choir .

In the days of lively exchange on the path taken so far by Together for Europe, with the big events in Stuttgart 2004 and 2007 and in Brussels in 2012, thought was given to what could be the next step to take. Recalling the expression of Chiara Lubich, “the score is written in heaven” you could sense in the reciprocal listening to one another that the most valuable experience of this journey together is the deep communion that has developed between Movements of different churches. And it is precisely this “common witness of Christians” which has led to initiatives that Europe needs today, in the political and social fields, “so that the world may believe.”

At the same time, a further contribution is foreseen for 2016, in the form of a congress, which will probably take place in a city in Germany, in order to make visible the path of communion so far.

There was an solemn atmosphere when the new stage was entrusted to God in prayer and the commitment of mutual love renewed.

In May 2014, the Steering Committee will meet again in Dillingen in Germany to receive the prestigious “St. Ulrich European Award” which is 2014 has been awarded to “Together for Europe”.

In Paris there was also a chance to live the “culture of visiting each other”: we went to the Chapel of the metro station in Montparnasse, which is entrusted to the Community of Sant’Egidio , to pray together and learn about their work in the heart of Paris.

And even before the beginning of the meeting, there were those who went to meet the Emmanuel Community, founded by Pierre Goursat e Martine Laffitte-Catta, and those who visited the headquarters of Acer-Mjo (Russian Students’ Christian Action – Orthodox Youth Movement).

Gabri Fallacara