A Culture of Togetherness becomes clear

A Culture of Togetherness becomes clear

Saturday, December 9th, YMCA-Building in Wuerzburg: about 100 people from nearly 50 initiatives, communities and movements – which are active in Germany and connected in the network Together for Europe – come together for their annual national meeting.  

“Together – how otherwise?” This is the headline that summarizes for me for what we experienced on this day in Würzburg. Such a long way travelled together that has brought out what unites us and how much power reconciled togetherness has! “Indeed a „Culture of Togetherness“ becomes clear, and I wish with all of my heart that it may gain ground in our communities, in our country and in the whole of Europe”. That was how, Sr. Nicole Grochowina from Christusbruderschaft Selbitz summarized her impression of the day. And she continued: “Therefore I am fully in favor of continuing to visit each other and go beyond our borders; we should find new friends in east and west and go on to shape togetherness throughout Europe – and be enriched by this”.

Theme of the Day

Besides a review of experiences in Together for Europe 18 years after it began, this year the question about the future way forward for the ecumenical network was the focus of our shared thinking.

„Unity among the people of God is a challenge for the future of Together for Europe, especially on how east and west Europe can come together more”, Gerhard Pross reported from the recent meeting of the European group of “Friends” of Together for Europe in Vienna.

Experience of Togetherness

Many of the participants spontaneously reported about their positive experiences during the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the reformation. There were also good experiences with “Prayer for Europe” on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome and after the Reconciliation Service between the Protestant and Catholic Church in Hildesheim. Roswitha Fuerg, from the Focolare-Movement in Solingen was „impressed by the openness and depth in Together for Europe that has grown over the years”.  The spontaneous reports of the participants showed how God leads people of different denominations and communities to get involved in this work for unity in many places“.

Fruits of Together for Europe after 18 years

Using the image of a growing tree, Sr. M. Vernita Weiss from the Schönstatt Movement made us envisage the fruits of Together for Europe after 18 years. She mentioned the deep roots from which a fruitful tree for the unity of Europe has grown and is growing.

Europe in the midst of challenges – A Culture of Togetherness

Regarding a Europe facing a lot of challenges from the political point of view, Gerhard Pross considered the task of Together for Europe first of all as living togetherness and mainly involving oneself in prayer for Europe.  But a discernment of spirits is also required. „At a time, when the old negative spirits that led Europe repeatedly into disasters are coming up again, we say our No to nationalism and state more clearly our Yes to the Gospel, to reconciliation and to love (…). We say Yes to a culture of relationships and covenants – No to simplistic and ‘one size fits all’ solutions. (see also the address by Gerhard Pross in Rom, 24.3.2017 

Steps towards the Future

Regarding the next steps, the participants shared the suggestions which had been developed during the annual meeting of the “Friends” of Together for Europe in Vienna. Especially highlighted were for example, encounters and mutual opportunities to meet and get to know each other with partners in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the idea to plan May 9th (already considered Europe Day) in 2018 and 2019 as a “Together for Europe Day” in the cities and regions.

„We felt a deep atmosphere of mutual appreciation and respect, but also of truth“, said Elisabeth and Hans-Georg Hagmann from Schönstatt movement describing their impressions. Johannes Golling, Leader of Julius-Schniewind-Haus e.V. (house of spirituality), summed up his experience of the day: „Meeting and visiting each other, making friends, listening to each other and being open to what is holy for the other person – that developed a dynamic exchange in the past which was illustrated today by plenty of examples”.

See also the detailed report on the German homepage> 

Text and photo: Heinrich Brehm

555th year anniversary

555th year anniversary

“Hidden treasures” in Vienna

555th anniversary on 31st October 2017! What am I talking about? Let me explain: 500 years since Luther’s Reformation, 50 years since I was born and 5 years since I have moved to Austria.

When I realised this coincidence, I wondered how to celebrate the big round anniversary uniting my personal history with the ecumenical one.

I am a Swiss citizen; my mother is reformed and my father Catholic. My siblings and I were baptised into the Reformed Church, but after we went our separate ways. As a child I joined the Catholic Church, hence my strong passion for the unity of Churches. I now live in a Focolare community in Vienna.

Some time ago, in a meeting of consecrated people in the Ecumenical Centre in Ottmaring, attended by the Lutheran Bishop Emeritus Herwig Sturm, I presented a performance on Luther, based on images, spoken word and dance (I am a ballet dancer by profession). It occurred to me, why not celebrate my birthday by offering the same performance to the public?

 

On 29th October, more than 60 people gathered in Am Spiegeln, in the Meeting Centre of the Focolare Movement in Vienna, for my ‘ecumenical birthday show’. Instead of bringing birthday gifts, I asked my guests to offer a contribution towards translations of the meeting of Friends of the ecumenical network Together for Europe which was to take place in the Meeting Centre a few days after my birthday.

What a joyful occasion it has been to bring the money raised through the show to the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe!

Roswitha Oberfeld, Vienna (Austria)

In Assisi among “peers”

In Assisi among “peers”

Together for Europe invited by Italian Association “Cities for Fraternity”

Some say that in order to unite Europe, you need to unite European cities. Is there, however, any universal “glue” that is capable of tying together and bringing alive such network?

Together for Europe is a group of Christians who t o g e t h e r, through their social and political commitment for Europe in the broadest sense, strive for brotherhood among all. The Association Cities for Fraternity is a body whose objective is to make a contribution, in Italy and beyond, to promoting brotherhood in political life. The aims of the two organisations have a lot in common, to the point that these organisations consider themselves as peers.

On 22nd June 2017, in Assisi, the city of St. Francis, the management of Cities for Fraternity met with representatives from different Italian cities. Together for Europe was also invited to the meeting, following a first contact between the two peer organisations last February in Rome, on the occasion of the conferral of the “Chiara Lubich Prize for Fraternity” to the municipality of Assisi (see article in section ‘International News’ of the website). The desire behind this invitation was to develop synergies between the peer organisations to better position of each to be at a service of the common good.

“Brotherhood needs to become our way of life” – Donatella Tesei, the Vice-President of the association emphasised, quoting examples of practical collaboration between different cities of Central Italy. Her words were echoed by the facts and testimonials showing the work of Together for Europe in different European countries.

So, brotherhood is the “glue” which makes such synergies between different groups working within Cities for Fraternity and Together for Europe possible; together they can offer a spiritual and cultural contribution in response to challenges emerging in our cities.

Ilona Tóth and Ada Maria Guazzo

Italia: Flash da altre città

Italia: Flash da altre città

Viterbo

A Viterbo, il 17 marzo 2017,  120 persone hanno realizzato la prima veglia internazionale ed ecumenica per l’Europa presso la chiesa di S. Murialdo, sostenuta dal  Consiglio Diocesano dei laici, con la partecipazione anche di una predicatrice valdese e del parroco romeno ortodosso, accompagnato da alcuni parrocchiani.

Un messaggio della Segreteria Internazionale di Insieme per l’Europa ha creato un legame con tutte le altre veglie.

Nel programma, di rilievo l’omelia del Vescovo, S.E. Mons. Lino Fumagalli sulle radici cristiane dell’Europa e l’esempio di un frutto attuale di quelle ‘radici’: la testimonianza presentata da un membro dell’Associazione Papa Giovanni XXIII, di accoglienza e accompagnamento nei campi profughi ai confini tra Libano e Siria, per la collaborazione di più organizzazioni.

Parma

Parma: organizzatori della veglia per l’Europa nuovi e antichi carismi (es. Associazione Teilhard de Chardin, Mov. dei Focolari e missionarie Saveriane, che hanno ospitato l’incontro, in una sala riunioni gremita), con coinvolgimento della Comunità Baha’i, del gruppo yoga Svarupananda e di membri dei ”Musulmani per il dialogo”. Si è riflettuto sull’unità e la pace fra gli Stati e sul dialogo fra le religioni. Ha parlato della veglia un articolo di Laura Caffagnini nel settimanale di Parma, del 30 marzo: Vita-Nuova_Parma.pdf

Siena

A Siena  già il  23.3.2017, si è realizzata una veglia ecumenica di preghiera per il 60° anniversario dei Trattati di Roma, col contributo di vari Movimenti e Comunità cattoliche, attive a Siena, che hanno coinvolto anche rappresentanti della Chiesa Anglicana e della Chiesa Ortodossa. L’incontro, con una buona partecipazione di gente, si è  svolto nella chiesa di San Cristoforo ed è stato guidato dall’Arcivescovo, Mons. Antonio Buoncristiani, presente anche il Professor Paolo Nardi, Priore generale dell’Associazione Internazionale dei Caterinati.

Foggia

Alla veglia ecumenica di Foggia, organizzata da alcuni Movimenti cattolici (fra cui Rinnovamento nello Spirito, Neocatecumenali e Focolari) hanno partecipato i Valdesi, alcuni Pentecostali, un Ortodosso. Espressivo il commento da parte del Consiglio Ecumenico di Foggia: “INSIEME PER L’EUROPA”: bellissima serata di preghiera e di riflessione, nella quale i rappresentanti delle confessioni cristiane hanno testimoniato, attraverso la loro riflessione spirituale su passi della Bibbia, che comunione, riconciliazione e unità sono possibili ancora oggi in Europa. “Insieme per l’Europa” è una forza di coesione e traduce i valori base del cristianesimo in risposta concreta alle sfide di un continente in crisi.

Varazze

Anche a Varazze (Savona) ci si è voluti associare alle veglie organizzate da Insieme per l’Europa, organizzando il 25 marzo una preghiera, con la celebrazione dei Vespri, ad iniziativa della Presidente dell’Associazione Internazionale dei Caterinati, Marina  Delfino. Erano presenti, insieme ad un buon numero di laici, la priora del terz’Ordine Domenicano e il priore, padre Daniele Mazzoleni, con alcuni frati.

a cura di Ada Maria Guazzo

Italia: Matera

Italia: Matera

Una tappa importante a Matera

Un’altra tappa importante del cammino ecumenico a Matera è stato l’aver aderito alla iniziativa internazionale di Insieme per l’Europa che – in occasione dei 60 anni dalla firma dei trattati di Roma, che hanno istituito l’Unione Europea – ha proposto a Roma e in molte città europee momenti di preghiera e riflessione.

L’idea è stata proposta al gruppo ecumenico di Matera, che l’ha accolta con entusiasmo, ravvisandovi una ulteriore occasione per poter innanzitutto crescere nel dialogo fra noi e poi per offrire insieme un importante momento di riflessione e testimonianza di esperienze positive alla città e alle istituzioni nel nostro territorio. Si è voluto dare un taglio laico all’iniziativa, permettendo anche a non cristiani e non credenti di potersi ritrovare in ciò che abbiamo proposto.

L’incontro, realizzato il 25 marzo, nella parrocchia Maria Madre della Chiesa, è iniziato con il video del Gen Verde “Io credo nel noi”, evidenziando che l’unità nella diversità – che sperimentiamo profondamente nel gruppo ecumenico – è ciò che sta alla base del cammino ‘insieme’ intrapreso da anni.

Con il primo intervento, è stata presentata la storia dell’Unione europea nei suoi tratti più salienti, evidenziando quali sono stati gli ideali e l’anelito che ha guidato i padri fondatori, cosa è rimasto oggi di quegli ideali, quali sono le prospettive attuali e le sfide che ci interpellano. Questo momento è stato affidato a Camilla Spada, docente di Storia e Filosofia  e ad Achille Spada, consigliere Regionale, che ha saputo – da amministratore – ben evidenziare problematiche politiche e culturali che oggi ci investono, ma anche porre l’accento sulla necessaria riscoperta e valorizzazione di quegli ideali umani di cui l’esperienza cristiana è stata portatrice in Europa.

E’ stata poi presentata l’esperienza di Insieme per l’Europa, come rete internazionale di circa 300 movimenti e comunità cristiane in Europa che liberamente vogliono costruire una “cultura di reciprocità”, basata su rapporti di comunione nel rispetto della diversità, e che da oltre 15 anni sperimentano che l’unità è possibile. E’ seguito il video di presentazione di Insieme per l’Europa.

Sono seguite alcune testimonianze di accoglienza e di integrazione realizzate in loco, per dare un segno di come singolarmente ed insieme si può essere costruttori della ‘nostra’ Europa. Giuseppe e Paola Montemurro, della comunità Battista, hanno raccontato come da mesi accolgono alcuni ragazzi africani migranti – minorenni senza più genitori –  giunti in un paese in provincia di Matera, andandoli a prendere nel fine settimana e ospitandoli nella loro casa, nella stanza dei loro figli oramai fuori per l’università. Li hanno inseriti nella scuola calcio di cui è responsabile Giuseppe, e stanno anche cercando loro un lavoro. Catia Caponero ha presentato l’esperienza dei “Corridoi umanitari” a cui collabora, insieme con esponenti della Comunità di Sant’Egidio,  di Comunione e Liberazione ed anche non credenti. Recentemente hanno accolto e seguono a Matera una famiglia proveniente dalla Siria.

L’incontro – durato circa 2 ore – si è concluso con un impegno per l’Europa, in cui, facendo proprie le parole del Card. Martini, si è voluto evidenziare la necessità di “lavorare per una Europa dello spirito, fondata non soltanto sugli accordi economici, ma anche su valori umani ed eterni”.

All’incontro hanno preso parte più di 80 persone; in tanti hanno detto di essere stati contenti per il taglio “laico” e universale dell’incontro, per le forti testimonianze ascoltate, per aver potuto conoscere la realtà di Insieme per l’Europa.

Negli organizzatori rimane la gioia di aver costruito un altro momento importante di condivisione e di unità non soltanto col gruppo ecumenico, ma anche con persone che hanno a cuore il “Bene comune”, certi che il don Gino Galante – pioniere del dialogo ecumenico a Matera e partito per il cielo pochi giorni prima dell’incontro – abbia contribuito…

Vedi anche articolo LOGOS_Matera_31.03.2017.pdf

 

Foto in alto della città di Matera di Luca Aless, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45529817

Italia: Trieste

Italia: Trieste

Un modo gioioso di essere cittadini europei segnati per sempre dall’ideale della fraternità.

Ieri l’incontro sull’Unione Europea ha visto confluire nella sala dell’oratorio di S. Giacomo 150 persone. Il programma ha visto gli interventi di d. Vatta e di Giampiero Viezzoli pieni di contenuti valoriali e informativi, a cui sono seguiti gli interventi di un gruppo di ragazzi delle scuole medie, che ci hanno contagiato con la loro freschezza giovanile, e l’intervento testimoniale dell’Iman Nader Akkad sull’Islam in Europa.

Hanno allietato la serata i ragazzi dell’orchestra di flauti del Liceo Musicale locale. Nella prima parte dell’incontro vi è stata la presenza del Sindaco Di Piazza, che ha fatto eco all’esigenza di riprendere il cammino forse al momento interrotto dell’unità europea. Erano presenti anche il Senatore Francesco Russo e la Consigliera comunale Fabiana Martini. Sono seguite le testimonianze fornite dalla lettera inviataci dalla Comunità ebraica, un testo bellissimo e commovente, in cui si palesa la sensazione di possibili ritorni all’indietro verso forme di intolleranza che già tanto hanno fatto soffrire e subito dopo dall’affettuoso saluto del Pastore Avventista Michele Gaudio. Hanno concluso i giovani del Servizio del Volontariato europeo col racconto delle loro esperienze in altre nazioni e con la presenza di un professore giapponese in visita in Europa, dove ha potuto godere di questo clima civile e politico comunque diverso, aperto e conciliativo.

La nota forse più rilevante di questa serata, che si è poi conclusa con una simpatica danza collettiva sulle note di una canzone di supporto all’insieme che l’Europa può e deve essere, è stata la presenza attiva e partecipe dei giovani delle varie associazioni a cominciare dai due presentatori, Ilaria e Andrea, per poi passare a dei giovanissimi studenti dichiaratisi convinti europeisti, ai musicisti flautisti, ai giovani volontari europei, ai giovani presenti in sala. E naturalmente il respiro di una festa comunitaria sentita e fraterna, dove ci si vede volentieri, perchè volentieri si è lavorato ottenendo il risultato del formarsi di un’apertura del cuore e della mente che vada oltre le solite chiusure, ma anche oltre le visioni ristrette o indifferenti.

Un impegno comune per una causa di notevole spessore come quella di relazionarsi nel rispetto tra persone di varie appartenenze. Un modo gioioso di essere cittadini europei segnati per sempre dall’ideale della fraternità.

di Elena e Silvano Magnelli

Vedi anche il breve video: 

Ancora e sempre più Europa from Lu Macus on Vimeo.

Address by Mons. Nunzio Galantino

Address by Mons. Nunzio Galantino

Mons. Galantino, Secretary General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference

«You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world».

In order to appreciate the force and the scope of this expression, we need to reflect on the preceding verses (Matthew 5:1-12), in which Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes. In this wider context, we will see that the concluding statement «You are the salt… you are the light» is by no means a praise that Jesus confers on his disciples! Instead, having proclaimed the Beatitudes, Jesus wishes to say to his disciples: Look, only if your life is spent according to the logic of the Beatitudes … are you the salt and light of the earth; only if you live following the logic of the Beatitudes does your presence contribute to adding taste and beauty to your own life and that of others.

I wanted to state this premise, because many of us still think that simply by introducing themselves as “Christians” do they deserve to be given credit, and in their being to have recognised the function of “light” (points of reference) and of “salt” (bearers of sense). This goes for us all, and probably too for all Christian traditions and for all those belonging to any faith. It seems to me that this is a temptation that can affect simply anyone, from any background, independently of their religious background. There are even those who think that by dressing or speaking in a certain way they are automatically considered as people who have the ability to confer new taste and new meaning to life!

For the Beatitudes to be followed immediately by the statement «You are the salt … you are the light», Jesus is showing the path a person of Faith must take. Jesus’ disciples follow a path clearly sign-posted by the Beatitudes. A passion for works of peace, merciful attention towards others, a life lived in poverty and marked by sobriety. This is what gives meaning and taste to the life of a believer, transforming it into a luminous life.

Instead of seeking to give taste and add splendour through tangible gestures and choices, as asked Jesus asks of us, we “busy ourselves” with showing off. Instead of giving light, we sometimes prefer to organise pompous events for show.

The Gospel however does not ask for this! Instead it gives us instructions – which at times may appear banal – as when it affirms that love is not to be shown off, but rather is to be lived; and when it is lived, it reveals itself. Therefore, things need not be shown off to be authentic, they just need to be authentic. Light is not to be put on display, it needs only to be turned on and made visible.

When Jesus states ««You are the salt … you are the light …», it is as if he was saying to us: Would you like to get to know God? Do not discuss Him, do not try to convince anyone; rather do something tangible; something beautiful, meaningful, something that can truly be savoured… So that those who see it, will spontaneously say what beautiful things you do and live! Who makes you do that? In whose name do you do that?

This is how God wants to be shown and witnessed! With the strength and clarity of light; the distinct taste of salt: through tangible choices and gestures which emanate and give life its true flavour.

Many of our pastoral choices, and many of the positions we adopt in relation to the society in which we live, especially those which bring with them a tendency to show off and convince, are in the end only distractions. They eventually cloud the one and only approach suggested by the Gospel: that of evidence/witness; which entails making choices and gestures that make evident the abundance of “taste”  in a life lived following Jesus. If the life of a believer is presented in this way, as a life replete with meaning, in short, a fullfilled life, then everything else we say, write or convey will aquire a new meaning!

So, what does is mean to be salt, to be light? What can give taste and radiance to our life of faith?

We can do it by finding new ways, opening up to new possibilities, being more daring and fighting against fatalism and the force of habit: two lethal diseases for anyone, not just believers!

We need to start smiling again in such a way that whoever meets this smile smiles in return. They will smile because they sense that they have encountered a person who is not a warmonger, someone who does not discriminate like “little souls” do. So, we need to go back to smiling and make our smiles contagious. Our being should be radiant without claiming to be blinding; and our being brings salt in the measure that emphasises other tastes without obliterating them. Just think of the bother caused by a blinding light or an excessively salty dish!

Be light and salt in the way that respects those you meet!

There is a great sensitivity required of a believer, particularly today!

We can never remind ourselves enough of Peter’s advice in his first letter: «Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience». (1 Peter 3:15-16)

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Let us pray with Matthew 5:13-16

Lord, You have asked me to be “salt”.  You have therefore asked me to remain connected to the earth, to be present in my temple, here and now. Attentive to my own needs and to the needs of those beside me.
You have asked me to be “light”, at a time when darkness appears to have thickened. The light enables me to see the outlines and colours of things, of reality and of the world in their nuance and in their beauty. It also allows me to learn of their countless needs.
Give taste, oh, Lord, to my life; make my hopes consistent; put trust into my fears; put light into my darkness, and peace into my heart, my thoughts, my feelings.
Help me understand, oh Lord, that to be “salt” means to be temperate, at this time of arrogance; a peacemaker,  at this time of overpowering; free from “things”, at this time when a person’s worth is measured by their bank account.
Help me understand, that I will be real “salt” and real “light” if I commit to denounce every western exploitation where well-being is founded on an usurpation of authenticity.
I will be “salt of the earth” if with and in my environment,
I do not renounce to look face-to-face to the needs of others.

 

Address by Andrea Riccardi

Address by Andrea Riccardi

Andrea Riccardi, Founder of Community of Sant’Egidio

Dear friends,

Let us not deny it: many Europeans feel lost and disorientated. Where is Europe going? Will it resist the temptation of division? Europe does not seem to protect its citizens any more. In fact, it is travelling in the opposite direction than that envisaged by the Founding Fathers of Europe, who had a living memory of the horrors of the war, of the walls of hatred, of death camps and ruins. Today the generation that remembers that history, is gone. Not much attention is given to history, instead we busy ourselves with the current politics replete with emotions and anxieties. Resorting to war has returned to being considered as “normal”, no matter how insane this appears to those who saw how – even yesterday in Iraq or in Libya- war only begets war.

Europe cannot live without memory. If we are to be the continent of the future, we need to be the continent of memories. The great peace, which has lasted for seventy years and which was built solidly after centuries of war needs to be remembered. It is the fruit of a united Europe where peace has brought about prosperity and the development of a culture with ancient roots. This is the reality that stands out clearly, even clearer than the emotions and scares that preside over our present time. This Europe represents our peace and our prosperity.

The crisis of Europe began when it was arrested in its progress by national, group and individual selfish interests. They blocked Europe’s flight and prevented it from becoming a world leader, with a common foreign and defence policy. Not only peace for Europe, but a common peace policy for the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Africa and the world. “Europe, the gentle power” – as Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, one of the founders of the European Single Currency, used to say. These selfish interests threaten to stop and devour Europe from within. They push for self-determination and for the other to be seen as a threat. In turn borders gain a new meaning: borders to restrain immigrants, borders between generations, between rich and poor, between North and South of Europe.

Borders can turn into barriers, walls. As if to protect ‘us’ from the tragedies of the world. On the contrary. The cruel war in Syria, which has lasted for 6 years, more than the First World War, also concerns Europe. It is merely an illusion that the walls are there to protect: in reality they witness to failure. They are the Maginot line of Europe’s moral and political defeat.

In a global world, history does not have embankments, but it needs strong and coherent actors. It demands that we advance united, without turning back to seek shelter according to group or nation, in reaction to new global circumstances. There is no turning back. The boat of national self-sufficiency has sailed. Today, we have to take into account the scale of the challenges and of life. In today’s global and interdependent world, Europe, closed and divided, will be flooded by other markets and by other economic and political giants. In the narrative of globalisation, Europe needs to come more to the fore – if we want it to be a place for young people, with our identity of humanism, religion and law intact, rather than merely a retirement place for the next few years for our generation. A world without Europe will lack a power of peace and of historical wisdom.

Today, we are here gathered among Christians. The idea of Europe was not linked to a particular religion, but was itself deeply Christian. And it grew with the Church’s passion of that time. Today, however, when East and West go two separate ways, when the great European ideal, which expresses a Christian extroversion is shaking, where are the voices of Christians? And those of the Churches? When borders turn into walls in front of refugees, where are these voices? When this world is running the risk of getting involved in another war, there is often silence.

The strong voice of Pope Francis – in his address for the Charlemagne Prize – remains isolated in a Christianity as fragmented as Europe itself, incapable of leaving behind group or ecclesial ego-centrism, incapable seemingly of a new vision. Is our joint prayer, the Word of God capable, as in the time of the prophets, of nourishing a new vision for our times in the hearts and minds of our people. We need to start to think and act again in ways that are inspired by a great vision, because for too long now we have been living within narrow dimensions, feeding on words without light. Karol Wojtyla wrote at a time when Europe was divided by a wall: “the world mostly suffers from a lack of vision”.

 

Address by Gerhard Pross

Address by Gerhard Pross

Gerhard Pross, Moderator of Together for Europe

Together – for – Europe. There is no more exact way to express the importance this holds for us: Together for Europe”.

We are an ecumenical network of more than 300 Christian Communities and Movements. We come from 30 European countries, spanning from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. We speak different languages, live in different cultures and belong to different Churches: among us are Catholics, Evangelical, Orthodox, Anglicans and members of Free Churches. We follow a variety of spiritualities each different from the other.

And yet, based on our experience, we are convinced that unity is possible. Our shared journey began with a deep moment of reconciliation among a group of leaders of our Movements. Unity became possible.

We live unity in diversity, in such a way that the uniqueness of each person remains intact. From reconciliation in Christ stems the ability to experience the diversity of the other as an enrichment.

Today in a special way, we remember three of the networks’ founders, who are now in Heaven: Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the Focolare Movement, who had the first impulse to begin; Helmut Nicklas, responsible of CVJM (YMCA) Munich, the ‘architect’ of the Together for Europe project; and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, whose input has been precious in terms of the link between charism and ministry.

When in 2004, Together for Europe held in Stuttgart a large event for some 10,000 participants, Europe was celebrating the entry in the EU of new member states. In 2016, however, at the time of our international Congress which was followed by a large Public Rally in Munich, only three days after Brexit, the mood in Europe was quite different. We have been and continue to be aware that Europe is experiencing a period of turmoil. The European Union seemingly lurches from crisis to crisis.

In times such as these, punctured by acts of terrorism, we publicly proclaimed, with thousands of people during the 2016 event in Munich, loud and clear, our YES to Europe. “In Europe, there is no alternative to being together”, were the opening words of the concluding message in Munich.

If I may express this, in a personal way and as a spokesperson for Together for Europe… I was deeply touched by the network’s event in Munich and it put Europe on the first place on my agenda. For 17 years, we have been on this journey together, but never before has giving our YES to Europe resonated with such importance.

  • In times marked by an upsurge of populism, selfishness and nationalism we give our YES to relationship and alliance.
  • In times marked by a return of negative fanaticisms which in the past brought catastrophe upon catastrophe, we give our YES to the Gospel, to reconciliation and to love.

Within our Movements we need to wake up to the awareness of the urgency of giving our YES to Europe.

As Communities and Movements, we should not hold back in expressing publicly our YES to Europe.

We work for a Europe that is Together. For a Europe that recognises diversity as enrichment and lives together in peace and unity. And last but not least,

God, throughout history, has entrusted this Continent with the mission to connect and bring closer heaven and earth, faith and its impact on the world, since on the Cross, Heaven and earth meet.

Today on the eve of the celebrations of the “Treaties of Rome” we come together to pray and to re-state, as always, that as Christian Communities and Movements we count – besides our own commitment – on the help of God.

Europe needs our prayer.

 

 

 

 

Interview with David-Maria Sassoli

Interview with David-Maria Sassoli

Hon. David-Maria Sassoli, Member of the European Parliament, Italy, Democratic Party

Honourable Sassoli, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which marks the beginning of the European Union, many point out that Europe has lost its Christian roots, placing too much emphasis perhaps on finance, bureaucracy and national interests, incapable of showing solidarity and welcome, or encouraging development focused on the human person. What are your thoughts?

“It is important that Christians make themselves heard more, there should be networks among Christians which would provide a witness and example to others. There is no doubt, values such as peace, co-existence, solidarity and justice, which are of Christian origin, are today also considered as paradigms of political, cultural and moral commitment by citizens who are not themselves Christian. These are the key values that constitute European identity: something Christians ought to be happy with, because within what is considered the European identity, as such, are these precisely Christian values. What needs to be done now is to explain everything well to European citizens. Currently the idea of Europe frightens and makes people anxious. It appears burdensome, instead we need to show the value of unity to the peoples of Europe. What is also at stake here, the challenge for this Century, is to shape a global market. Globalisation without rules leads to marginalisation, poverty and misery, and environmental catastrophes. The great challenge Europe continues to face is to give rules and values to the world. Market rules which do not successfully safeguard human rights, freedom and democracy would be merely economic allowing the stronger to win, and this is not what we want. So, the challenge is this: Christian values which are at the basis of European identity today must provide the key elements to face this great global challenge”.

In the context of overcoming the divisions between countries that are economically more or less developed, we often speak about a “two-tier Europe”, what is your view on this?

“If this means that there would be countries of class A and class B, then that is wrong. Instead, if it means that non-member countries can collaborate, under the ‘closer cooperation’ provision of the Lisbon Treaty, in the context of joint policies, without upsetting EU standards, then it could be interesting. This is how the euro was introduced – with a closer cooperation starting from ten, eleven countries and others joined in later. Because within EU mechanisms it is effectively difficult to achieve unanimity. If there were countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and others which were to opt for a common defence solution, that would be great: we would have a core which would lead the way that others might follow”.

There has been much discussion about the necessity to review the Treaties. It was underlined also by Pope Francis in his speech at the European Parliament in May 2016, on the occasion of the Conferral of Charlemagne Prize. In what way do you believe they need to be modified?

“They should be changed, I would be in favour of arriving eventually at a European Constitution, but realistically and with regret I need to say that currently it might be very dangerous to re-open a discussion on the Treaties, so one needs to be very careful. Who knows what the outcome would be for Europe if we reopened the debate on Schengen with the current nationalist governments afraid of the influx of immigrants? It is better to focus on those policies which can contribute to developing Europe, because beyond institutions, rules and treaties, that is what is now needed most of all”.

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Luca Maria Negro

Interview with Luca Maria Negro

Luca Maria Negro, Baptist Pastor, President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI)

An event like the one tonight, where different Christian Churches unite in prayer shows that unity in diversity is possible. How can one reconcile the affirmation and safeguarding of own’s identity and traditions with the encounter and openness to the other?

“As an ecumenical body, we have had experience of this dynamic for over 50 years, because our Movement has as its motto ‘united but different’, that is to say united whilst respecting the charism of each of the churches. This is close also to the motto of the European Union, indeed we are not sure whether it derives deliberately from the Ecumenical Movement’s motto, in any case we believe that today it is more valid than ever before. Unfortunately, it appears as if Europe has lost its soul. We do not want to arrogantly claim to be the soul of Europe, however, as Churches we wish to strongly witness that ecumenism, dialogue, building of societies in dialogue, and the promotion of lay ecumenism within society are essential”.

To recover those Christian values that constitute Europe’s very foundations means to offer a heritage pertinent to all peoples, not only to Christians…

“As protestants, we do not emphasise the recovering of Christian values in any particular way as not to seem to want to force them also on those who do not share our faith. There are, however, values such as dialogue and solidarity, which are also Christian and which can be shared by all people of good will. This is what we aim for, the rediscovery of values out of which Europe was born. Because let us not forget that while it is true that many Christians contributed to the growth of Europe, there were also many others who founded it. Over the last days, we recalled the fact that the European Federalist Movement in Italy started in the house of a Waldensian, Mario Alberto Rollier, there were however others, non-believers such as Altiero Spinelli, meeting together and working to build a united Europe”.

How do people learn, in practical terms, to dialogue?

“How do people learn to walk? By practicing walking. The same goes for dialogue. You need to make a start, to come out of yourself. You will make mistakes, because at times it is easy to, despite your best will, hurt the other and their feelings. In this context, the Ecumenical Movement certainly has much experience to offer to those who are new to dialogue”.

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Donato Falmi

Interview with Donato Falmi

Dr. Donato Falmi, former Director of the Italian New City Publishing House and Co-responsible for the Focolare Movement in Rome and Central Italy

Looking at Europe today, divided and lost, it seems that Chiara Lubich had a prophetic intuition, back in 1999, when she began establishing an international ecumenical network of Christian Movements…

“It was prophetic in that Chiara had foreseen the obstacles that unity in Europe would encounter, and the need for a fundamental, perhaps hidden spiritual force capable of facing up to the negative and disintegrating tendencies present in Europe today. When Chiara lunched this idea, the European ideal was still popular, today it needs to be rediscovered. Had we not had the experience of this journey together, we would be ill equipped to face today’s challenges. It is, beyond any declaration of principles, a practical way of giving Europe back its Christian soul, putting Christianity back as the foundation of Europe (…). The experience made together by Movements and Churches belonging to different ‘Christian souls’ – because Christianity is made up of one reality with many different expressions – might be just the right way to show that Europe has a Christian foundation. In this sense, Chiara’s intuition was ingenious”.

Pope Francis emphasised dialogue as the one thing needed in order to build Europe with more unity and solidarity. And it is in dialogue that the Focolare Movement, since its very beginnings, has found a path to unity. What does it mean to lead a dialogue – and how can one learn how to dialogue?

“Chiara makes a rediscovery of the nature of God itself, of God who is love. Another term for ‘love’, a term that expresses the dynamics of a loving relationship, is ‘dialogue’. What is more dialogic than love? On the other hand, there is no real dialogue without love. This is because dialogue requires a welcoming of the other and forgetting of self (not negation of self, but a sort of stepping back in order to welcome another). That is a basic rule. Once it has been established, dialogue becomes fundamentally the only way to achieve unity, because it both respects diversity whilst focusing on what is good and what unites”.

In the last years, there has been a proliferation of populist and so-called sovereignty movements. Perhaps Europe needs an examination of conscience to ask itself what went wrong and where to go next?

“What we are witnessing is a result of Europe’s focus on material wellbeing. Europe has developed to the benefit of the entire world, with values such as those summed up by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and signed by the world leaders, it has, however, also been affected by the temptation to settle on wellbeing of a material character, forgetting the depths of the human person. In achieving the highest objectives of human civilisation, Europe also reached a level of wellbeing which made it forget deeper preconditions of civil co-existence. Today we are paying the price for this. We have, nevertheless, also been rediscovering forgotten values, and becoming aware that material well-being has its own value in the right place, together with other values which need to come first.”

 Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Fr. Heinrich Walter

Interview with Fr. Heinrich Walter

Fr. Heinrich Walter, Responsible for International Coordination of the Schoenstatt Movement

In your view, what contribution can Pope Francis offer to the building of a Europe in which there is more solidarity and more inspiration drawn from Christian values?

“Being of Argentinian origin, I believe the Pope sees Europe differently than we do, more objectively, and understands that Europe is frightened and as a result is lacking vitality. Pope Francis is enthusiastic and understands very well that what the world as a whole needs its renewal.”.

What witness can Christian Churches united in their diversity offer Europe?

“In this Europe in crisis countries lack the ability to offer solutions based on their own individual resources. Some countries have suffered excessive pressure due to the refugee emergency situation. What is needed is an alliance among the countries of Europe, so that each can offer a contribution freely to an overall solution”.

Claudia Di Lorenzi

This is the Europe we want to build

This is the Europe we want to build

Ecumenical and International Prayer Vigil – Faith opens up to culture

On the eve of 24th of March 2017, the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles (Basilica dei XII Apostoli) in Rome was heaving with some 750 people who gathered for a Vigil commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the signing of Treaties of Rome presided by Card. Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Anglicans, clergy and lay gathered, taking up the invitation of Together for Europe, a joint initiative of over 300 Christian Movements and Communities. Together for Europe was also represented at the Vigil by a choir composed of eight Movements and by a choir of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella sent a message to the Vigil participants, in which he expressed his “desire to have been present and his firm conviction that such moments of encounter, offer a strong sign of hope, necessary in building a Europe of unity and solidarity.”

Mons. Nunzio Galantino, SecretaryGeneral of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Andrea Ricardi (founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio) and Gerhard Pross (current moderator of Together for Europe) spoke during the programme on various aspects of the crisis currently gripping the European continent, provoked by among other things, national greed on both collective and individual levels. They launched an invitation to uphold the belief of the Founding Fathers in the European project and to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world (Preamble to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, declared by Heads of State on 29th October 2004).

The Trisagion hymn “Holy God, Holy Mighty!”, sung by a gathering themselves deeply moved, sounded particularly powerful and solemn against such a backdrop.

In an interview, Fr. Heinrich Walter of the Schoenstatt Movement, emphasised: “There are two key moments on the journey towards renewed European integration. Firstly, the Christian roots of Europe ought to be nourished. This is something which the Movements have been working for. Secondly, we must respect the freedom of others. We try to do this within the Together for Europe network and we wish to share this experience of ours with all of Europe.”

After the Vigil, Symeon Catsinas, a Greek Orthodox parish priest in Rome, shared his joy: “I am very happy with this evening’s event. As Christians, we need to work together in order to offer a joint witness. It is imperative that we follow on this path together.”

When asked if the document “From Conflict to Communion” can be regarded as a model for Europe, the dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy, Pastor Heiner Bludau, said: “The document certainly shows a positive step. We now need to see its impact on life in order for it to be a convincing model for all of Europe.”

The words of high politics and those of Holy Scriptures resounded as if on the same level. Jesus Moran, Co-President of the Focolare Movement, said: “Europe is unthinkable without Christianity. Christianity which formed Europe is the Christianity of a united Church: ecumenical “Catholicism” (universality) therefore is the most fundamental reality of Europe. As such, Europe needs to rediscover itself as a civilization of Christianity. Christian values are European values and vice-versa. Culture of dialogue, tolerance, openness and brotherhood can be lived beyond any denomination, religion or creed. This Vigil will serve to re-awaken these great values.”

Over 4,000 people followed the event live and it was widely shared on social media.

In 50 European cities, parallel events of solemn prayer were held, and were well attended. The voice of Together of Europe was made heard loud and clear!

Beatriz Lauenroth

To see the complete photo gallery: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotomas2008/sets/72157681856163965

 

Christian Charisms and Europe

Christian Charisms and Europe

The contribution of Religious Orders and Institutes towards unity in Europe

During the times of the Roman Empire, Europe experienced a period characterised by a certain type of unification. This was a fragile unity forcefully imposed by “Roman legions”. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe found itself once again fragmented, with ethnic and cultural differences reasserting themselves as each of its peoples sought to restate their own sense of identity. By the 5th century, Europe was full of different rival groups.

During this period and in centuries to follow, the presence of certain men and women guided by the Spirit, inspired in the peoples of Europe new ideals and universals values, mostly rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage. They were values and ideals that brought European peoples into dialogue, sharing their respective riches and in this way generating a new, unitary social and cultural fabric for the Continent.

In a conference, a few years ago, Cardinal Walter Kasper said: “Saints like Martin, Benedict, Boniface, brothers Cyril and Methodius, Adalbert, Bernard, Francis, Dominic and many others, moulded the history of Europe. Through these saintly men and countless saintly women, the Church made a precious contribution to the unity and the sense of identity of Europe”.

These individuals gave rise to new spiritualities, spiritual movements, religious orders and centres of cultural and social works, that helped the peoples of Europe to gradually develop an identity based on shared values.

The first big charismatic order originated from Benedict of Nursia (Italy, 480-547). Benedictine Monasticism, brought about by Benedict both in Africa and in the East as well as in the West, was in its many historical expressions a determining factor for the evangelisation of the Continent whilst contributing to the formation of European medieval culture. In short, it played a crucial part in establishing the dialogue between values of the Roman civilisation, Judeo-Christian values and those of the so-called “barbarian” cultures that were introduced to the Continent by the peoples of the North and East in the centuries to follow.

The religious brothers of the order of Saint Benedict with their widely disseminated and sizable abbeys, established centres of spirituality, which also served as centres of culture, human empowerment and social and economic progress, putting themselves mostly at the service of the poor and marginalised.

In the 11th century in Eastern Europe, Cyril and Methodius, two monks of Greek origin, having evangelised peoples of Eastern Europe, started a process which, it can be argued, led to the foundation of the Slavic culture. The breakthrough of these brothers from Salonica (Greece) consisted in the creation of a new alphabet, whilst they were in contact with Western Greco-Roman culture; in this way, they made a decisive contribution to what would become the literature and culture of Slavic nations.

Between the 11th and the first half of the 12th century, other charismatic individuals and great cultural figures emerged. One of these, Bernard of Clairvaux, hailing from the tradition of Benedictine Monasticism founded a new movement, the Cistercian order.

In the 13th century the Mendicant Friars emerged giving rise to many other charismatic movements. These originated from charismatic figures in individual nations, fast developing into supra-national movements spreading all over the Continent and in turn to the rest of the world.

Among these the Dominican movement stands out, founded in Spain by Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) and the Franciscan movement, which itself originated in Italy with Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). Religious movements whilst rooted in deep spirituality were able to inspire and promote many aspects of human culture and knowledge. They developed theology, philosophy, literature, sciences, arts. At the time and in the centuries to follow, every European university, would number among its lecturers and pupils, friars from the Mendicant orders.

With the arrival of Humanism and the Renaissance, powerful nations were established. This process was contributed to in a decisive way both by established charismatic movements as well as new charisms which grew and spread.

Many new religious orders were established in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuit order; Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and the Carmelites in Spain; the Brothers of Mercy of John of God who cared for the sick; in France, Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of Charity; Francis de Sales, John Baptist de La Salle known for the formation of young people and for the setting up of schools accessible to all; Philip Neri with the Oratory, in Italy, Girolamo Emiliani, Cajetan of Thiene, Camillo de Lellis who operated in the hospitals, and so on. At around the same time the Capuchin reform emerged from the Franciscan tradition and in Germany the great reform of Martin Luther took place.

Many other new spiritualities made a key contribution to the cultural, social and economic identity of modern Europe. Each charism was born with a strong spiritual identity, while sensitive and open to issues, challenges, social and human needs of peoples and individuals. This allowed access to culture, health care, housing, human rights, economy and dignified human life to an ever-growing number of European citizens.

The same phenomenon can be seen in the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite the abolition of religious orders imposed first by Napoleon and later by several European States, countless religious institutes and orders were established. In the 19th century we cannot go without mentioning Don John Bosco and the Salesians (Turin, Italy), John Benedict Cottolengo and Joseph Cafasso, who looked after the sick and the marginalised; in England, the contribution of bishop John Henry Newman, and so on.

In the 20th century Europe, besides the establishment of new religious orders such as those set up by Don James Alberione, Don Luigi Orione, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe and others, saw the beginnings of many other expressions of charismatic life which manifested themselves as vast lay ecclesial movements. Each with its own strong spiritual identity, but also with a great sensitivity to the dramatic challenges brought to our Continent by modernity.

Europe would be poorer and more fragile were it not for the contribution offered in the past by orders and religious institutes and today by the wealth of ecclesial movements which have emerged within different Churches and Christian Communities.

These spiritual and charismatic forces, whilst born in precise geographical locations, have spread beyond national borders, offering in this way a powerful and decisive contribution to the constituting of a united, strong, free, sympathetic and brotherly Europe.

Fr Egidio Canil, Sacro Convento of the Franciscans in Assisi, Italy

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

After the news of last Friday morning, the day after “Brexit”, the members of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe unanimously declared: The European Conference from 30th June  to 1st July  and the 2nd July Outdoor Rally in the  “Karlsplatz”- the square in the centre of Monaco takes on a new, broader meaning.

Fr. Heinrich Walter, from the Schoenstatt Movement, appeared shocked but decisive: “Now our ‘Together’ becomes even more a sign of hope against hope. The Christian source is central to the issue of identity. On the historical background of this week, God himself makes Together for Europe a prophetic sign. “

Gerhard Proß of the Esslingen YMCA and spokesperson for the initiative in Germany said: “It is now more important than ever that Munich sends out a clear sign to Together for Europe – a sign of communion, against the selfishness and fears of our time. I think it is significant that it will be Pope Francis, Andrea Riccardi and Jeff Fountain who address the central message to Europe, and not the politicians. “

And from Rome,  Maria Voce, President of Focolare Movement, said: “This referendum confirms that it is not politics or economics that will make a united Europe but the values shared by Europeans. Together for Europe could not come at a better time. “