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).