Author Archives: Claudia Di Lorenzi

Facing the great global challenge

David Maria Sassoli is the newly-elected President of the European Parliament. On this occasion we would like to propose excerpts from the interview he gave on March 24, 2017 – the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – when he took part in an International Ecumenical Prayer Vigil organized by Together for Europe.

The report is by journalist Claudia Di Lorenzi

“To show the world that, in spite of the cultural and confessional differences, fraternity and unity are possible”.  This was the idea behind the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Europe>> which was held in the Basilica of the XII Apostles, in Rome. This event brought together members of the international network TfE as well as representatives of Italian and European Institutions. Such Vigils were held in other 56 cities all over Europe.

Among those present for this event there was the Hon. David Sassoli, and Italian MEP of the  Partito Democratico. We interviewed him:

Honourable Sassoli, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which marked 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 do you think?

“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 our European identity: something Christians ought to be happy with, because within what is considered the European identity, as such, are these definitely Christian values. What needs to be done now is to explain all this well to the 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 laws 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”.

Read the full interview>>

Photo: ©Thomas Klann

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

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

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

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