Author Archives: Ilona Toth

The invisible green pass

The invisible green pass

Reality ought to be faced in light of our calling: this enables us to read and understand together the signs of the times and act accordingly. This is what the Meeting of Together for Europe was all about.

All controls are in place: the green pass, the wrist temperature, the mask and social distancing. However, there’s more. Here, the persons have also an invisible ’green pass’: it’s their ‘Yes’ to their vocation to promote Togetherness in line with their fidelity to the ‘pact of mutual love’. It’s quite evident that today’s humanity is facing unprecedented challenges, and this almost makes it compulsory for us to be united, work together and sustain one another. No one found this an easy task. Marco Impagliazzo, President of the St Egidio Community, stated: “I thank you for having knocked on my door with perseverance; indeed, that’s why I’m here”. Each one had to put aside something: commitments, urgent matters or worries regarding travelling, as, for example, Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio, leader of the Schönstatt Presedium, had to do.

We’re talking about the meeting of the Steering Committee, at last in person, which was held at the International Centre of the Focolare Movement in Castel Gandolfo (Rome), with several leaders of Communities and Movements belonging to various Churches. The latter included Hansjörg Kopp (General Secretary, YMCA Germany) and Martin Bühlmann (Vineyard, Switzerland and Germany). After a day of sharing and work, the evening appointment was an online meeting with various persons that form part of the ecumenical network so as to renew the shared mission for Europe, which is, as the title of the Meeting suggested: moving from polarization toward a reconciled diversity through reconciliation.

Margaret Karram, President of the Focolare Movement, arrived on foot because of the heavy traffic. After expressing her gratitude, the first thing she said was that she was there to learn for the others. The sharing of lived-out experiences during the pandemic, the shared doubts and the challenges that need to be tackled rendered the meeting a school of communion. No one was in a hurry. Even Jesús Moran, Co-President of the Focolare Movement, stayed for lunch: this was an opportunity to know each other better and to clarify ideas and points of view.

The much-awaited 6th November ZOOM Meeting based in Castel Gandolfo was open on the whole of Europe. After a few minutes of meditation and prayers, we set upon a journey that took us from East to West, and from North to South of our Continent. We listened to persons with the ‘green pass’ of Togetherness sharing how they helped others in their material and spiritual needs, thus sowing hope around them. These contributions provided a framework for two keynote speeches: by Gerhard Pross >>, Moderator of Together for Europe, and by Margaret Karram (the text coming soon). The evening prayers, which were prepared by several persons, were conducted in four languages and reached a climax with the ‘pact of mutual love’, according to John 13, 34, which was renewed in many languages.

The chat feedbacks were many; they expressed gratitude for the keynote speeches, the lived-out experiences and the encouragement provided. One stated: “It’s a strong message that is, at the same time, full of hope based on the certainty that the Lord of history is with us, in our midst, if we tread His pathway of Unity”. And another, using a poetic form: “Together for Europe seems to be ‘an underground river, which one cannot see, but which is constantly moving, dragging stuff, excavating, joining others and then one day it will return to the surface; we don’t know where and when this will happen, but when it does it will transform the territories it hits’”.

The monitors were switched off, and off we went. In 2022 we hope to be able to greet each other in person in Portugal, enriched with new experiences. Our ‘green pass’ allows us to reach “all boundaries”– as Gerhard Pross put it – and “adopt a perspective of the Kingdom of God that is wider and more complete”.

In her final greeting, Margaret Karram summed up: “Reconciled diversity, in which we believe because we have experienced it already, may mark a new step forward for Together for Europe in the coming years. It may indicate the program on which to base our living and our initiatives”. Indeed, it’s a program that goes beyond Europe.

Ilona Tóth

Who cares!

Who cares!

The response of European young people

A webinar during the United World Week will explore the Christian roots needed for one to “care”. Those taking part: Canon John McLuckie, of the Scottish Episcopalian Church and 14 young people belonging to 4 different Communities and coming from 7 different European countries.

On Facebook I read that a housewife, seeing the tragic situation in hospitals due to the pandemic, decided to make cakes for the doctors and nurses. Now, several thousand persons and associations have joined in and are covering more than 40 hospitals, thus creating a true network in various cities of the Country.  This is what happens when a person, responding to an appeal by a first aid department, started to do something! And this is then taken up by others who are willing to join in. At the end of the day, everyone is happy, those who received as well as those who donated!

Today our calendar is full of feast days that remind us of some event, or the common good of a Country or a Continent or of the entire planet. Theses have become a cultural legacy of whole populations thanks to the initiative of a person, or a group, a Church or an Association.

Even May 9, Feast of Europe is one of these, as well as the United World Week, which was started by the young people of the Focolare Movement to make many others aware of the need for peace and brotherhood among peoples.

This year, between May 1 and 9, various events can be followed on the website of “United World Project”>>. Among these there is an event in which even Together for Europe was involved in its preparation. In what way? We asked young people what they would like to say to other young people, what lived-out experiences they can offer as “care” of the others – since the slogan of the Week is #daretocareWhen one listens and sees these young people expressing their ideals, hope in the future is rekindled.

Am you still young – or, were you once a young person? Then you can ask yourself: what can I do, here and now, for the others? Those who understand English are invited to click on //bit.ly/whocares8may, and there they may find a  vaccine dose… not against Covic19, however.

Ilona Toth

Download the flyer

Who Cares 8 May Invite Link (199.8 KB, 59 downloads)
STOP!

STOP!

Encountering Chiara Lubich to celebrate her birth centenary

Recently a famous economist said: “all of a sudden, a common evil taught us what common good really is”. These few words express a great truth, which reminds me of another: “… a thing is better understood when compared to its opposite”. In fact, while we bow our heads in prayer for the dead, the sick and for those, unknown to us, who work in silence in the hospitals and in the key places of our cities, we timidly lift our gaze toward heaven, aware of a certainty: that we are living in a time of grace. If the coronavirus were able to speak, it would tell us: “… stop, keep still, I’m here to help you...”

This ‘stop’ was the last thing that the organizers of the Chiara Lubich’s Centenary expected to happen this year, 100 years since the birth of the Foundress of the Focolare Movement. In fact, in Italy and in many other Countries in the five continents, thousands were expected to come together to mark this Centenary.  These participants would have been young and old, politicians and ecclesiastics, and people speaking different languages and having diverse cultures. They would have come together to celebrate, and above all, to encounter Chiara, who is still alive in her great Ideal: unity, reflecting Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “that all may be one” (Jn 17, 21).

Therefore, all public manifestations are on hold, for now. Maria Voce, the President of the Focolare Movement, in a video message from her quarantine at home, said: “This stop will last for days, weeks or even months…, no one really knows. But it will eventually end. If we live this period well, we will rediscover a strong presence of Jesus by living out the Gospel, in loving our brothers and sisters, in Jesus in our midst, which we can keep even at a distance in our big Family. And above all, in loving sufferings, in which we recognize Jesus Forsaken – ‘Chiara’s God’, as the Bishop of Trent likes to define Him. In Him, we encounter her too, and we start looking at every situation with her eyes. We, too, may experience what Chiara and her first companions experienced: they were not aware of the raging war or when it ended, because God and his Love completely enveloped them, and while they lived this reality, nothing else mattered. All this was the result of a new faith in the love of God”.

Maria Voce received several appreciations. Gerhard Pross (CVJM Esslingen/Germany), one of the founders, and the present moderator of Together for Europe, among other things, wrote:

Chiara Lubich was an exceptional grace of God not only for you, but for all the people of God and the entire humanity. Encountering her was something special and, thanks to the charism, she not only had the gift to found a spiritual Movement, but also to trigger off many founding and innovative impulses. […] She was the one who invited us to start the journey of Together, which started with the meeting for leaders (February 2000) and continued with “Together, otherwise, how?” (December 8, 2001) held in Munich and this led to Together for Europe that was held in Stuttgart in May 2004. In the Steering Committee, she was undoubtedly the ‘primus inter pares’; she led us forward with love and a clear vision. Together for Europe is the fruit of her love, her lucidity and her determination. […] I’m grateful for the great gift of having made her acquaintance and for having journeyed with her. When one encountered her one encountered love. In my many meetings with her I was always struck by the way she radiated Jesus Christ. She was completely at His disposal”.

The Schoenstatt Movement, too, was part of our ecumenical network from the outset. This is what the present Superior General, Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio, together with his predecessor, Fr Heinrich Walter, wrote:

“Her great contribution in this historical era is that of having always sought unity. She drew her strength from the love of the Lord and from reciprocal love, and succeeded in establishing concrete signs of unity. Little by little, this vital process gives rise everywhere to a new culture – a culture that is not meant only for Christians, but one that is addressed to all persons of good will. Her contribution is also exceptional because it flowed from the heart of a woman who had no power or ministry, and never aspired of having any. This is an indication of how, in the future, the Church may become more ‘salt and leaven’ for the entire humanity”.

Thus, our meetings are on hold. Indeed, looking Chiara in the eyes, we can join the Coordination Team of Together for Europe in Austria, and tell her: “Dearest Chiara, We want to commit ourselves to promote Together for Europe! In this Network we discern the greatness of your Dream – by listening to God, we meet, we are reconciled and we can build a world Community”.

This ‘stop’ and the exterior silence will lead us to the interior silence. Will it make us understand – as individuals, peoples and nations – what needs to be changed once this immense, world-wide – but perhaps blessed – tempest has passed?

We join Gerhard Pross in auguring: “May this time brings about a new openness to the faith in Europe. And may we, as Christians, witness our faith through our courageous living”.

Ilona Toth

Photo: Chiara Lubich with Maria Voce ©CSC Audiovisivi; Photo Chiara Lubich with Gerhard Pross / with Fr Heinrich Walter ©Severin Schmid; Logo Centenary Chiara Lubich ©Focolare Movement