Author Archives: Together for Europe

Italy ‘Together’: it’s time for a New Humanity

Europe Day 2020 – “It was a little great miracle… an event in which we participated and not simply assisted at”. This is an immediate feedback – one of many – that we have received.

The preparation

Indeed, we really put our faith in this online opportunity: to be connected just as nature is connected! We had faith in God’s creativity, and within a few days, the Holy Spirit used our ‘few loaves and fishes’ (cf. John 6,9) to bring about an impressive ecumenical event, at which several Christian leaders took part. Their presence all over Italy is the fruit of a long and loving endeavour of communion, dialogue and nurturing of relationships that the various Committees have carried out in every Region. The commitment to build unity was evident in every word, gesture and expression.

The idea was the brainchild of the Rome Committee of the ‘Together for Europe’ network. Then the other Committees in Italy came together to organize this online event, and, notwithstanding the fact that they never met, they all lived a profound experience of brotherhood and the impression was that they have been working together for two months, and not for just two weeks. In practice they lived out among themselves the ‘Pact of mutual love’ (inspired by Jn 13, 34), which is, after all, the foundation of all that is done under the auspices of Together for Europe 

May 9, 2020 at 6 p.m.: Italy TOGETHER online!

The initiative was underwritten by 25 Movements and Communities that adhere to TfE; there were about 500 links connected from all over the Country, and this added solemnity to the Feast of a United Europe! Taking part, among many others, was the Hon. Stefano Fassina and several local administrators. Also, there were 45 ministers of Christian Churches and Communities. Much appreciated were the messages sent by Bishop Giovanni Traettino (Founder of the Pentecostal Church of Reconciliation), which was read out by Pastor Mauro Adragna (C.R.R. Palermo) and by Pastor Luca Maria Negro, President of the Federation of the Evangelical Churches in Italy.

Toward an integral ecology

While commemorating the 70th anniversary of the ‘Schuman Declaration’, the event focused upon the ‘Yes to Creation’, that is, how to protect the natural environment, which is a gift given to us by God, and which we ought to safeguard for future generations. The overall title of the keynote speeches was: “Integral ecology: a sustainable utopia for Europe”.  Reflections were offered by Stefania Papa, professor and expert on ecology, and Luca Fiorani, a physicist, who is an expert on climate; there were also video messages by Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew I and Antonio Gutierrez (Secretary General of UNO) on the occasion of the 50th Earth Day. All these instilled an awareness that together we can work for a better present and an even better future, within a framework of respect, cooperation and reciprocity.

Ecumenical prayer

It was in this spirit that the ecumenical prayer was lived out by the representatives of the various Churches. Dr Costantino Vacros (of the Greek Orthodox Church) started by reading Genesis 1, 26 – 31, which was followed by a rich input by the Baptist Pastor Gabriela Lio, President of the Federation of Evangelical Women in Italy. We then prayed with Pastor Nino Genova (New Pentecost Movement) and with diverse representatives of Catholic Movements and Communities. Then all together – joyfully, in full harmony and solemnly – we renewed the Pact of mutual love. We sealed that day with the Our Father, in order to remind ourselves that we are ONE and that together we can bring about a New Humanity.

Emanuela Cannella – Press Office TfE, Rome
You can review the event on facebook TfE Rome>> and on youtube>>.
We propose here some of the still-images made by Emanuela Cannella and Emanuela Fioravanti.

An International Link-up on the Feast of Europe

“Welcome to you all gathered here in the Graz Town Hall for our meeting on Europe Day!” This was the way we planned to welcome the participants on Saturday, May 9, 2020. However, Covid-19 disrupted all our plans.

Therefore, toward the end of March, our regional team of Together for Europe decided to postpone the meeting for next year, and to offer a simple substitute program via Skype.

The video conference call of Together for Europe, Saturday May 9, 2020

Nevertheless, the ‘makeshift solution’ resulted in an hour-long online meeting with about 100 participants from Austria and five other neighbouring Countries. The participants included Christians belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church and Communities of the Free Churches.

Brief inputs from Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and Carinthia provided an updated and authentic insight regarding daily life during the Covid-19 crisis. All the participants were grateful that they could mutually share their experiences and thus become aware of how others are living in their respective Countries. Thus means that, now, they can pray even better for each other.   

The diocesan Bishop Wilhelm Krautwaschl, too, took part in this online meeting. He thanked for this experience of communion that goes beyond borders, and concluded by saying “In spite of our differences and separations, through the Cross we are all united one to the other”.

Plans for May 8, 2021…

Naturally, a video conference call cannot take the place of a Day Meeting. Yet, in the present circumstances, by the way this Europe Day 2020 was lived out, Together was strengthened. It was, indeed, a successful preparation for the Day Meeting scheduled for May 8, 2021, when we could, hopefully, truly say: “Grüß Gott hier im Rathaus Graz …!” – “Welcome to Graz Town Hall!”.

The Together for Europe Team, Austria.

 

Being Together Online – a virtual, yet real, network

Being Together Online – a virtual, yet real, network

Covid-19 is spreading with supersonic speed. And the end of the pandemic is nowhere to be seen. Families, workplaces, communities, churches and cities are passing through a difficult moment. Many are experiencing sufferings, uncertainties and isolation.

Be not afraid 
The appeal to take an interior break has hit the mark. God has taken feasibility away from our hands. He is calling us to undergo a conversion, to do penance, fast and pray. On the other hand, in these last weeks we became more aware of the importance of cohesion and inter-personal relationships! As a result of the spreading of the coronavirus the world is experiencing a flow of life and creativity that bears an only message: Courage – I’m by your side – Be not afraid – Together we shall overcome!

Reacting
On March 28, Together for Europe started a prayer journey that intends moving us closer to God and to help us deepen our unanimous ‘I Believe’ with reference to Europe. Moreover, how can we use this special time to become more mature and more aware of the gifts that God donated to the Movements to be shared with the others?  The Movements and the Communities were given their charism to be equipped to respond to society’s challenges in Europe and for Europe.

A ‘social’ Christian conscience
Back in 2004, in Stuttgart, Chiara Lubich’s words were quite encouraging: “Jesus underlined to the highest degree his commandment: ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another’ (Jn 13, 34). He called this commandment ‘new’ and ‘his’. This commandment of mutual love is not addressed only to individuals, but also to Movements, cities, regions and Countries. The present time demands that the disciples of Jesus acquire a ‘social’ Christian conscience. And, more than ever before, they are urgently called to love the others’ Country, or rather life, as their own”.

Moving online toward May 9
The Friends of Together for Europe are making the most of these extraordinary circumstances by keeping in touch online so that they may be able to journey together and to offer the fruits of their charisms to Europe. They are sharing info regarding events as well as lived-out experiences in their cities in preparation of May 9 (see for example the Graz/Austria event >>)

In this way, we will celebrate an ‘extended’ May 9, the Feast of Europe. It will be a way of staying together for Europe in a virtual network, but one that is incredibly real.

The International Secretariat of Together for Europe

 

Graz – ‘Plan B’ for the Europe Day 2020

Graz – ‘Plan B’ for the Europe Day 2020

On February 27, we updated you about the intensive preparations being carried out by the local team of Together for Europe to mark the Europe Day with an international event in Graz (Austria). Although, due to the pandemic a Plan B is now needed, this did not prevent those persons to keep going ‘together’ to start preparing for 2021. And they will do so with a Skype Conference call on May 9.   

This is what Theresia Fürpass, of the organizing team wrote to us:

“The idea behind the event to mark the Europe Day on May 9, 2020 – “Together for Europe – Meeting in Graz” – was to promote the encounter of Austrians, Italians, Slovenians, Croatians and Hungarians. Read more>> 

We were planning to have an in-depth approach to the theme of dialogue; to exchange experiences resulting for the ‘7 Yeses’ of Together for Europe; to offer a guided tour of Graz, and to conclude the day with an ecumenical prayer meeting. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has made all this impossible. Nonetheless, we still want to keep on journeying together seeing that a lot has been already done. Therefore, we are planning to hold this meeting in 2021.

An yet, it would be a great pity if we were to allow the Europe Day to pass without any sign of celebration! Thus, we invite all those who were planning to participate at “Together for Europe – Meeting in Graz” to join us for a Skype Conference all on May 9, from 10 to 11 a.m. Many have already confirmed their participation. Some of us will give an update regarding the present situation in their Country and we shall conclude by praying together the ‘Our Father’.

We are more than convinced that God will show us the way forward. So far, he has guided us in an impressive way, and has made it possible for us to achieve much more than we could have ever imagined”.

The Team of TfE in Austria

Contact: f.theresia@gmx.at
0043 3842 27 513
0043 664 73577 163

Contagious creativity is stronger than the virus

Contagious creativity is stronger than the virus

In the Newsletter sent at the end of February, we have asked you to send us news regarding events and initiatives being prepared – as in previous years – to mark the Europe Day on May 9, 2020. We were hoping that many events would be held in public so that they could present the Christian spirit which enlivens them, a spirit that radiates hope and unity in diversity. However, Covid-19 is compelling us to face new and unexpected challenges.

Who could have possibly imagined the scenario that is opening up in many parts of the world, and that the one in Europe would be so particularly impressive?

And yet, even such a sad reality offers new opportunities. This was well expressed by Luigino Bruni, an economist and a journalist, who has been involved with Together for Europe since its birth. He stated: “We are passing through a time of deep uncertainty, which is bringing all of us together all over the world, and we still have no idea when normality could be once again the norm. A forced isolation could be a time during which we could enhance our networks; a time during which we could communicate more with one another to reassure each other that we care and that we want to live these moments keeping the others close to our heart”.

A network of prayer, of shared life experiences, of solidarity, of mutual love… cannot be jeopardized by a virus! Its true threat is that it might separate us from one another.  Yes, we need to observe all indications for prevention and abide by what the authorities decide – without, however, forgetting that the other person remains always our brother or sister.

The social networks are already brimming with encouragement and the will to react positively to this global challenge and change it into an opportunity. Will our creativity manage to “invent” new ways to celebrate together May 9?

These lines serve as an introduction to our website dedicated to “Europe Day 2020”. The page will be online at the end of march. There you can discover other informations and news. 

At Graz, May 9 will be international

At Graz, May 9 will be international

“Visiting one another, talk to each other, being a gift one for the other and praying together”. The preparations for the Feast of Europe (May 9, 2020) in the Austrian city of Graz have been going on for months. The team of Together for Europe in Styria extends its invitation for an open and international Meeting.

On the occasion of the Feast of Europe (May 9, 2020) the Friends of Together for Europe from Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary will come together in the Town Hall of Graz. The meeting will give persons coming from Eastern and Western Europe the opportunity to meet and know each other. With the aim of facilitating the sharing between the participants, there will be a keynote speech about dialogue.

Several Movements and Communities of Together for Europe will share how they live out marriage and family life, the economy, the safeguarding of life and creation, civic responsibilities, etc, as Christians. They would indicate pathways for an ever more liveable Europe. 

The guided tours of the city will enhance the participants’ encounter with Austria and among themselves. During the concluding ecumenical prayer meeting in the Landhaushof the pressing issues that Europe is facing will be entrusted to God through thanksgivings and prayers. The program will be enriched with musical performances.

The detailed program:

  • 8.30 a.m. Arrivals, coffee and cakes
  • 9.00 a.m. Greetings by the mayor Dr. Siegfried Nagl, Dr Anna Hollwäger, Superintendent Wolfgang Rehner and others
  • 9.30 a.m. Prof. Dr Petra Seinmair-Pösel: “A conversation that unites us all“. The importance of dialogue for Europe
  • 10.30 a.m. Break
  • 11.00 a.m. Life experiences regarding the following realities:

– Marriage and family life
– Solidarity with the poor
– Civic responsibilities
– Safeguarding life
– Safeguarding creation
– A commitment for peace
– Economy at the service of the human person

  • 12.00 noon. Lunch offered by the city of Graz
  • 1.30 p.m. Guided tours of the city in these languages: German, Italian, Croatian, Slovenian and Hungarian.
  • 3.30 – 4.00 p.m. Concluding ecumenical prayer meeting in the courtyard of the palace “Landhaushof”.

Bookings are to be made not later than Sunday April 26, 2020.

f.theresia@gmx.at
0043 3842 27 513
0043 664 73577 163

The team of Together for Europe in Styria

Download the invitation (in German):

Einladung MfE Graz 9Mai2020 (1.0 MB, 31 downloads)

Photo: Pixabay, Map: by Tschubby – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0

A young Irishman’s impressions

Conleth Burns is a young man from Ireland who is active in the ‘United World Project’. He participated at the Meeting of Together for Europe which was held in Ottmaring – Augsburg (Germany). What follows is the article he posted on the website of the UW project.

Christian Churches and Movements unite to be Together for Europe

Earlier last month, I had the chance to travel to Ottmaring and Augsburg in Southern Germany to attend a 3-day meeting of a network of Christian Churches and Movements called Together4Europe. 180 people from 55 different movements, communities and churches shared three days together. Everything simultaneously translated in 5 languages as the network celebrated its 20th birthday. I represented the United World Project and was there to try and understand how faith communities are really working together for unity and for uniting the continent of Europe.

We listened to presentations about the 20-year journey where a group of people from across the continent of Europe came together, in their shared Christian identity, to be together for the whole continent. We crisscrossed the continent with experiences of encounter, prayer and hope being shared from Scotland to Ukraine, from France to the Czech Republic. Over those days, as we travelled around the continent, I toyed with two main question; what does togetherness actually look like? What does it mean to be together ‘for something’?

What does togetherness look like?

I learned about togetherness; when I heard them challenge each other to be living border crossers, ambassadors for reconciliation, and “prophetic signs for credible togetherness in Europe”.

I learned about togetherness; when we gathered in a square in Augsburg and held candles and said prayers for a more united people of Europe.

I learned about togetherness; when we listened to a diverse group of Christians talk about a journey, they had travelled over 20 years bringing together thousands of people.

I learned about togetherness; when each day at breakfast, lunch and dinner, as every new person sat down to eat, someone would check first if they needed translation, or what language was best to use at the table. People there wanted people to be able to understand and be understood, to hear and be heard.

Togetherness for this network is about embracing the diversity between them. Togetherness for them is not always easy; the challenges are geographical, theological and cultural. Yet, 20 years on, this network remains together. For them, their structure is one of network, not hierarchy. Theirs is a real togetherness, one curated over 20 years. 20 years of honest and hard-working relationship building.

4what?

The mission of Together4Europe is not only to be together for the sake of it, they really want to be positive messengers for a more united Europe in all its diversity. They aim to give a soul to the continent; they emphasise its historically Christian roots. Over the days, they principally told the story of their meetings together over the last 20 years. The untold story is often the most interesting one. Over lunch or coffee, you’d learn about the moments where people attending Together4Europe had been inspired to encounter new people, embrace new ideas and reconcile diversity as a result of the meetings. In some ways, Together4Europe begins when you leave one of the intra-continental or national meetings.

Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet and Nobel Laurate, finishes a famous poem of his ‘Scaffolding’ with the following line: “We may let the scaffolds fall confident that we have built our wall.”

Together4Europe is about building bridges, not walls. As the 20-year-old scaffolding is dismantled, this network can be sure that bridges have been built, people have been connected, and they are going to continue.

Source: http://www.unitedworldproject.org/watch/20-anni-di-insieme-per-leuropa

Seeds of a new season from Augsburg

The last Meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe (Ottmaring – Augsburg, November 7-9 ) was characterized by an impressive variation of participants. The varied impressions that we received mirror this variations, and here are some of them:

 “We are grateful to God for this ‘phenomenon of Together’, which in all these years has developed into a training ground of mutual acquaintance, communion, unity and hope for our Continent”.

 “I experienced a strong action that goes against the very many risks of fragmentation and new divisions”. 

 Together for Europe enjoyed an added visibility by the fact that we were hosted in the Town Hall of Augsburg. After all, TfE is committed for a better social and civil environment in a city, as well as giving support to new politics for an enhanced peace among all Nations”.

 “I have never met such persons who scan the signs of the times and, together and concretely, discern what they ought to do for the others, for their Country and the other European Countries”.  

“I concluded that there cannot be a FOR without the TOGETHER”.

“The Evangelicals’ example helped me, a Catholic, to convert regarding prayer”.  

I was fascinated by the image of the ’vanishing mediator’ ( cf. Keynote speech by Herbert Lauenroth – Program + Material) regarding the frontiers of relationships. I consider this Meeting of Together for Europe to have been one of great unity among the 55 Movement of various Churches represented, and among the participants coming from 23 Countries. There I could see the political soul of a renewed Europe, in which Nations seek unity in distinction and freedom; a unity that go beyond all kinds of nationalism”.  

 “In Rome, where I live, I encounter few Christians belonging to other Churches; here, through the concrete experience of meeting other persons with the identical faith, although belonging to a different Tradition, I have experienced openness toward the ecumenical reality. (…) I am now more convinced of the cultural importance of the ‘7 Yeses’that we proclaim, in view of the improvement of the civil society, according to the original intuition of the Founders of a united Europe who aimed not only at achieving peace, but also at social solidarity and the brotherhood of Nations”.

 “I have decided to live out “Together” in my daily life, starting with my neighbours who come from another Country”.

 “Here I understood the beauty of being different. It is God who wants this difference. The more different we are, the more God is present. Discovering this is a true challenge”.  

 “For me, Together for Europe has become a place of hope, where the encounter and the reconciliation prepare the future in which the various Nations will be willing to come to know each other, with their history and traditions. Let’s build bridges and not walls”. 

 “When we, as Christians of various Churches, work together, I experience the beauty of the Church of Christ in her broadest outreach, and my Christian identity is enhanced. In the present political and religious context in Europe, I feel that I ought to give my witness even through the aid to the migrants”.   

Aren’t these some of the seeds which the 20-year old experience have produced, and which may blossom again to mark new stages of brotherhood in Europe and beyond?

For information about the conference click here>>

The International Secretariat of Together for Europe

Anniversary celebration in Augsburg

Ambassadors of reconciliation and signs of hope. Together for Europe celebrated its anniversary in the Augsburg city hall

300 members from 55 Christian communities and movements from various churches and from 25 European countries were gathered this Saturday to celebrate several important anniversaries: 30 years ago the Berlin Wall fell and a new era of encounter between East and West began for Europe. 20 years ago the ‘Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification’ was signed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. On the same day in the afternoon, the first group of leaders from various catholic, evangelical and free church backgrounds came together in Ottmaring – this was when the network Together for Europe was born. Those three events were closely linked for the people present and shaped the ‘pioneering spirit’ of the initiative.

‘You are ambassadors of reconciliation’, encouraged Lutheran Bishop, Ret., Christian Krause. He had co-signed the ‘Joint Declaration’ in 1999 as the then President of the Lutheran World Federation. As one of the witnesses at the time he recalled the many encouraging steps that have been taken in ecumenism through the declaration and since it was made. In the current climate of increasing scepticism of Europe and political polarization, it is precisely this experience of reconciled diversity of the movements and spiritual communities that is needed.

Bertram Meier, the current diocesan administrator in Augsburg, emphasised in the conversation with his Evangelical colleague Regional Bishop Axel Piper the importance of this ability to seek reconciliation. ‘Unity in diversity is also a challenge within the church. It’s about learning to understand each other, not just from the mind, but also from the heart.’ Piper confirmed that it is exactly this effort that also shapes the ecumenical relations in Augsburg: ‘But we must remain curious towards each other, we have to be interested in each other, because we can learn a lot from each other!’

Gerhard Pross, moderator of the ecumenical network, outlined perspectives for the future: it would be important to resist the temptation to develop new organizational structures, but instead to deepen the subject of reconciliation. ‘In times of divergence and tendencies towards demarcation we want to be a prophetic sign for a credible togetherness in Europe.’

In the afternoon, the Czech Senator Pavel Fischer made an important contribution to the socio- political dimension of  Together for Europe. He described a current picture of the commitment to freedom and human dignity in the context of a strongly media-influenced society in Europe. He urged his audience to become active citizens who have the courage to stand up for others, for the weak, to speak out for justice.

At the end of the day, Father Heinrich Walter from the Schoenstatt Movement concluded: ‘Europe needs this positive spirit, because there are already enough messengers of doom!’

Afterwards, the group made its way from the city hall to the Protestant church of St. Anna, where in 1999 the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification had been signed. There the day ended with ecumenical prayer and a candlelight procession. On the square in front of the church, the anniversary celebrations were concluded with songs and a blessing.

Second Conference day in Ottmaring

180 participants from 20 countries (with live translation into 5 languages) and 55 different movements and communities from various churches are gathering together in Ottmaring: The place where Together for Europe started 20 years ago.

A participant who only recently came in contact with the network noted: ‘Here, the best in everyone is awoken’.

At the start into the day Andy Pettman guided the participants in a moment of reflection that lead to ‘a response out of thankfulness’. ‘Recognizing the seed in the fruits’ – that became very tangible for everyone in what happened next. Thomas Römer invited each participant to fill paper bags with seeds as a symbol for what has grown out of 20 years of fellowship. These seeds now need to be sowed again in trust and hope.

The next contributions were especially intensive. Sister Nicole explains the power of the ‘prophetic in the precarious’ and Herbert Lauenroth the necessity to become living border crossers ‘across all borders’.

Many moments of exchange – at times in spontaneous small groups in the hall, at times in language groups – are encouraging further growth of the thick family atmosphere among those present.

The afternoon started with a time of getting to know the ‘house of prayer’ in Augsburg through the presence of Johannes Hartl. This was followed by intense conversations to reflect on what has been heard and experienced in the plenum and to feel out next steps for the future.

In the evening, the participants of the conference went to Augsburg, where the Mayor was expecting them for a reception in the ‘Golden Hall’.  A visit of the city centre concluded the eventful day.

See also “Together for Europe turns 20!”>>

Augsburg – City of Peace

Augsburg’s history spans more than 2000 years; in fact it was founded as a Roman military encampment in 15 B.C.. Christianity was introduced by the Romans, which means that it was present since its very beginnings.

Confessio Augustana

In the XVI century, Augsburg became an important place of the Reformation because that was where Martin Luther and the Pope’s envoy, Cardinal Cajetano, met. That meeting resulted in the breakaway from the Church of Rome.

With the Imperial Diets, Augsburg became one of the most important cities of the Sacred Roman Empire. In 1530, the German Princes presented the Emperor with the confessio augustana, which formed the foundation of the Lutheran doctrine. This ‘Confession of Augsburg’, which was written by Philip Melantone, may be considered as an attempt to rebuild the broken religious unity.

Religious peace of Augsburg

10 years later, Augsburg became a city blessed with religious peace: the Diet of 1555 decreed the ‘Peace of Augsburg”, which aimed at regulating, from a political point of view, the peaceful and equal co-existence of the two Denominations. All the official roles were fairly distributed between the Confessions. This gave protection to the Denominations that were a minority. Albeit it took more than a 100 years to achieve equality and peace (with the terrible ‘Thirty Years War’ till the ‘Westphalia Peace’ of 1648), the ‘Peace of Augsburg’ was the first decisive step toward religious tolerance.

Feast of the Peace

On August 8, 1650, Augsburg celebrated for the first time the Great Feast of the Peace, which originally was a feast of the Protestant Christians as thanksgiving for the fact that, after a long struggle, they could take back their churches and could once again conduct their worship in them. This Feast is still being celebrated; for many decades it had become a Feast of the Peace of the entire city. The political leaders, the faithful of the diverse Churches and the citizens of this famous city celebrate all together in an ecumenical solidarity that goes beyond the boundaries of the Confessions. Today, on the eve of the Great Feast of the peace, the ‘Panel of the Religions’ organizes a multi-religious prayer meeting for peace. Since 1950, August 8 has been declared a holiday for all the citizens of Augsburg.

Brigitte Pischner e Margarete Hovestadt

Together for Europe turns 20!

The celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Together for Europe (TfE) involves history, Churches and society in a threefold feast. The Friends of TfE will meet at Ottmaring, Germany, on November 7 – 9, 2019. The program includes a reception in the  City Hall of Augsburg and a day visiting the significant places of the city, like St Anne’s church. All these augur events a new and promising encounter of European peoples.

How come this ‘birthday’ is being celebrated in Germany? The dates say it all!  October 31, 2019, is the anniversary of the historical signing of the Joint Declaration regarding the Doctrine of Justification, which was held at Augsburg, between the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation. On that same day, 20 years ago, the first meeting between Evangelical and Catholic Communities and Movements was held at Ottmaring, and that meeting gave birth to Together for Europe.  Moreover, November 9, 2019, marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Anniversaries always invite us to give thanks and, at the same time, to look ahead. The program of the Meeting, which is meant to express both these attitudes, will be held at the Ecumenical Centre of Ottmaring, in the City Hall and in St Anne’s church in Augsburg.

After the experience of Prague in November 2018>> and the “Europe Day 2019”>> we would like the Meeting in Germany to result in yet another laboratory where concrete projects in favour of our Continent are proposed.

The first part of the program will take place at the Ecumenical Centre of Ottmaring, and we will start be having a retrospective look: images, witnessing, sharing of experiences of these 20 years of our journeying together, and from these we would then move to seek new perspectives: “To discern the seeds from the fruits”. There would be small groups’ meetings as well as plenary ones, moments of prayer and thanksgiving, and in-depth studies of the guidelines of TfE so as to better understand the contribution we are called to give toward Europe.

With the help of some experts, and in dialogue with them, we will discuss some of today’s challenges: fear, boundaries, and walls.

In the evening of Friday November 8, the Mayor of the City of Augsburg will offer an official reception in the City Hall.

Saturday November 9, the Meeting will continue in the City Hall of Augsburg:

  • 20 years since the Joint Declaration regarding Justification; the evangelical Bishop Christian Krause will speak on History and consequences: what do they mean today?
  • Together for Europe: the fruit of the Joint Declaration; the experience of unity; perspectives; and developments in the individual Countries;
  • Journeying along the pathway toward the one Church of Jesus Christ: A vision for a sole People of God;
  • 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the Iron Curtain throughout the Continent;
  • The present challenges that Europe and unity are facing; Pavel Fisher (Prague).

In St Anne’s church we will pray for Europe in diverse languages. Then, in the Square in front of that church, we will express our thanksgiving with lighted candles, songs, prayers and several brief witnessing.

 

 

The vocation of Ottmaring

VIDEO – INTERVIEW  

Preparations for the celebration of the “20 years of Together for Europe” have been going for some time. The spark that triggered off this original ecumenical-European journey was ignited at the Ecumenical Centre of Ottmaring, just after the signature of the historical joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in Augsburg.

Severin Schmid has seen the birth and the growth of this communion, whose “score is written in heaven”. We asked him to tell us how things happened.

Ilona Toth, who comes from Hungary, is presently a member of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe.  In 2018 she participated in the 50th anniversary of Ottmaring. What are her impressions of this ecumenical Centre near Augsburg?

 

Enjoying the beauty of truth

Maria Voce, familiarly also known as Emmaus, is a member of the Steering Committe of Together for Europe. She is also the President of the Focolare Movement, and this summer said Movement is organizing an event on a European level.

She gave interviews regarding this event. From these we chose two questions and answers which are of special interest for us since they underline the spirit and the soul of our network.

Photo: Diego Goller

Europe Day, People’s Day

Europe Day on 9 May has also inspired members of Together for Europe to act.  Like the tiles of a mosaic representing a picture of hope for Europe a variety of groups are involved in organizing events which include associations, movements and different church communities.

What is it that unites people from Prague, Zurich and Rome with people from Milan, Toulouse, Esslingen and Ljubljana or even people from Padua, Brussels, Selbitz and Palermo? Or people from Lyon, Viterbo and Strasbourg with people from Trent, Paris, Trieste and Klagenfurt?  People whose languages, stories, ethnicities and cultures are so different?!  Just one desire.  To live the  people’s ‘beatitude’: “Blessed are the people who belong to the Lord” (cf. Sal 33:12). People that have their own characteristics, their own strong identity, their own unique history and culture, but know that they are first and foremost the people the “Lord has chosen as his inheritance”. Celebrating Europe Day has shown us what the ‘Lord’s People’ look like.

It includes people who above all feel the need to pray together, thus giving those responsible for the different Churches an opportunity to get to know one another and meet the faithful.  Others want to participate with concrete actions in their own cities. There are others who prefer to build relationships and by going beyond their own borders, organize meetings enabling different ethnic groups which have historically been in conflict with one another to be reunited. There are those who feel strongly about the social problems and make their commitment in hospitals, with migrants, in families or with young people, involving politicians as well. Some feel particularly called to face the cultural challenges in society and organize round tables on dialogue between East and West in Europe or try to raise public awareness for a fairer economic system and for nuclear disarmament. There are also those who believe in the importance of visibility and organise marches, while others invite experts to speak and encourage reflection on particular subjects. And we could go on…  But isn’t this rich diversity of a ‘People’ where each one is nourished by their own charism, and shares the fruits of their charism for the good of all something beautiful and dynamic?

The press also reported on the events: in the Rome edition of the daily newspaper la Repubblica, wrote: “Can Europe be faithful to its original vocation – that of bringing together different traditions, visions and religions?  Yes, if it focuses on its Christian roots, which brings individuals, groups, ethnicities and peoples together and highlights the positive aspects of each culture. This is the contribution it makes to humanity, by making the unity of reconciled diversities a reality which becomes a mutual enrichtment”. Vita Trentina, the weekly magazine for the diocese of Trent reported: “Together for Europe reaffirms that the future of Europe lies in a culture of Togetherness. The Palermo Chronicle lists the strong testimonies given to 1,600 people, of how members of various Churches are transforming their cities together. L’Avvenire, a Catholic daily newspaper, reported on their Milan page: “Openness and unity in diversity. This is Europe according to Christians.” The weekly magazine of the diocese of Padua reads: “Padua acknowledges the urgency of the European situation and the desire to unite the civil part with the Christian and religious part.

These are just a few newsflashes from the history of Europe today. Six demonstrations in Austria, four evenings in Vienna with political figures, spoke of a “living Europe, living according to its vocation”. Germany, the four principal French cities, Brussels – the ‘chapel for Europe’, Prague, Klagenfurt and Ljubljana all testified to the fact that “Everything is born, grows, blossoms from the source of “Togetherness”!

Thank you, “Europe Day”, for mobilizing energies, highlighting our continent’s potential and reviving hope for the future.

Ada Maria Guazzo, Ilona Toth

To find out about the initiatives in individual cities and regions click here>>

Europe Day 2019 Strasbourg

Together for Europe in Strasbourg: 9 -10 May, 2019 

A keynote speech and a debate

On May 9, 2019 the Students’ House in Strasbourg was the venue of an event of Together for Europe. The venue was quite symbolic because, as the speaker recalled, not without emotion, that Robert Schumann used to frequent that place when he was living in Strasbourg.

The entities which organized the event were: ICA (Independent Catholic Action), Terre Solidaire (a committee against hunger and promoter of development), DECERE (Christians for Europe, directed by the Dominicans), Pax Christi and the Focolare Movement. About 100 persons followed with great interest the keynote speech which was delivered by François Brunagel, former head of protocol at the European Parliament. He spoke very clearly about the challenges which Europe is facing. He sustained that the foundation of Europe, immediately following World War Two, may be considered to be a miracle. What was now needed was a new breath to push Europe forward and he went on to describe its most relevant characteristics: peace, prosperity and the respect for human rights. Then two youths shared their experiences: a young man explained how he benefitted from the Erasmus program; and a young woman, a refugee from Cameroon, shared her positive and negative experiences which highlighted the benefits and the limitations found in Europe.

During the debate which followed many points were made clearer, and it was explained what Europe could do and what the individual Countries ought to do. The debate was chaired by the directress of the radio of the Churches in Alsace, and could have gone on forever.

An ecumenical prayer for Europe

On Friday May 10 about 200 persons gather in the «Temple Neuf», a protestant church in the center of Strasbourg, to pray together and to renew their commitment in favor of Europe.

This ecumenical prayer is held every Friday. On that occasion the contents were enriched with intercession for Europe and with two comments about the love of enemies. In fact, after World War Two, the love of enemies was crucial for the foundation of the European Union, which made possible 70 years of peace, and which remains essential if we really want a “Christian Europe”.

A significant moment was that of the peoples’ prayer. In small groups, the participants wrote a wish and a request for Europe. These were written on golden stars which were then placed on the altar covered with a blue cloth: thus the European flag was formed and it looked like a star-filled sky.  The final blessing was proclaimed in sever languages by persons coming from Poland, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, England and Alsace.

A buffet of wine and cheese produced in the Countries of the European Union was then offered: each item carried a small flag of the respective Country. The representatives of the ecclesial Movements and Associations were glad to be able to know each other better and to obtain some exposure. A dynamic process was set in motion, and it will surely keep going on.

Team of Together for Europe in Strasbourg

©Photo: Students’ House: Michel Batt; Temple Neuf: Olivier Benoît

Europe Day 2019 Toulouse

On May 11, 2019, in Toulouse, 60 persons gathered in the spirit of Together for Europe.

Among those present there were Gérard Testard, of the European Committee and two members of the National Committee. Besides representatives of the Movements there were other persons who were interested in Europe.

Gérard Testard delivered an illuminating speech through which he explained the importance of Europe, the impact of the European decisions upon our daily lives and the contribution Christians ought to give for the future of the Continent with values such as unity, the common good, solidarity and cooperation. He also spoke about Europe’s mission in the world. The discussion which followed made clearer to all certain issues.

At the end, the Pact of Mutual Love was read out and this was followed with a prayer for Europe, which was written by Gérard Testard (you can read it here in French).

We have experienced together a fantastic a moment of brotherhood. Someone affirmed: “I had no intention of voting; however, after this speech I’ve changed my mind”. And another: “I was very much struck and challenged by the Pact of Mutual Love as the way to bring together Christ to today’s Europe”.

The team of Together for Europe in Toulouse

Download Gérard Testard’s Prayer for Europe (French)  

Prière Pour L'Europe - G Testard (268.0 KB, 48 downloads)

Europe Day 2019 Roma

Rome, too, celebrated the Feast of Europe

The Together for Europe group in Rome took up the suggestion put forward during the Prague meeting of the Friends which was held last November. This group is made up of 13 Movements[1]. Thus, from March 25 till May 9 the group enlivened celebrations and prayers for our Continent in 5 Basilicas which are linked to the patron Saints of Europe, during which the respective communities were involved.

We wanted the main event marking the Feast of Europe to be prepared in various stages with initiatives linked to the programmatic 7 Yeses (Cf Stuttgart 2007 message). Thus, to present the “Yes to Life and to Family” the program of the ‘Village for the earth’ held at Villa Borghese included a talk by Gianluca de Palo (National President of the Forum of the Associations of Families)  on the theme “A stronger the family means a stronger Europe”. The chairperson was Alessandra Balsamo (President of the Forum for the Lazio region) and Vincenzo Bassi delivered a speech interspersed with personal experiences.

A Meeting was held to affirm the “Yes to Creation”; this was organized by the Association ‘The Civilization of Love’ and the theme chosen was “Nuclear peace and environmental challenges”. This Meeting was held in the Vatican on May 8.

That same day, in the afternoon, the main event was in full swing. In the Hall “Spazio Europa” (run by the European Parliament office in Italy and the Representatives of the European Commission) a cultural meeting was held with a keynote speech on the theme “A new economy for Europe in the spirit of the Founding Fathers”. The speaker was Prof. Leonardo Becchetti who teaches Political Economy at the Tor Vergata University in Rome. This was followed by a well-participated debate. The speech was defined as being of a high scientific standard and of great interest to the 100 listeners who also appreciated the ‘teaching’ passion of the speaker: rather than a lesson on sustainable economy, they were regaled with a profound reflection imbued with original and illuminating ideas.

After this cultural event we proceeded toward the most beautiful Basilica of the XII Apostles, where the ecumenical Prayer Vigil was to be held on the text “…each one heard their own language being spoken” (Acts 2:6).

The congregation numbered about 400. Next to the altar, together with the parish priest, Fr Agnello, there were Gabriela Lio (Baptist Pastor), Luca Maria Negro (President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy), Fr Federico Lombardi (Jesuit), the Archimandrite Simeon Katsinas (of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople), Mgr Gianrico Ruzza who is an Auxiliary Bishop of Rome and the Secretary General at the Vicariate of Rome, and Fr Gheorghe Militaru (representing Bishop Siluan of the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate), who alternated in reading excerpts from the Bible and offered some reflections.

All the input offered was important and interesting. This goes also for the analyses of today’s Europe given by the journalist Enzo Romeo, the presentation of the ‘mothers’ of Europe and the witnessing by Rola, 20, from the Syrian city of Homs who arrived in Italy thanks to the safe human passageways organized from Lebanon by the Community of St Egidio, the Evangelical Churches and the Waldesian Church.

The participation of various Christian Confessions was highly appreciated because this conferred an important ecumenical stamp, thus showing that mutual love is stronger than the differences.

The choir which enlivened the Vigil was made up of 28 singers from 5 different Movements. And what a good job they did!

Team of TfE in Rome (©Photo: Elena Coppola / Maurizio Sabbatucci)

See short interview with Father Federico Lombardi (Italian)>> 
See short interview with Luca Maria Negro, FCEI President (Italian)>>
See short interview with Enzo Romeo, Journalist (Italian)>>

[1] Anima Europae, International Association of St Catherine, Community of the Fifth Dimension, Community of St Egidio, Community of the Risen Jesus, Community Pope John XXIII, Community God’s Victory, Teresian Institute, Civilization of Love, Focolare Movement, Équipes Notre Dame, Movement For  a Better World, Renewal in the Holy Spirit

 

Europe Day 2019 Paris

The various initiatives of Together in Paris

On April 2, we met to hold an ecumenical prayer meeting in the really magnificent chapel of the Deaconesses of Reuilly in Paris. This meeting was organized and conducted by the Together for Europe group together with the local community.

“Good evening to you all and thank you for being here. In a few days’ time the elections for the European Parliament will be held, and we want to offer to God all the debates and ideas which continually invade our minds and hearts. Thus we want to pray together for Europe”. That was how we welcomed each other.

A brief presentation of this Together for Europe initiative was followed by singing, meditations and moments of silence. The culminating moment was experienced just after the meditation upon the “7 Yeses” proclaimed in the 2007 Stuttgart Message: each person was invited to write, read and then attach his/her prayer on a map of Europe. Our prayer then focused upon the whole world, particularly upon Africa thanks to a singer who has lived in that Continent for many years. When the prayer meeting was over, people found it hard to say goodbye: their relationships of unity had become profound.

On May 4, we celebrated the Feast for Europe in the square of the City Council, just like last year. Together with other 40 Associations which promote Europe, we have set up a stand in the «Village Européen». This allowed us to have numerous contacts with the Parisians and other Europeans who just happened to be there. This year we focused upon the presentation of the “7 Yeses”. Many persons told us that these were exactly what they yearned for.

On May 14, the Emmanuel community took the initiative to organize a Prayer Vigil for Europe in a beautiful Church at Longjumeau, near Paris. This started with a presentation of Together for Europe, which was then followed by some fantastic singing of praise and many prayer intentions for Europe on the basis of the “7 Yeses” which were presented as meditations. The feedback we got after the Vigil convinced us that, since the Vigil was held on the eve of the European elections, that time spent in prayer was a privileged opportunity, indeed necessary, to entrust everything unto the Holy Spirit.

Team of Together for Europe in Paris

 

 

 

Europe Day 2019 Palermo

The Feast for Europe was held at the Pentecostal church “Word of Grace” with some 1300 participants and over 4000 following via YouTube and Facebook. A whole spectrum of social initiatives carried out together by various Movements and members of diverse Churches were presented.

Videos were used to explain the endeavor of Fr Carlo Santoro in Lecce and that of Pastor Tommaso Carpino of the International Church. In helping some Pentecostals in need, they saw walls of mistrust crumbling down, and instead a true friendship in the spirit of collaboration came about.

One could feel the atmosphere of brotherhood and a culture of “togetherness”, and this was quite visible among the four presenters who belonged to 4 diverse Movements and Churches, as well as during the keynote speeches delivered by the Apostle Lirio Porrello of the “Word of Grace”, the representative of the Steering Committee, Ilona Toth (Hungarian, who came from Rome) and by Mgr Alerio Montalbano, the Bishop’s Vicar.

When it came to the final prayer, Apostle Lirio, who composed the prayer, passed the microphone to Pastor Nino Genova of the Sharing in Jesus Church of Agrigento (New Pentecostal Movement) and asked him to read it out. This tangible sign of communion and mutual love impressed one and all.

Following are just the titles of the activities presented: aid to prisoners and their families provided by the Pentecostals in collaboration with Fr Loris, the Catholic chaplain; the medical care given jointly by Christian doctors belonging to diverse associations; a lobby for a just family taxation (carried out by PdG, Eben Ezer, Forum Associations of Families, and the Focolare Movement); and “Mustard Seed” an open House run by the Waldensian, Lutheran and Baptist Churches.

Other initiatives: the local Caritas that helps homeless families; the Catholic Action which embarked on a project to make young people aware of the danger of gambling; the Adventum Foundation of the Adventist Church which helps families that risk being victims of usury; the “Word of Grace” helps the homeless; the Mission of Biagio Conte which looks after more than a thousand persons, and some others. These facts have shown that, through their charitable endeavors, the Christians are a lively reality in the midst of society.

There were also persons who shared their experiences of honesty, love of enemy, and the acceptance of an illness thanks to a closeness to God.

The young people presented a mime about “Jesus breaking the chains” –  a meaningful dance performed by young people from Eben Ezer Church (New Pentecostal Movement) and others belonging to the Focolare Movement. Other young people belonging to various Pentecostal Churches and members of the “I am Rev” (I’m a revolution) Association explained how they help other young people to conquer their fears and fragilities. Their contributions manifested a Christianity that was young, fresh, full of initiatives and an authentic love for Jesus.

A participant summed up the evening thus: “What unites us is the living of the Gospel”.

The organizing committee of TfE in Palermo (Video and photos with the permission of Biagio Pittaresi)

 

 

Europe Day 2019 Trento

In Trento, on May 3, a cultural moment in the great hall of the Vigilianum and an Ecumenical Prayer Vigil. 

In Trent, the Feast of Europe was organized by the six Movements which have been  cooperating with Together for Europe for many years. These are the Alliance Dives in Misericordia, the Neo-catechumenal Way, Cursillo, Focolare Movement, New Horizons and Via Pacis. The event immediate got the support of the Episcopal delegate for Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, Fr Cristiano Bettega.

The date chosen was May 3, 2019 and it was made up of two distinct parts: a cultural event at the Vigilianum followed by an ecumenical prayer Vigil.

The main hall of the Vigilianum, which seats about a hundred, was packed. Taking part, among others, were Fr Joan Catalin with members of his Romanian Orthodox Church, the Lutheran coordinator Mrs Berbel with a member of her community and the mayor of Trent, Alessandro Andreatta. Fr Bettega acted as chairperson and introduced the keynote speakers. Milena Mariani is Professor of Systematic Theology and History of Theology of the XX Century at the ‘Romano Guardini’ in Trent and Professor of Mariology in Bolzano.  She delivered an important, farsighted talk about “Europe and the Christian Confessions toward the future”. Lucia Fronza Crepaz teaches at the Social Preparation School of Trent, and her talk had a socio-political theme: “Europe: an encounter of peoples, building up peace!”. During the interval between one speech and the other, two young men of the Neo-catechumenal Way played Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy.

The buffet which was offered in the adjacent hall was highly appreciated and it was an opportunity to share and make new acquaintances.

The Feast continued with an ecumenical Prayer Vigil which was held at the Immaculate Shrine, which is run by the Alliance Dives in Misericordia. The Vigil consisted of prayers, hymns (two of which were provided by the Orthodox community) and reflections – all done in an atmosphere of deep recollection. Among other texts, the messages of Pope Francis, of Patriarch Bartholomew I and of the Lutheran Bishop Bedford Strohm, which were delivered to the Munich 2016 meeting, were read out. The contributions of Fr Joan and the Lutheran coordinator Berbel were quite meaningful. The former underlined the correlation between the “cultural” input which preceded the Vigil, whereas the latter highlighted the common aims of the Christian Confessions which could, and ought to be enhanced, like reconciliation and peace, the care of the environment, solidarity with the poor and the downtrodden. Fr Bettega augured that such events may be repeated, and that other local entities be asked to participate. As a sign of practical sharing, the money collected was destined to help the refugees presently in Trent.

Foto: © Barbara Passalacqua / Nino Carella

Europe Day 2019 Castel Gandolfo

Sorry, but the text is only available in Italian

Foto: ©Thomas Klann

Europe Day 2019 Padova

May 9, 2019: For the first time together at an ecumenical Prayer Vigil 

The “Europe Day” gave us the opportunity to live out a new experience of communion with the local Church and to be part of the “Biblical Festival” held in Padua. During the last months we held several meetings and these allowed us to know better some extraordinary local realities: the Council of the Christian Churches, the Migrantes Ministry, the University Center, the Council of the lay Organizations, the Community of the Franciscan Conventual Friars of St Anthony’s Basilica, and some others. Thus, after a intense and fruitful work, the final version of the Vigil was finalized. What we considered to be the most important thing was our continuous striving for communion: indeed, each one experienced an ever truer relationship.

The Churches contributed excerpts from the Carta Oecumenica, which were alternated by Biblical texts read in various languages; all these offered a showcase of the richness of the spiritual and cultural patrimony embellishing the ecumenical endeavor.

On Thursday May 9 – the 69th anniversary of the Declaration on Europe –  some 300 persons gathered in the Church of St Sophie.

Joanna, a young woman from Poland, kicked off the event with a short talk entitled “Europe on the move” during which she shared her experience of welcome and encounter in Italy. Then it was Stefan’s turn to talk about “Europe being tested: today’s challenges and those forever”; this young man came from Syria thanks to safe passageways. The last part focused upon “Christians and Europe: salt and light”; following by a chant sung by the Ukraine community, Ansamma, a pediatrician from India, addressed the gathering as the diocesan representative of the Ministry to Migrants.

The evening was enlivened with Taizé-style chants in various languages delicately performed by the choir Shalom.

Since one of the aims of Together for Europe is the development of Africa, and, also, since Padua is twinned with the city of Beira, a collection was held to send aid to the people of Mozambique who have recently suffered a devastating flooding. The sum collected, which was a further confirmation that the message of brotherhood has been well received, will finance two projects.  The whole event ended with a get-together: that also provided the opportunity to be together in friendship and to build new and important relationships in the city.

The network Together for Europe in Padua (Community of St Egidio, Community of the Franciscan Conventual Friars of St Anthony’s Basilica, Pope John XIII Community, University Center of Padua, The Shalom Choir of Abano Terme, Focolare Movement)

Foto: © Giorgia Chiaro

Europe Day 2019 Carinthia

Sorry, but the text is only available in German

Europe Day 2019 Milano

Milan, May 9, 2019: an unusual multicolored march bearing a proposal

It all started from a simple idea: to plan together with as many entities as possible. These included several Catholic associations: Agesci, Catholic Action, Community of St Egidio, CVX, The St Benoît Institutes, the Focolare Movement, Rinascita Cristiana, and the European Scouts Movement. Also represented were the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Romanian Orthodox Churches. Indeed all the Churches forming part of the Council of Christian Churches in Milan adhered to the initiative which also found the support of all the diocesan organisms. This collaboration gave rise to such an impressive manifestation that the municipality of Milan and the European Commission  offered their collaborate and the European Parliament extended its sponsorship. The idea that matured was to have an event in a main square to be able to speak to the people. This event was to be preceded by awareness meetings in schools and parishes.

Thus, on May 9, a march started from the church of St Eustorgio and ended at the church of St Laurence. Following days of rain, that day the sun shone and warmed the city, and many considered this to be a good omen. Those who addressed the participants included Fr Traian Valdman, of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Dorothee Mack, Pastor of the Evangelical Methodist Church, and the Archbishop, Mgr Delpini.

Two moving experiences were shared with the crowd: that of a young man of the Community of St Egidio who expressed his vision of Europe, and that of Alessandra and Antonio Beltrami, who spoke about their experience of welcoming in the network of families linked to the Action for a United World ad that of New Families of the Focolare Movement.

Many expressed their appreciation of how the event was conducted and for the contents it offered. The Archbishop was one of those who seemed quite happy: “You were really great!”.

Two professional actors, Irene Quartana and Stefano Orlandi, were asked to read some significant texts. Afterwards Stafano wrote: “Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to be part of such a meaningful and important event at a time in which closure and individualism are rampant”.

To us, it seems that the greatest result was the strengthened relationships between all the members of the Commission. Here are some comments: “I thank the Lord for having found new brothers and sisters” (Pastor D. Mack); “The most important thing was working with such fantastic persons” (Anna Boccardi, Agesci); “You wanted to organize an ecumenical event, and you succeeded in full” Sara Comparetti, Baptist Church). The general feeling was to go ahead all together.

The organizing commission

Foto: ©Alberto Fornasari

Prague: What vision for the Europe of the future?

In Prague, in the heart of Europe, on the occasion of the Europe Day, the Movements and Communities of different Churches organize prayers for Europe, followed by a Round Table with political representatives. The theme: “What vision for the Europe of the future?”

V Praze, v srdci Evropy, u příležitosti Dne pro Evropu, pořádají křesťanská hnutí a společenství z různých církví modlitby za Evropu, na které bude navazovat panelová diskuze se zástupci politického života.

Stáhněte si plakát  –  Download the poster (in Czech)

SPE Praha 8.5.2019 (645.2 KB, 56 downloads)

French cities celebrating the Europe Day

Here the various appointments

TOULOUSE

On May 11, 2019, after having met on a regular basis with Mgr. Le Gall, their bishop, will be holding an open meeting to deepen the objectives of Together for Europe.

LYON

After having made a survey in the streets of Lyon, the local committee is organizing a cultural evening on the 3 themes that emerged from the survey: ‘Peace, Culture and Economy’. This will be held on May 11, and will be followed by a Prayer Vigil for Europe and for the imminent elections.

STRASBOURG 

  • May 9, at the Students’ House: a Conference about Europe by the ex-speaker of the European Parliament (François Brunagel); a refugee from the Cameroons and a university student following the Erasmus program will share their witnessing. The ensuing debate will be chaired by a personality from the Churches’ Radio of the region;
  • May 10, at an Evangelical church: an ecumenical prayer service for Europe, with representatives of four Churches taking part. A get-together will follow, with wines and cheeses from various European countries being served;

The promotion for these 2 events will be done jointly and it will be made available in the churches of the various denominations present in the region. The leaflets will be handed out personally.

PARIS

  • April 2, as part of “the journey toward May 9”, in the chapel of the Protestant Deaconesses of the ‘Maison d’unite’, 60 persons gathered for an ecumenical prayer service organized by various Movements. The reflections and the intentions of the prayers were based on our 7 Yeses.
  • May 4, in the Municipality Square, a stand will be erected as part of the “Village Européen”, which is organized for the Feast of Europe by the House of Europe and the Paris commune.
  • May 14, at 8.30 p.m.: a Prayer Vigil for Europe in the church of Longjumeau, on the outskirts of Paris, is being organized by the Emmanuel community and the Focolare Movement.

LONGJUMEAU 

Tuesday, 14 May 8.30 pm prayer for Europe

Download the flyer / poster of the various events (french language): 

Invitation 11 Mai 2019 Toulouse (75.0 KB, 56 downloads)
Invitation 2 Avril 2019 Paris (177.4 KB, 66 downloads)
Affiche Strasbourg Mai 2019 (857.0 KB, 53 downloads)
Affiche Lyon Mai 2019 (209.5 KB, 58 downloads)
Invitation Longjumeau 14 Mai 2019 (639.8 KB, 60 downloads)

And what’s happening in Rome?

The group of Movements and Communities of Rome has warmly welcomed the invitation to join the “Prayer Journey” for Europe which goes on for six weeks, from March 25 till May 9, 2019. The communities of 5 important Basilicas linked to the Patron Saints of Europe have committed themselves to pray daily for Europe; each day, in turn, a Movement of Together for Europe enlivens these prayers.

Moreover, so as to deepen some of our 7 Yeses, there will be the following initiatives:

  • Gigi De Palo will take part in a debate with university students on the ‘Family’. This is scheduled for Sunday, April 28 at 3.30 p.m. in the tent for conferences at the Galoppatoio in Villa Borghese, as part of the “Village for the Earth”, www.villaggioperlaterra.it/;
  • A meeting with the theme Nuclear Peace and Environmental Challenges”: Christians in Europe will be held at the Institute Maria SS. Bambina – Vatican City, on Wednesday May 8, from 9.00 a.m. till 4 p.m. www.nuclearforpeace.org.

On the eve of the Europe Day, Wednesday May 8, 2019:

  •  4.30 p.m., at the ‘Spazio Europa’ (run by the Office of the European Parliament in Italy and the Commission’s Representation in Italy) there will be a cultural meeting with the theme “A new economy for Europe in the spirit of the Founding Fathers”; Prof Leonardo Becchetti (Professor of political economy at the Tor Vergata University) will deliver the keynote speech, which will be followed by a debate;
  • 6.30 p.m., an ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Europe at the Basilica dei XII Apostoli (Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles), Piazza SS. Apostoli, with the theme: «… each one heard their own language being spoken» (Acts 2, 6).

Download the Flyer for the Vigil of May 8, 2019 (in italian)

Volantino 8 Maggio 2019 Roma (228.1 KB)

 

 

Slovenia is getting ready

At the meeting in February this year, together with almost all the Movements and Communities in Slovenia that are engaged in Together for Europe, we started working on the idea that emerged last November in Prague of organising “Europe Day” on 9th May as an event that would leave an indelible mark on the people of Slovenia by presenting the values of Together for Europe.

Many of us will also be going to Klagenfurt, Carinthia in Austria on 3rd May to celebrate Europe Day with some of our Italian neighbours.

On 4th May we will be in Brezje visiting Slovenia’s most famous Marian shrine where Archbishop Stanislav Zore will celebrate Mass  and where we will praying together for a united Europe.  Immediately afterwards there will be a moment of encounter between everyone from the different Movements and Communities; it will be a wonderful opportunity to deepen the unity and friendship that has bound us together for so long.

We will use every means of communication to spread the word about this event and take the idea of “Europe Day” all over Slovenia. We will also participate in the prayer network taking place in Europe from 25 March to 9 May, and this year we would also like to invite different personalities and members of the press that we have got to know to the different events.

We have also decided to take concrete action towards reconciliation in Slovenia.

Marjana and Pavel Snoj on behalf of the Together for Europe Team in Slovenia

 

Carinthia, a crossroads of nations

We are a group of Movements belonging to diverse Churches in Carinthia. Our praying together and a fruitful dialogue helped us to reflect upon how to celebrate the “Europe Day 2019”.

Through the contact with the “Europahaus” (House of Europe) at Klagenfurt we found a suitable place and this allowed us to outline our project.

The central theme will be “Europe without Christ?” By presenting our 7 Yeses, we aim at inspiring a reflection upon the contribution we could provide toward a sustainable Europe.

We live in Carinthia which is a crossroads of Europe and where three nations feel at home. For centuries there were here Romans, Slavs  and German tribes. For this reason we have invited guests from Lublin, Trieste and Graz so as to meet together and share our experiences.

On May 3, 2019, we shall have the opportunity to celebrate a journey of relationships and harmony, which resulted in 70 years of peace. Together we will be able to appreciate how the diversity of nations in Europe enriches us.

While celebrating our “Europe Day”, we want to show our gratitude for all this and to express our hope for a peaceful future.

Manfred and Fini Wieser, team of Together for Europe, Carinthia  

Download the invitation here (available only in German)

KLAGENFURT Europa Einheit In Vielfalt - Flyer_2019 (1.4 MB)

Works in progress in Padua

Those who, last November, participated at the meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe have enthused us with what they experienced and with future projects.

We are all looking forward to organize a Prayer Vigil to be held to mark May 9, Europe Day. From the very first contacts we were surprised to find so much interest for the idea: in fact, new interested groups have been approached and a new range of relationships has been established.

The first step was to approach the local Church so as to create the May 9 event in synergy. Then we contacted the priest who runs the University Centre and who also coordinates the “Biblical Festival” which is scheduled for May 10 – 12. We were warmly welcomed, seeing that the theme of the event is “The City and Citizenship”: indeed, Europe was a theme already on the program and thus we proposed to include the Prayer Vigil of Together for Europe in the program of the Festival.

Moreover, we have been asked to find an expert on Europe to address an event organized for young people, consisting of a photographic competition, with prizes, for secondary school students in Padua and its province with the theme: “Never without the other”.

The responsible for the Festival has also asked us to show a short video which narrates the history of Together for Europe during the evening dedicated to Europe.

We spoke to the person responsible for the Ministry with Migrants, and we discovered an unknown reality: in the Diocese of Padua there are 110.000 migrants; more than half are Christian, and these are ministered to by priests coming from their native Countries. We met 12 priests from India, Sri Lanka, China and Eastern Europe, and they all welcomed the idea of the Prayer Vigil and the evening dedicated to Europe. We never imagined that, in a poor rectory, we would be speaking to such a group of persons coming from so many parts of the world!

Also, we met a Rumanian Orthodox priest who chairs the Ecumenical Council of Churches: he was extremely pleased that the event will be part of a “Biblical Festival”, because, as he said, “it is the Bible that unites us all”.

Later, we met almost all the members of the Ecumenical Council: the persons representing the Greek Orthodox, the Rumanian Orthodox, the Methodist and the Lutheran Churches. With them it was decided to hold the Prayer Vigil on May 9, as an opening of the Biblical Festival; it will be held in the church of St Sophia, a most beautiful Romanic church in Padua.

All the groups we contacted form part of the preparatory commission of the Prayer Vigil (now enhanced as international and ecumenical). After the Prayer Vigil, during a convivial gathering, typical dishes from various Countries will be served.

The Team of Together for Europe in Padua

Seeking together

20 years of Together for Europe: 7 – 9 November 2019 in Ottmaring and Augsburg / Germany. Visit of the regional Bishop Axel Piper

Toward the end of February, 16 representatives of Together for Europe met in Ottmaring to prepare the meeting of the ‘Friends’ which is scheduled for 7 – 9 November 2019. This international network came about 20 years ago; this provides a good enough motive to remember the early steps and to develop further prospects for the coming years.

Axel Piper, who has been regional Bishop of the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Augusta and Svevia since January 1, 2019, made his first visit to the Ecumenical Centre of Ottmaring. On that occasion he met Gerhard Pross, Ilona Toth, Herbert Lauenroth and Diego Goller, besides members of the preparation team  of Together for Europe, and this allowed the Bishop to have a better understanding of the initiative.

Based on his experience Bishop Piper’s vision of the Church is: not structures, but “persons who are seeking together”. At the same time, Piper says that “it is sufficient to be curious – in the best meaning of the word”. Thus, he is eager to fulfil his new assignment, “to know new persons, new challenges and to contribute toward a new form and a new beginning in the Church and society”. Therefore, he found the initiative Together for Europe “quite interesting”.

Indeed, he has already booked himself for the meeting of the ‘Friends of Together for Europe’ (7 – 9 November 2019).

Beatriz Lauenroth

Foto: © Maria Kny

Vienna: Citizens of Europe are getting ready ‘together’

Different important events are taking place from 19 March to 5 May at various locations in the Austrian capital.  The aim is to give citizens and parliamentarians the opportunity to discuss politics together in a constructive way in view of the forthcoming European elections.

What do our friends in Vienna have in their hearts?

“The current problems regarding the politics, economics and structure of the European Union concern all of us.  As members of Together for Europe we feel compelled to add our voices to the debate on the continent’s future by putting in practice “our vocation for unity and our Culture of Togetherness”.  We are convinced that the gift of “unity in diversity” we received in the moving process of reconciliation is God’s response to the needs of our time.  With this confidence we wish to invite citizens, experts and Members of the European Parliament to dialogue together and bear positive witness to the politics of reconciliation and solidarity.”

The topics selected for discussion are very stimulating:

  • Erasmus – shaping Europe
  • Judaism in Europe today – old and new anti-Semitism
  • Migrants and the homeland
  • “Word and bread” – the social dimension

The conclusive evening will be celebrated on 11 April in the “House of the European Union” where amongst other things we will collect and present messages from the various political and ecclesiastical representatives who were present at the different meetings.

An ecumenical service of prayers for Europe will be held on 5 May in a church in the city centre.

Each meeting will have a different format and be held at a different location.  There will be different movements and experts, different topics for discussion and different ways to get involved but beneath it all is a shared desire not to miss the opportunity to say: TOGETHER we can!

Let us pray that many others will be inspired by Vienna’s example.

Taken from the invitation: A Prayer for Europe (Carlo Maria Martini) 

Father of mankind,  Lord of History,
Look upon this continent to which you sent
philosophers, lawgivers and people endowed with wisdom,
precursors of that faith in your Son, fallen and risen.

Look at these people evangelized by Peter and Paul,
by prophets, monks and saints.
Look at these regions drenched in the blood of martyrs,
moved by the voice of reformers.
Look at these people linked by so many bonds and ties,
yet divided by hatred and war.

Assist us in committing ourselves to a Europe of the Spirit
founded not just on economic treaties,
but also on values which are human and eternal;
a Europe capable of ethnic and ecumenical reconciliations,
quick to welcome the stranger, respectful of human dignity.

Give us confidence to see it as our duty
to encourage and promote understanding between peoples,
which provides for all continents justice and bread,
liberty and peace.

 

Download the invitation here (available only in German)

Miteinander Für Europa - Einladung Wien (2.1 MB)

Bearers of hope

Clarita and Edgardo Fandino, International Directors of the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement live in Bogotá in Colombia. They recently took part in the meeting for “Friends of Together for Europe” in Prague.  We wanted to hear more about their experience.

1) What was your experience of the meeting in Prague for “Friends of Together for Europe”?

It was very moving to actually participate in this initiative which seeks to bring hope to a world that has become secularized, by building on the unity that already exists between several movements and inviting everyone to accept their responsibilities in society and the world – not by becoming isolated but by sharing their particular evangelical gifts.  Personally, we would have liked to get to know more about the particular charisms of the different movements that were present, but we assume that this had already been done at previous meetings and that time restrictions on the programme meant it wasn’t possible this time.  Over the course of the two-day meeting, during breaktimes and in the group discussions, we were able to share experiences with many of those present.  There was a strong atmosphere of respect, fraternity and openness that needs to spread to different areas of life so that we can become real agents of change like the yeast in the dough.

2) As Columbians, how do you see Europe at the moment?

We didn’t take part in the reunion of Together for Europe as Columbians but as the International Directors of the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement which started in France and is currently present in 92 countries across all five continents.  As Columbians we noticed big differences between today’s Europe and today’s America and our native Columbia, of course.  Europe is currently going through a period of secularisation which is much more pronounced than in America and is influenced by waves of crisis and disintegration which together with separatist trends are undermining the institutions and systems currently in place.  Populism with agitators who polarize society and stir up discontent is a problem that has already reached universal dimensions.  Today more than ever it is critical that those of us who profess values of faith become more active in promoting initiatives of change that bring about transcendent values. In the words of Ernesto Sabato, the marvellous writer and critical observer of the world’s realities: “One thing for sure is the conviction that only spiritual values will be able to save humanity from imminent disaster.”

3)  You are the International Directors of the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement and have just concluded an important meeting in Paris.  What future plans and visions emerged from your meeting?

We accepted responsibility for the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement worldwide last July in Fatima, Portugal.  With approximately 9,000 people present from over 70 countries, including 400 priests and bishops, 4,000 couples and 200 widows and widowers, we spent a week together which had the parable of the prodigal son as its theme and the motto: “Reconciliation, a sign of love”. At the end of the meeting we established orientations in the form of a mandate for members of the Movement over the next six years.  Our guiding motto is: “Don’t be afraid.  Let’s go forth…”; it is an invitation to act, to put our vocation and our mission into action, beginning with the specific aspect of our charism: married spirituality.

The meeting that we recently held in Paris with the group of people responsible for the movement internationally was the first of 3 annual meetings and its aim was to understand how the motto of Fatima could be brought to every member of the Movement so that they too could make it a reality in their lives. This is why we established a number of action points to help up face the challenges within and outside the Movement, in conformity with the Church’s and in particular Pope Francis’ invitation to go to the peripheries as agents of mercy.  This appeal is well expressed by the Pope in his recent Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et exultate” (GE 26) It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission.”

Themes we are developing include the art of accompanying widows and widowers, preparing and accompanying young people for matrimony and the first few years of married life, working on other realities of married life such as accompanying adults, listening to young people…etc.

4) Could you tell us something about yourselves, your family, your lives, your work…? “

We are both Columbian and have been married for 32 years.  We have 2 children – a boy of 26 years who recently got married and a daughter of 24 years who still lives with us.  We live in Bogota which is a cosmopolitan city with a population of about 8 million.  Clarita teaches music and catechesis and Edgardo still works as a civil engineer.  We have been members of the “Teams of Our Lady” movement for 22 years which has nourished our married spirituality; we have carried out duties of service in various fields.  We will now be responsible for the Movement all over the world for the next six years.  Our life is divided between Edgardo’s professional work, the work of our “Teams of Our Lady” and the frequent trips required by this role. We are convinced that each one of us has a mission and responsibility in this world to be bearers of hope and to reflect Christ’s love for humanity, making him present in our own environment and the peripheries we have to reach.

Clarita and Edgardo Fandino, Bogotá/Columbia

 

Voices from Prague – part 2

Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” at Prague – Short interviews with some of the participants – part 2

“Identity is something what we desperately need!” Pavel Fischer, Senator in the Czech Parliament

“Abbiamo un grande fondamento che ci lega.” Matthias Leineweber, Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Germania

“Pour leur communiquer la beauté”. François Delooz, Communauté de Sant’Egidio, Belgique

“I realised the strength of the Movements.” Pavel Černý, Pastor, Czech Republic

“Europa ist sehr bewegt”. Valerian Grupp, CVJM Esslingen, Deutschland

2° Day TfE at Prague

On the second day of the ‘Together for Europe’ meeting in Prague participants took a closer look at the situation of Christians and churches in the Czech Republic. There were many opportunities for personal exchange and discussion in smaller and larger groups and three major inputs.

Jaroslav Šebek, historian and member of the Institute for History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, spoke about “The Churches in the Czech Republic and the challenges of today’s turbulent time”. The refugee crisis had become a milestone for the future of European integration, where different concepts collide “and in this context we begin to talk about East against West” again, said  Šebek. One of today’s problems is the “encapsulation of communication” that social media present us with. “While during the time of communism we found ourselves in an ‘information desert’,  today we move in a jungle of information’ but the result is the same: “Loss of orientation and a greater susceptibility to manipulation and distrust of everything and everyone.” It is particularly difficult that also the representatives of the Church are looking for orientation at present.

Pavel Fischer, Senator in the Czech Parliament, also described the current situation in the Czech Republic and presented the challenges from a socio-political point of view. He stressed the importance of emotional identification with a personal social experience which arises in concrete linguistic and experiential environments.  The unity of Europe can only be achieved by taking all local identification processes seriously as well as all the individuals we meet. The vision of a united Europe can only emerge if policies respect subsidiarity and respect and promoted the diversity of European peoples, languages and cultures.

Interview “Identity is something what we desperately need!” Pavel Fischer

Interview “Let’s engage on the very local level!” Pavel Fischer

Tomáš Halík, Czech sociologist, philosopher of religion and Roman Catholic priest (Templeton Prize 2014), presented the historical developments of the Czech Church up to the present day as part of his contribution to the religious situation in his home country. It became clear that the attempt of the Church failed to offer the faith they lived in the past to the present time and to the future. Today’s popular traditional Church has lost its strength, because its biosphere increasingly disappears.  Religion has largely lost its influence on the present generation. They live in a new cosmos: the Internet.” The new generation is not ready to welcome religion without being convinced.  Today the Church is challenged to adjust itself above all to those who are searching for meaning. These are, so to speak, part of the largest diocese.” Halík emphatically emphasized: “The future of the Church depends on its willingness to communicate with those who seek and to accompany them.” Faith should not be an ideology that gives precise answers, but accompany those in search of meaning.  And since everyone is looking for meaning, the Church must also be there for everyone, not only for the pious faithful. Halík invited the audience to be courageous and to take seriously those who seek the truth in different ways and to engage in dialogue with them.

The day meeting ended with a time of prayer in which all the reflections and inputs of the day and the future of Europe were brought before God. This was followed by a festive dinner with a cultural programme.

Heinrich Brehm