Address by Gerhard Pross
Gerhard Pross, Moderator of Together for Europe, during the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017
Together – for – Europe. There is no more exact way to express the importance this holds for us: Together – for – Europe”.
We are an ecumenical network of more than 300 Christian Communities and Movements. We come from 30 European countries, spanning from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. We speak different languages, live in different cultures and belong to different Churches: among us are Catholics, Evangelical, Orthodox, Anglicans and members of Free Churches. We follow a variety of spiritualities each different from the other.
And yet, based on our experience, we are convinced that unity is possible. Our shared journey began with a deep moment of reconciliation among a group of leaders of our Movements. Unity became possible.
We live unity in diversity, in such a way that the uniqueness of each person remains intact. From reconciliation in Christ stems the ability to experience the diversity of the other as an enrichment.
Today in a special way, we remember three of the networks’ founders, who are now in Heaven: Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the Focolare Movement, who had the first impulse to begin; Helmut Nicklas, responsible of CVJM (YMCA) Munich, the ‘architect’ of the Together for Europe project; and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, whose input has been precious in terms of the link between charism and ministry.
When in 2004, Together for Europe held in Stuttgart a large event for some 10,000 participants, Europe was celebrating the entry in the EU of new member states. In 2016, however, at the time of our international Congress which was followed by a large Public Rally in Munich, only three days after Brexit, the mood in Europe was quite different. We have been and continue to be aware that Europe is experiencing a period of turmoil. The European Union seemingly lurches from crisis to crisis.
In times such as these, punctured by acts of terrorism, we publicly proclaimed, with thousands of people during the 2016 event in Munich, loud and clear, our YES to Europe. “In Europe, there is no alternative to being together”, were the opening words of the concluding message in Munich.
If I may express this, in a personal way and as a spokesperson for Together for Europe… I was deeply touched by the network’s event in Munich and it put Europe on the first place on my agenda. For 17 years, we have been on this journey together, but never before has giving our YES to Europe resonated with such importance.
- In times marked by an upsurge of populism, selfishness and nationalism we give our YES to relationship and alliance.
- In times marked by a return of negative fanaticisms which in the past brought catastrophe upon catastrophe, we give our YES to the Gospel, to reconciliation and to love.
Within our Movements we need to wake up to the awareness of the urgency of giving our YES to Europe.
As Communities and Movements, we should not hold back in expressing publicly our YES to Europe.
We work for a Europe that is Together. For a Europe that recognises diversity as enrichment and lives together in peace and unity. And last but not least,
God, throughout history, has entrusted this Continent with the mission to connect and bring closer heaven and earth, faith and its impact on the world, since on the Cross, Heaven and earth meet.
Today on the eve of the celebrations of the “Treaties of Rome” we come together to pray and to re-state, as always, that as Christian Communities and Movements we count – besides our own commitment – on the help of God.
Europe needs our prayer.