Together for Europe has received a letter from David Maria Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament. He emphasized the great need of the common European values to tackle crises. He also added that he would be delighted to keep in contact with our network.
In a letter addressed to Together for Europe (TfE), David Maria Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, expressed his gratitude to the ecumenical network for its service toward the European Continent. Mr Sassoli observed that even Europe’s Founding Fathers were fully aware that the political project EUROPE could function properly only if nurtured also with a lived-out spirituality. He affirmed that: “European shared values, as agreed upon by Member States when signing the EU Treaties, are more needed than ever to overcome crises, including the current COVID-19 pandemic”.
Fighting selfish egoistic and nationalistic temptations
The president underlined how much he appreciates all the initiatives that “stimulate public discussions on civic matters”. In the European Parliament’s aims and in the commitment of the network Together for Europe, he sees “a shared approach based on solidarity and idealism”. Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis, the need for more ecology and the way the European Union deals with third-county nationals arriving on its territory “are all issues that cannot be tackled without fighting selfish and nationalistic temptations”.
Encouragement for future steps
The ecumenical network considers this letter of appreciation to be an encouragement for future steps. The letter from Brussels shows that prayer and action for Europe, like the initiatives linked to May 9, are an important contribution toward its unity.
Heinrich Brehm / Beatriz Lauenroth
Attached: the original letter
Living May 9, 2020, online: Due to Covid-19, all the events planned for the Europe Day, which involved Together for Europe were held online. Together for Europe was in contact with persons from all over the Continent through discussions, conferences, prayers and singing.
In Italy, more than 900 Friends of Together from all over the Country joined in a Zoom conference. The theme was: “Integral ecology: a sustainable utopia for Europe”; two keynote speeches dealt with how to work for the planet’s better present and an even better future by respecting nature and persons. The meeting was concluded with an ecumenical prayer with representatives of numerous Churches and Communities, and with the renewal of the ‘pact’ of mutual love.
Two conferences, one based in Utrecht and another in Amsterdam, were held in The Netherlands. “Utrecht in Dialogue” and “Pax” provided small online groups with food for thought during their lively discussions regarding ideas about Europe. Many young people took part.
The ‘Schuman Centre’ discussed the present situation of the Continent. 70 years ago, Robert Schuman announced his plan to start laying the foundations for a European Home embracing 500 million inhabitants. Jeff Fountain, the founder of the ‘Schuman Centre’, which was established ten years ago, concluded the discussion with an unusual form of prayer. He sang in English on the tune of “Ode of joy”, the Europahymnus, a rewritten interpretation: “With the vision now before us of a true community / Of all European peoples, rich in our diversiy / Let us pray and work together for our solidarity / Peace, equality and freedom, rooted in your charity.”
Austria and Eastern Europe
The City of Graz was linked to six Countries for an exchange of lived out experiences. The Friends of Together in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary and Northern Italy shared how they were living the Covid-19 crisis in the spirit of mutual support. At the end, Bishop Wilhelm Krautwaschl thanked the participants for their witnessing as an international community, and concluded saying: “In spite of our differences and separations, through the cross we are all united one to the other”.
The YMCA of Esslingen-Stuttgart thought that at the planned prayer meeting, only locals would participate. However, when they moved the event online, the Friends of Together were linked to other Movements in diverse German, Italian and Dutch cities. Indeed, for all of them the evening turned out to be a true experience of Togetherness.
In France there were 34 link-ups scattered in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Tours that formed a national network that manifested the diversities between the groups, and, at the same time, a profound mutual esteem. Gérard Testard (Efesia) encouraged the participants to make the ‘French voice’ ever more present in Europe. One of the participants concluded: “It was a moment of fraternity and trust in Europe that filled us all with a new hope”.
The events will be available online in the next few days on:
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Europe Day 2020 and Pope Francis
We have been journeying together for the last six weeks. During this shared prayerful journey we allowed the Word of God and our reflection regarding Europe (2016) to inspire us, and we included all European Countries in our prayers. Our main objective was to strengthen our yearning to be all one and to mould Europe with the power of prayer.
May 9, Europe Day
Our journey will take us toward May 9, 2020, Europe Day. This Day ought to be a day of encounters between Communities, Movements and Countries. This year, however, due to Covid-19, we cannot gather physically in churches and squares, or hold social events, conferences and prayers.
This does not mean that the Day’s activities have been cancelled; on the contrary: a lot of creativity is being expressed in digital conferences and prayers, discussion groups and on-line dialogue between Communities, Movements and politicians that will be start, for example, from Utrecht, Graz, Rome, Lyon and Esslingen. Here all linguistic and National barriers will be overcome and thus we can reflect together about Europe and to keep the Continent in our prayers. All relevant information can be found on the site “Europe Day 200”>>
Letter from Pope Francis
All our events linked to May 9 have a papal blessing. Indeed, Pope Francis, on 22 April, sent a letter to the Secretariat of Together for Europe in Rome in which, after thanking us for our letter of April 12, he encouraged in the service to the common good, inspired by values of solidarity, peace and justice. He pray for us and he warmly sents his apostolic blessing to all of us. The letter, which has been translated into 4 languages, can be downloaded here in English.
Sr. Nicole Grochowina, Christusbruderschaft Selbitz
Photo Pope Francis: Pixabay/Manfred Kindlinger
On the 9th of May we will celebrate Europe Day and through this online dialogue we will discuss the EU project: after 75 years of peace within the EU, how do we move forward?
Date: Saturday, May 9, 2020, Europe Day
Time: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.
Once you register on //www.utrechtindialoog.nl/bijeenkomsten/europa/
you will receive an email with the link and the password that will allow you to participate. Participation is free of charge.
Languages: Dutch and English
It’s been 70 years since the Schuman Declaration and we have enjoyed 75 years of peace in Europe. What about the future?
The European Union, which embraces 513 million inhabitants and a great diversity of Countries, cultures and identities, is a unique project in the history of humanity. It is the greatest peace project that followed the Second World War. Robert Schuman once said: “The European co-operation and integration could not, and must not, be limited to an economic and technical endeavour: it needs a soul, an awareness of its historical roots and its present and future responsibility, together with a political will to serve the common human ideal”. Thirty years ago, in 1989, we witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall: it was a promising event, one that took us all, Easterners and Westerners, by surprise. A wave of euphoria swept over all Europe: peace in Europe, peace for all!
In 2020, 70 years since the Schuman Declaration, we will discuss the development of this human project and, above all, how to keep on making it better. We will speak about culture and values in Europe: how do we deal with our differences and what do we have in common? Which are our historical roots? What kind of future do we desire for Europe? Which are the main challenges that Europe must face? How can we work together to promote a stable peace in Europe, and which values are indispensible for this objective? We will try to answer these questions during our small groups’ discussions.
2.00 p.m. Interactive introduction of the theme
2.15 p.m. Video by PAX: ‘Four future scenarios for Europe in 2040’
2.20 p.m. Dialogue at the ‘tables’ (parallel session with groups’ discussion)
3:20 p.m. Plenary session to gather feedback from the dialogue sessions
Together for Europe in the Netherlands actively supports this initiative, organized by Pax voor vrede en Comité Europadag Utrecht. Hope to see you!
Photos of people: ©Canva
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!
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
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
0043 3842 27 513
0043 664 73577 163
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.
“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.
0043 3842 27 513
0043 664 73577 163
The team of Together for Europe in Styria
Download the invitation (in German):
Photo: Pixabay, Map: by Tschubby – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0
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
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
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)
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. 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)
 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
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
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)
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
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
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
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)
Here the various appointments
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Tuesday, 14 May 8.30 pm prayer for Europe
Download the flyer / poster of the various events (french language):
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)
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
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)
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
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)
In 2019 Elections will be held for the European Parliament. Two weeks earlier, on May 9th, “Europe Day” will be celebrated. If we want to give our contribution to the establishment of a lively Europa with a promising future, we have to get started in time in the various countries and cities.
It seems that Together for Europe is more relevant than ever today, at a time when our continent is facing many challenges. We are convinced that God did not raise this network without a reason.
Europe is on everyone’s lips. But how will it be possible to make our contribution as Christians in the construction of today’s Europe? Our possibilities are limited. And yet it’s the small, but creative and motivated, minorities that can make a difference and contribute to change. For this reason it will be important that we leave our charisms to unfold: Our vocation of unity, our culture of “Togetherness” is today more necessary than ever.
9 May – Europe Day
At the meeting of the ‘Friends of Together for Europe’ in Vienna in 2017, the intent of Jeff Fountain (Netherlands) and of the Italian group, to make May 9th, Day of Europe, a lively event has given rise to much interest. This year, events have already taken place in some regions.
For 2019 it seems important to start including this date in our annual program, to gather locally as Movements and Communities and explore the possibilities of this day. It could also be useful to include other initiatives that are committed to a “Togetherness” in Europe. Two weeks later elections for the European Parliament will take place; there will certainly be favorable pressures and creative ideas. Therefore, in 2019 there is an added value: May 9th should be a day of joy, of celebration, of commitment and of prayer!
Europe needs our prayer.
In addition to the impulses and initiatives already launched , we see our contribution to Europe in prayer as well. After our initiatives in the wake of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, on March 24, 2017, we saw its transforming force. We trust that much will move in heaven and on earth when we pray together in unity for our Continent.
Gerhard Proß, Diego Goller, P. Heinrich Walter
See also: Involve your city>
Foto: ©Ursel Haaf – www.urselhaaf.de
|Convincing the other about one’s own point of view||Exploring and learning together|
|Trying to get the other to agree to it||Sharing ideas, experiences and feelings|
|Choosing the best option||Integrating different view points|
|Justifying, defending one’s own motivations||In-depth understanding of each party’s arguments|
|Disproving the other’s idea, defending one’s own position (values, interests)||Welcoming and understanding the other|
|Individual leadership||Shared leadership|
|Partial vision||Overall vision, synergy of different ideas|
|Hierarchical and competitive culture:
Dependence, competition, exclusion
|Culture of cooperation, partnership and inclusion|
|Victory / loss||Win-win, all participants gain|
See Pal Toth in Nuova Umanità, XXXVII (2015/3) 219, p. 320
Illustration: Walter Kostner ©
A short contribution, seen from an historical perspective, to Europe’s religious foundations and their difficulties
„Not only do books have a destiny but terms do too.” These are the opening words of the extensive History of the West (Geschichte des Westens) published in 2009 by historian Heinrich Winkler. And although Winkler is specifically unpacking the term “the West”, he simultaneously presents arguments which form a basis for reflecting on Europe. The fact that terms and their meanings change can either be comforting, threatening or even a sign of hope which is precisely what is currently happening in Europe. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at his ideas.
Winkler also makes fundamental and noteworthy observations about Europe. Firstly, he states that Europe is still most strongly characterised by its religious nature. This might come as a surprise in view of lay and secular developments but secularisation on this scale can only be understood as a reaction to powerful religious influences which were marked by differences according to divine and temporal order right from the start. This is the historical context in which Europe was born even if Europe’s religious history was consequently one of division.
Secondly, Europe has never gone forward in a linear way. Rather than being a story of uninterrupted success, Europe is a story of fractures, destruction, new beginnings and the perennial dream of a single community of shared values. This community first emerged through “transatlantic collaboration” as Winkler calls it for there can be no Declaration of Human and Civil Rights without the 1776 Declaration of Rights. The perspective is therefore broad.
Thirdly, Europe is also characterised by the “contradiction between the normative project and political practice” (Winkler, 21) which is why its revolutionary goal of freedom and equality was not achieved at the same time. This is ultimately still an ideal today.
What are the consequences? The consequences are either to abandon the revolutionary project of freedom and equality – or to adhere more strictly to its main features. Winkler argues that Europe can “do nothing better to spread its values than follow them itself and be self-critical about its own history which broadly speaking was a story of its own ideals being violated” (Winkler, 24) and still is. This also means: ad fontes! What are the origins of this dream, this revolutionary project – and how can we pursue the dream today? And do spiritual communities and movements have a special part to play?
Sr. Nicole Grochowina
The following text has been published to facilitate those who for “Together for Europe Day”, to be held on 9th May, are considering leading a Round Table discussion aimed at opening up dialogue in “diversity”. Examples might include dialogues between East and West, North and South, or dialogues between members of different Churches, or between believers and non-believers, indigenous and refugees etc…
Europe’s diversified composition
To frame the European situation well, it is useful to bear in mind its geopolitical and cultural reality.
Western Europe is mainly a socio-political concept and it specifically identifies the European countries of the “first world”, the result of a multi-century political, economic, and cultural path, different from the Eastern European one. Today, the term Western Europe is also commonly associated with liberal democracy, capitalism, and even with the European Union, despite the latter’s inclusion of Eastern European countries. Most of the countries in the Eastern regions share the very Western culture that seems to be undergoing a crisis today. And there are differences and tensions within the West as well, for example between the North and the South. Or, let us think of the Church of England, which after Brexit will surely not want to leave Europe but intensify its relations with it.
Eastern Europe is rather a geographical concept, an area articulated by different traditions and problems within its borders. Culturally, it can be largely distinguished between Central Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union countries, and religiously speaking, between the Catholic-Protestant and Orthodox spheres, with consequences on thoughts and actions of its peoples. The common denominator are the post-communist conditions characterized by the social and political troubles of a difficult path to democratization. With the extension of the EU to some Eastern countries, new member States are rapidly adapting to the Western economic and legal system, while cultural approaches are much slower.
Building a culture of encounter before anything else
To achieve a fruitful dialogue between East and West, it is necessary to proceed in degrees and not face problems head-on. According to the Together for Europe journey, condensed in 18 years of experience, and densely expressed in the great event in Munich in 2016, it is necessary to shy away from an attitude of criticism and defense, and promote a culture of encounter, mutual acquaintance, and reconciliation.
Over the last few centuries, the East has looked at the West as a cultural and political model and has developed an understanding of what happens in Western countries, while Eastern Europeans often are painfully faced with the Westerners’ lack of knowledge, and the subsequent misunderstandings. Without Westerners acknowledging the values of the East, there can be no equality or reciprocity. So, we need humility, trust, knowledge, and mutual acceptance.
Consequently, I think that, as a first step, we should promote a culture of encounter, create a platform, a “home” where dialogue is possible. At this stage we could also reflect on our cultural traditions and different reasonings, to prepare for constructive dialogue.
Extract from a talk by Pál Tóth “Culture of encounter and the dialogue between Eastern and Western Europe”, Meeting of ‘Friends’ of Together for Europe – Vienna, 10th November 2017
Jesús Morán is the Co-President of the Focolare Movement: Degree in Philosophy, Doctorate in Theology. Here are his stimulating thoughts, condensed into 7 points, to learn the “language of fraternity”
1. Dialogue is always a personal meeting. It is not about words or thoughts, but about giving our being. It is not just conversation but something that intimately affects the participants. Rosenzweig used to say: “Something really happens in authentic dialogue”. In other words: you do not leave a true dialogue unscathed, something changes in us.
2. Dialogue requires silence and listening. Silence is fundamental for sincere thinking and speaking. A deep silence, patiently cultivated in solitude and put into practice in front of others, of their way of thinking and speaking. A Hindu proverb says: «When you speak, make sure that your words are better than your silence». Benedict XVI said that today more than ever we need, “an ecosystem that knows how to balance silence, words, images and sounds”. In the exercise of dialogue we need silence, so as not to destroy the words themselves.
3. In dialogue we put ourselves at risk, our vision of things, our identity, our culture. We must conquer an “open identity”, which is mature, and at the same time based on a fundamental anthropological axiom: “When we understand each other, I understand better who I am”. Paraphrasing an idea of Klaus Hemmerle: if you teach me your thinking, I can learn my way of announcing again.
4. Authentic dialogue has to do with the truth. But beware: truth is a relational reality (not relative, which is different). It means that the truth is the same for everyone, but everyone shares his personal participation and understanding of the truth with others. So the difference is a gift, not a threat. “The gift of difference” is another pillar of the culture of dialogue.
5. Dialogue requires will. Love of the truth leads me to look for it, to want it, and for this reason I open myself up to dialogue. Sometimes it is thought that to dialogue is weak. In reality it is the opposite: only those who have great willpower take the risk of dialogue. Every dogmatic or fundamentalist attitude hides fear and fragility. We must be wary of those who habitually resort to screaming, to using high-powered words or disqualifying sentences to impose their convictions. Brute force, even on a dialectical level, can win, but never convince.
6. Dialogue is only possible between authentic people. Love, altruism and solidarity prepare people for dialogue by making them authentic. Gandhi and Tagore had a very different idea of the educational system to be established in an independent India, but this did not hinder their friendship. Pope Wojtyla and President Pertini had, over a long period, a deep understanding of the destiny of humanity, yet they adhered to almost opposite categories.
7. The culture of dialogue knows only one law, that of reciprocity. Only in this does dialogue find meaning and legitimacy. If nations were to engage in dialogue before the silent killing of revenge or wealth or personal affirmation, we would enjoy the happiness of which we now deprive ourselves. If religions were to dialogue to honour God; if nations respected one another and understood that their wealth is in making the other rich; if everyone went through a “little personal path” of novelty, we could leave behind the night of terror in which we reel. What are the obstacles on such a path? Judgment, condemnation, intellectual pride.
The work to be done is painstaking because of the commitment it requires, avoiding distraction or compromise, but it is full of culture, much more than a profession. It is a tiring and ruthless activity. But Mercy will save us.
Since its inception 18 years ago the mandate of Together for Europe has been to work for the unity of God’s people. The second mandate is the social dimension of Together for Europe. This mandate is presented with a new challenge today in view of the current crisis in Europe, namely to live constructive, long-term “togetherness” in cultural and national diversity in Europe.
Unity is possible
At the Congress of Together for Europe in 2007 Br Franziskus stated that “Unity and diversity have the same origin.”  Piero Coda said something very similar: “If God is Trinity, unity and diversity are not only not a contradiction but also of the very same origin.”  From the very beginning we identified with an image of unity which explicitly acknowledges and affirms the diversity given to us by God. Smoothing over differences endangers identity and can lead to unity in diversity being destroyed in both political and ecclesial circles.
Unity in reconciled diversity
Because of the many divisions between individuals, Churches and peoples, a reconciliation of opposites is needed to reach a reconciled unity in diversity which also applies to cultural diversity. Reconciliation is needed, rather than condemnation and exclusion. This removes the stumbling blocks along the path towards the future because it removes what poisoned our relationships in the past, so that the stranger, the person who is different is no longer seen a threat but as a gift. As people reconciled in diversity, we experience the richness of diversity. Jesus in the midst is the one who unites. He gives us strength and hope for unity in reconciled diversity because Jesus Christ has reconciled the world with God.
“Togetherness” lived as a prophetic sign
Our togetherness in Europe is lived out in practice through our relationships with one another. We set out towards others. “Togetherness” in Europe allows new relationships to be formed, fosters reconciliation and builds a future. It allows something of God’s nature to be revealed by bringing about unity. It is therefore a prophetic sign.
Prayer brings about change
Prayer is part of Together for Europe’s mission. We do not want to deprive this Europe of our prayers. Prayer brings about change. It changes us, it changes the atmosphere in our own country and in Europe, it changes people’s hearts.
Our hope and our “Yes” to Europe
We are committed to Europe because we have understood this as God’s mandate for us. We say a decisive “Yes” to a Europe of unity as well as cultural and national diversity thereby revealing to us a positive image of Europe. We commit ourselves to a culture of “togetherness” based on Christian faith. Our hope for Europe is expressed in 5 “Yeses”.
We say “Yes” to a Europe of reconciliation
A new Europe has emerged from the miracle of reconciliation following the catastrophe of two World Wars. We receive the power of reconciliation from our Christian faith which enables historical wounds to be healed and leads to “togetherness” in diversity.
We say “Yes” to a Europe of unity in diversity
We recognize that we are enriched by diversity. Multiplicity and diversity have the same roots. Both need to balance each other out. We are glad about those who are different and their charisms. This interplay of charisms serves towards the unity of God’s people and the unity of Europe. We advocate a federal Europe. We treat different backgrounds and perspectives with respect and appreciation.
We say “Yes” to a Europe of encounter, dialogue and peace
Mutual understanding grows from encounters. This is one of our main experiences in Together for Europe. We say “Yes” to a Europe that seeks dialogue and chooses the path of negotiating for different interests. The process of the unification of Europe and the EU gave us 70 years of peace within Europe. Anyone who over-emphasizes national interests will evoke the nationalist demons and will lead the way to the destruction of Europe. Anyone who denies national identity, denies diversity and makes it impossible for a European community to be formed. We encourage open political dialogue which promotes a peaceful Europe.
We say “Yes” to a Europe of mercy and humanity.
Christianity has shaped the history of Europe. It is a faith that is open to the world. Humanity and mercy flow from Jesus Christ, crucified and forsaken and are shaping the continent and both are manifested in an unconditional “Yes” to life, “Yes” to marriage and family, “Yes” to the poor and needy.
Europe is more than the Euro, more than a market economy. We therefore advocate a Europe based on its Christianity-Judaic heritage where openness towards those who think differently and live by a different faith is the norm. This is how the “soul” of Europe is being strengthened.
We say “Yes” to a Europe which over the course of history has been called by God :
Its mission is to foster the collaboration between heaven and earth, to impregnate the world with faith, because heaven and earth have met in the Crucified One. Our mission for Europe also entails responsibility for Africa and the Middle East.
The living God has entrusted a lot to our “togetherness” which is why we want to publicly express our “Yes” to Europe in our movements.
Gerhard Proß, Meeting of ‘friends’ of TfE, Vienna, November 2017 (abridged version)
 “Together on the journey” ISBN 978-3-00-022045-6, Br. Franziskus Jöst at the 2007 T4E Congress in Stuttgart, p. 21
 Piero Coda in “Christian Culture in one Europe” by Hanspeter Heinz [Hrsg], p. 33
 P. Lothar Penners at the European meeting of friends in 2016 in Castel Gandolfo with reference to Pater Kentenich
The European Union is an organisation that is often not seen favourably by the public. Politicians not infrequently criticise it, at times in order to defend their own questionable internal politics.
The European Union cannot be said to be without defects (there are many related to standards, complexities, technocracy and detachment from people…).
In spite of this, thanks to the European Union, Europe has lived peacefully for over 70 years. Robert Schuman, one of “founding Fathers of Europe” and at the time the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, launched the European project on 9th May 1950. Schuman was a well-known figure, a practicing Catholic, who showed a deep spiritual life and great moral values. He was the right person at the right time to work towards French-German reconciliation, a ferocious opponent of the spirit of vindication that was primed to remerge. His view in this respect was contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, which put the end to the Great War.
Originally from Lorraine region, born in Luxembourg and brought up in Germany, he maintained his connection to France. He referred to himself as the ‘man of the border’ and had a vision for Europe. He defined his European ideal in a small book written at the end of his life, entitled “For Europe” which was published in 1963, the year of his death. The book contains his talks and describes his European project and his vision of democracy. Below are some quotations which have been taken from this book.
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Quotations by Robert Schuman
Europe will not be made all at once, or according to single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. (Declaration of 9th May 1950)
Following quotations are from Schuman’s book «Pour l’Europe»
“The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.”
“Europe before being a military alliance or an economic entity must be a cultural community in the highest sense of expression”.
“Political unity does not signify the absorption of the nation.”
“Who does not dare to stand up to that which is bad, defends badly that which is beautiful.”
“Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. It was born the day that man was called to realise in this temporary life, the dignity of each human person, in his individual liberty in the respect of the rights of each and by the practice of brotherly love to all. Never before Christ had comparable ideas been formulated.”
“Have we taken the wrong path? The result will to a large extent depend on the calibre of people before us, the extent of their honesty, the understanding we can gain of them and of their followers.”
“May from henceforth this idea of a reconciled, united and strong Europe become a watchword for the younger generations desirous of serving a humanity free at last from hate and fear.”
“Europe will acquire her soul in the diversity of its qualities and aspirations. The unity of these essential conceptions can be conciliated with the plurality of traditions and convictions and with the responsibility for personal choices. The present arrangement cannot and should not remain a technical and economic enterprise. It requires a soul, the conscience of its historic affinities and its present and future responsibilities, a political will serving the same human ideal.”
“Borders maintain their raison d’être if they can elevate their function to a spiritual level. Rather than barriers that divide, they should become the lines of contact where material and cultural exchange takes place.”
With regards to his Declaration of 9th May Schuman has stated that he made it because of his belief in Europe’s Christian foundations.
by Gérard Testard
When Together for Europe was launched on 31st October 1999 on the day the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed there was a real sense of hope in the air.
It was an important sign of unity after almost 500 years of division. Various spiritual communities and movements from Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church met in the Ecumenical Life Centre in Ottmaring to consider how this fundamental declaration could be received. This declaration had to become more than mere words. It had to have an impact on everyday life. Karl Barth once spoke of Christians carrying a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
Over the centuries since the reformation of Martin Luther and other reformers, serious conflicts have arisen from the divisions and disputes between Christians rendering them unable to fully accomplish their mission as instruments of unity and peace. These splits were a sad sign of weakness in the face of dramatic events which reached crisis levels in the 20th century with the outbreak of two world wars and the abyss of the holocaust.
Nevertheless, Christians were still credible witnesses. When John Paul II announced a Great Jubilee for the Year 2000 he spoke of how today’s Church had again become a church of martyrs and more than ever before. According to the Polish Pope who had experienced the oppression of the Church in his own life, this had become an ecumenical phenomenon. Not only because it affects Christian of all traditions but also because the Christians persecuted in the gulags and concentration camps have already had an experience of unity in suffering which needs to be built on. Andrea Riccardi gives a moving account of this story in his book “Salz der Erde, Licht der Welt”.
The historic signing of the Joint Declaration marked the start of a new story of unity and collaboration. In response to so much division and violence that had originated in Europe the movements wanted to help to build a Europe which works for peace, hospitality and openness. Globalisation has brought about unity in economics, money and communications, yet the soul is missing, the unity of peoples and cultures living together peacefully and openly is missing. This is where the movements recognise their vocation, a second vocation to that of their own charism.
We have experienced various episodes in the story of Together for Europe which is now approached its 20th anniversary. There was the euphoria following the introduction of a single European currency and extension of the European Union to former Eastern bloc countries in 2004 which was tangible at the first major congress in Stuttgart. The movements wanted to strengthen and support the process of European unification since, according to the Christian ideals of the founding fathers of European unification which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in 2017, this process needs spiritual foundations. Europe needs a soul as we continue to emphasise.
There is increasing scepticism regarding Europe. There is the alarming tendency towards isolation, walls are being built and Europe is becoming a fortress which ostracises people and turns them away. Much of European society is in the grip of widespread fear which is also affecting Christians. This dangerous fear has led to a rise in pro-exclusion nationalism, xenophobia and antisemitism and the birth of extreme right-wing and fascist movements which are having an increasing influence on European politics.
So the question of our vocation for togetherness needs to be addressed with greater urgency than before. As conflicts increase, Christians and Christian movements need to deepen their togetherness. Our way has always been marked by hospitality and openness. Unity is only possible by being open with, getting to know and welcoming one another. Audacious and prophetic Christians are needed precisely in this phase of history since the current trends in European society today are dangerous and promote violence. And it is the poor, refugees, foreigners and all those who live on the edges of society who suffer.
Europe Day on the 9th May gives us a unique opportunity to highlight the beauty and enrichment of unity. We can show how diversity, openness, hospitality and welcoming the stranger, rather than being a threat, actually represent an enrichment for everyone. Diverse movements were born from the Gospel, each with their own stories, vocations and charism and no-one is taking anything away from them. Quite the contrary. Through meeting one other we have enriched one other and deepened our own charism. This experience is needed more today than 18 years ago in Ottmaring when we started our journey together.
Matthias Leineweber, catholic pastor
Chiara Lubich, one of the initiators of Together for Europe, spoke several times about the communion between the Movements and Communities of various Churches. An excerpt from a talk she gave to the leaders of Catholic and Evangelical Movements in Munich, on 8th December, 2001, can inspire us.
“The first thing we can ask ourselves is: are the Movements, of the kind we now see present in the main Churches, inventions devised by the Holy Spirit only for this age? Oh no! – we would have to answer – they have always existed, at various times, ever since Christianity was born. Just take a look at our common history of the first millennium, and we already see them appear. What is the reason? We know it. Christianity is present in the world because of faith and the Word lived. And we know how the early Christians lived our religion authentically. But we are also aware of how, over the years, because of the influence of the spirit of the world, not all the baptized have been coherent to the faith and so Christianity languished and became watered down. But since it cannot be extinguished, “the forces of hell will not prevail” (Mt. 16:18), there was a need, so to speak, for the Holy Spirit to give rise to new spiritual currents in the Church, including some very important ones, like those of Basil, Augustine, Benedict, etc. Then there were many others during the second millennium, like that of Francis of Assisi, who had precisely the task of bringing back the authenticity and radicalism of the Gospel to the Church, so renewing it. And it is for this same reason that the Holy Spirit has aroused, today too, our modern Movements. (…) Among many movements an ever deeper community has developed.
And what did we do? We began to live communion in this way. First: by praying for one another; then by encouraging each other, helping each other in difficulties; by making sure that the respective Councils got to know one another; by giving concrete help when others needed something, for example meeting rooms or equipment; by participating and collaborating in each other’s activities; by giving space for presentations of other Movements in our publications, etc. (…)
But here arises a question: how can we make our own this wonderful plan of God, which despite our weaknesses and our failures, foresees a vibrant and ever wider communion in the Church,? It is evident – to create communion everywhere, it would be enough to put into practice the new commandment of Jesus. (…)
“Who can separate us from the love of Christ who has bound us together in this way?” It will be because of this life of communion of ours, which bears witness to the world, that the name of God will come back into fashion in our streets, often frozen by materialism and secularism; in our homes, in our schools, in workplaces, in local government. We already bear witness, especially on the most advanced frontiers, the places where, in general, the Church cannot arrive by normal means, but where our Movements are often present. In fact, the Holy Spirit has called us to this and has therefore made us particularly fit for it. (…)
Because that something which should distinguish us, before the world, is not so much our prayer or other wonderful things like penance, ceremonies, fasts, vigils, moral conduct, etc., what should distinguish us is only our mutual love, unity. Jesus said: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples: if you love one another” (Jn. 13:35). By this and not by anything else, and he also said: “May they be one so that the world will believe” (Jn. 17.21). “
How do you see Europe in the overall context of world politics?
Europe is a continent that people talk about a lot and one that perhaps considers itself to be the centre of the world. Is this a bit selfish? There are other problems in the world than the European ones.
9th May is Europe Day: how would you like this day to be celebrated by Europeans?
By highlighting those things that we as Europeans have in common.
It seems that young people do not show a great interest in Europe’s future. Do you think this is true?
I think this depends on each person. I know that I could take a more active interest myself. I believe that the majority of young people does take an interest – those who are studying, and those who are starting to work for example, because they need to secure a future for their children. Europe is our home now and into the future. At times it appears as though there is no point in taking an interest in politics, because many people who are in positions of power do not set a good example.
What do you think about populist tendencies? How can we make things better together?
I do not like populism. All the slogans in the run up to the elections and then… In what can we put our trust? Who can we believe? I often do not agree with those who are in positions of power, but I am not sure how to make a difference so that justice can win. However, we need to recognise that there are also many positive things happening. Our people want change. I hope that the future will bring positive changes. However we need to start from ourselves, as always. Instead of criticizing others we must give the best of ourselves to our neighbours, family and friends.
Marie Kilbergrová, Czech Republic
Young people don’t seem to be very interested in the future of Europe. What do you think?
I don’t think this is true. Many of them are interested but they are not visible. Only the ones who don’t want Europe to be united are visible. They want to divide us, and they want each country just to look after its own interests. They are the ones who are more active than those who see Europe as united. This has to be the big change for all of us, that we become pro-Europe, for a united Europe.
How do you see Europe in the context of world politics today?
Europe has to show a good example of democracy, unity and mutual cooperation. It needs to show that democracy provides a better way of living.
It’s “Europe Day” on the 9th of May. What does this date mean to you? How would you like Europeans to celebrate it?
It’s an important date for me. It’s a day when everyone should celebrate fact that we live in peace, at least in most of Europe. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will be out celebrating in the squares. Everyone will celebrate in their own way but we should all experience the joy of being a citizen of Europe.
If you were President of the European Commission (that is, if you had a position of influence and responsibility), what would be the main items on your agenda for safeguarding and even promoting unity among the people of Europe?
Firstly, I would tell everyone that, as members of the European Union, we are all equal before the law and have the same rights. Yet in recent years people from certain countries belonging to the European Union have only been able to see the differences – the West as developed and the East as lagging behind. On my agenda I would write: tell the citizens of the EU that we are all equally important and that we all matter.
Does Europe have a future? What contribution do you see churches, movements and the Christian community making, for example, to the future of Europe?
Europe has a great future! Europe is really important for the world and should be an example. It should show that we are united (this is the more difficult part), and it should show that it is capable of welcoming everyone. It’s up to the Churches and Movements to show everyone we are not “hypocrites”, people who say one thing and do another. We have to be open to others and welcome them. This applies not only to immigrants from countries outside the EU, but also to those within the EU. We shouldn’t distinguish between people from Eastern and Western EU.
What do you think of current populist tendencies? It would surely be better to travel together but how … ?
This is one of the most difficult questions at the moment. In the last few years we have seen political parties being elected in almost every European Union country (and further afield) who have succeeded in spreading populist propoganda. This is what happened in Slovakia and it wasn’t just a political party. At the end of February 2018 a journalist and his fiancee were assassinated. He was only 27 years old and had been writing an article exposing a link between the government (various populist parties) and the mafia. As a result, many Slovakians decided to march together, to protest and show that they no longer want these populists. They marched together, peacefully, without violence. They were afraid but without hatred. This is an example of “how” to walk together, being united not only as members of the European Union but as European citizens.
Tomas Angelovic, Slovakia, 27 years old; studies political science; also completed a course of study at Sophia University in Loppiano (Italy).
May 9th is “Europe Day”. What comes to mind when you hear this date? How would you like this day to be celebrated by Europeans?
I see this day as an opportunity for European countries to dare to start transnational actions. We don’t need an elaborate programme, but even for example, a game with the idea of getting to know each other and discovering what we have in common, beyond our differences. This is why we need an informal “place of dialogue”. Feeling the connection between us would already reach this goal.
If you were president of the European Commission, what priorities would you put on the agenda for Europe’s cohesion?
No frontiers between countries. You feel at ease quickly in places to which you can travel with ease. The hospitality of one’s own country in welcoming others is an important premise for mutual understanding and appreciation. I would try to highlight the benefits and the great enrichment of an “open” Europe. This would require concrete examples and the small results already achieved could be made known.
Does Europe have a future? What contribution do you see, for example, from the Churches and the Spiritual Movements and Communities?
Openness and transparency! If the Church communicates openly what she plans to do with money, programmes etc., she will help citizens to trust more. If the Church was recognized as having the role of uniting people, it would be understood that she also contributes to removing borders from people’s hearts. Implement initiatives for young people, create spaces where local people can meet with migrants without propaganda programmes for refugees, but to highlight the multiplicity of countries and the variety of people. Europe has a future if people begin to understand that everyone can be a resource for the other because of our diversity, just use our various skills and abilities in the right way.
How do you see Europe in the context of today’s world politics?
Much has already been achieved in Europe. It is a gift to be able to travel to different countries within Europe and enjoy collaborations that have enabled the exchange of students and the social year of volunteering. These experiences should be made known, so that citizens of different countries can realize that this treasure exists. Europe should show its positive aspects more. We generally have more stable financial security and good social assistance. Should we not be grateful for what we already have?
It seems that young people are not very concerned about the future of Europe. Do you think this is true?
My experience as a young person is that you are often a bit overwhelmed by everything that happens around you all over the world. Only a few, those who have been involved in some way, are interested in politics. There are many problems in the world that young people cannot solve (at least so they think) and therefore they get involved more readily in things that promise immediate and visible results. Politics is often too complicated and sometimes uses language that is not accessible to most people. For young people there should be more incentives to take an interest in politics, with the prospect of being able to change something.
What do you think about populist tendencies? Would not it be better to walk together?
Given that today we are dominated by capitalism (I speak now of Germany), it is almost impossible that there are no populist tendencies. We tend only to want to obtain more and more profit, without taking into account the weakest. People who look only for profit cannot see any profit in supporting the weaker, because this takes time, work and commitment. The middle class is disappearing and the gap between rich and poor is widening. A cohabitation would be possible, but it must be understood that one can obtain profit even with different abilities. Maybe the profit will be lower, but you gain in human relationships, health, values etc. First of all we must understand that, by thinking only of ourselves, we can no longer be happy; that people who have less, but who can rely on each other, have found a very precious treasure.
Katharina is 24 years old and a teacher. She has work experience with migrants and currently lives in Nuremberg (Germany)
If you were President of the European Commission (in other words if you had both the responsibility and the decision-making power), what priorities would be on your agenda to maintain and increase unity of peoples in Europe?
I believe the most urgent reform to be advanced on a European level is neither economic nor political in nature, but cultural. What is needed is to gather detailed information on the functioning of European institutions, as well as to source a substantial level of funding for programmes that explore our choice of coming together as one European entity as well as the historical significance of the European integration experiment. Investment in the field of culture (music, art, cinema) and targeting a young audience, is also fundamental. We need to create an awareness and feeling of belonging as European citizens.
How do you see the Churches and Christian Movements and Communities making their contribution to the future of Europe?
Christian Communities have the potential to contribute to the foundations on which the European project might rest in the future. The Christian message of community, social solidarity, civic responsibility which go hand in hand with spiritual growth as intended in the Christian religion is the foundation of our coming together united in our diversity. Europe was born from a vision of great statesmen who shared this spirit of brotherhood. It is this dimension which needs to be rediscovered.
by Federico Castiglioni (Rome, 17/11/88). Holds a Degree in Political Science and is currently pursuing a PhD in European and International studies at the University of Rome III. Federico has published a number of academic and lay articles on the theme of European topicality and the role of the European Union in a globalised world. He is also responsible for External Relations in the Italian section of JEF (Young European Federalists).