Category Archives: Experiences, reflections and interviews

A fresh breeze sweeps over ‘Together for Europe’

A fresh breeze sweeps over ‘Together for Europe’

The Steering Committee of Together for Europe (TfE) met in Munich  

The Munich YMCA hosted the annual gathering of the TfE Steering Committee which was attended by 20 members and several invited guests, from 27 to 29 April 2022.

The participants experienced a wave of fresh air that was brought about by the young adults belonging to the European Network of Communities (ENC), the YMCA, the Focolare and the Schönstatt Movements: they wanted to reflect with the first generation of the network upon the future of ‘Together’. The guests carried out their task with delicacy and respect. Mária Špesová (ENC) from Slovakia said: “In TfE I see something sacred that grew in these 20 plus years. I feel invited to enter this rich experience on my tiptoes”. Also, Georges El Hage (Syndesmos): “Here I feel free to express my thoughts and people listen attentively. We are welcomed with great trust”.

Program

The program of these days included numerous spiritual inputs, prayers and a lively exchange of ideas. The recurrent topic was the war in Ukraine. During the first evening, several persons from Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia were linked via zoom to share their experiences of practical help.  An Italian participant affirmed: “We are seeing the birth of a new Europe based on solidarity”. And Zsuzsanna Klemencz (Sant’Egidio/Hungary) stated: “We ought to disarm ourselves and let others disarm us. How? By putting aside our arrogance and our hatred”. According to this Hungarian, this is what true disarmament means; this will give rise to a “peaceful people”, disarmed to win the war. Franꞔois Deloors (Sant’Egidio/Belgium) added: “This is the attitude that we strive to constantly put in practice between us, and thus, as TfE, we can offer it to Europe and the entire world”.

Porto 2022 and Timisoara 2023

“Here I feel at home” was the comment offered by Clotilde Pestana of the Schönstatt Movement. She travelled to Munich with another member of the National Committee of Portugal to help out in the preparation for the “Meeting of the Friends” scheduled for November 2022 in Porto. “Portugal has a lot to offer to Europe: openness, hospitality and a rich culture”. These are but a few of the reasons to hold the 2022 ‘Meeting of the Friends” in the Country on the far western side of Europe.

In 2023, the ‘Meeting of the Friends’ will be held in Romania, in  Timisoara. Ilona Toth of the Steering Committee updated us regarding the many conversations and meetings she had in Romania. The encounter with the Orthodox world and the multicultural reality of Eastern Europe, among others, require a detailed and in-depth preparation.

Witnesses for humanity

During the meeting it became ever more clear that TfE, faced with the great sufferings in Europe and in the world, is called to support the “incomplete” and to go down the rifts of humanity, which are injustice, hatred and war.

Thomas Römer (YMCA Munich) underlined: “Indeed, most probably we are living through a change of epoch, an epochal upheaval, so to speak. Let’s not allow evil to win, but let’s defeat it with good”.

As Römer noted, death and resurrection are entwined in the history of humanity. He was introducing the participants to the renewal of the Pact of Mutual Love, based on Jn 13, 34. With fraternal encounters with the Risen Lord in the midst, TfE continually witnesses hope for humanity.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Diego Goller / Group photo: Thomas Barthel, YMCA Munich

Fundamentally changed

Fundamentally changed

The character of the Church 3.0  

 “The character of the Church 3.0, and thus even the character of our 200-strong meeting, has completely changed once Ukraine was attacked. All nice thoughts were swept away; at Baar we became aware that this is not a time for nice and important words. Rather, it is a time in which the people of God, and therefore even the Church, ought to gather in prayer. Reunited once again. Existentially reunited. And the prayers need to go beyond all boundaries.

Some days ago, during the prayer session that involved more than a thousand persons, we promised to “keep on praying”. And this is what we are doing: last week Austria continued to pray, and now it is us in Switzerland that came together to pray. Whenever Communities and Movements come together, there is a lot of power…

Undauntedly, all political meetings are important and necessary. However, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters recently prayed, also beseeching the transformation of hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, go hand in hand. It moves side by side and it helps.

A praying and communitarian Church

We became aware that the Church 3.0 is a Church that prays. It is a communitarian Church because it prays of behalf of others, and its vitality comes from the charisms and not from numbers and structure. It is a wounded Church, and for this reason she relies upon God’s compassion – and not only for herself.

Therefore we prayed, and we experienced something of the new form of the Church. There was a feeling of a new beginning. We were conscious that in our prayer, words and actions, we were journeying with and Ukrainian brothers and sisters. In our prayers we included our confusion, fear and lack of words. Something will grow out of the ashes.

Right now, let there be peace: just peace and the possibility to protect persons. It’s quite sad to see persons being used as power pawns. And it is even sadder when their life is taken away for this reason. We hope that the power that we felt here during our meeting may bring about peace and life in the world”.

See in the document archive: “Being Christians in a post-Church society” (official report of the Swiss working group)

Source: miteinander-wie-sonst.ch

Photo: Fokolar-Bewegung Schweiz; Dialoghotel Eckstein

 

Step by Step – Encounter by Encounter

Step by Step – Encounter by Encounter

The coming together of groups and charisms stimulates a new form of Church

Something great, beautiful, undiscovered lies in every charismatic break-up. The initiative group of German-speaking Schoenstatters of Together for Europe became aware of this during the weekend of February 19-20, 2022, in Augsburg and Munich. They dared to knock on doors and entered into encounters with generations and charisms.

On Friday afternoon we met in the Prayer-House in Augsburg. The prayer room on the second floor is flooded with light and bright, centered towards a small wooden cross hanging from the ceiling in front of a white background. In the front, the band with well-chosen voices is singing antiphons of the first two verses of Psalm 50 and their alternate singing moves into a deepening conversation about these Bible verses – enlightening and leading to inner worship.

On Saturday afternoon we were at the Schoenstatt Centre in Munich. 4 young adults from YMCA Munich and the Focolare Movement came along with experienced people from the same movements, who discovered their life’s theme in Together for Europe.

Our goals: We pay attention to the intuition of the young adults present / We meet different generations and charisms / We share faithful interpretations of our encounter. Our finding: Together for Europe is a promise that allows us to discover a new design of Church. Each of these movements is a light inflamed by the Holy Spirit. If they step up to each other, an undiscovered land becomes visible, a Church that builds itself from churches, step by step, encounter by encounter.

On Sunday, in the rooms and during the church service of the Christian church “Vineyard Munich”, we witnessed people telling their stories of how God is acting concretely in their lives. How beautiful to know that every Sunday Christians are getting in contact with the God of life.

The pact of mutual love can be concretized in reaching out to groups and charisms that are strange to us, who are searching for God in their lives. The pact can be of central help in jointly grasping a new form of Church.

P. Hans-Martin Samietz

Photo: Gebetshaus.org / schoenstatt-muenchen.de

Hopeful Initiatives

Hopeful Initiatives

Great preoccupations for peace: Europe prays and keeps on hoping

Many initiatives of prayer imploring peace are multiplying all over the Continent, starting from the Countries that are directly involved.

Our network Together for Europe, too, has rallied in this sense and has adhered to this great current of prayer for peace.

We would like to point out this initiative: an evening during which we can meet, understand better and pray. We will be linked to some Ukrainian brothers and sisters, to listen to them and pray together for peace (in German and English)

Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 7 p.m. – 8.30 p.m. (CET) via Zoom

(One needs to register at this address: mfe2021@web.de)

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Ilona Toth 

Co-founders of a modern Europe

Co-founders of a modern Europe

The European Conference on the future of the Continent

How can one bring together 446 million persons for an exchange of ideas? The European Commission and the European Parliament have launched a digital platform to allow communication between those living in Europe. The aim of the Conference is to formulate by 2022 new responses for the future of Europe and to trace the next steps toward European integration.

This Conference is a sign of the times. The future of Europe does not depend solely on politicians; indeed, more than ever before, it depends upon the responsibility of each person.

The dialogue between European citizens started on 19 April 2021 on the online platform futureu.europa.eu. All inputs are being collected, evaluated and published in 24 official languages. This applies also for discussions regarding reform proposals.

The topics are divided into 10 categories:

  • Climate change and the environment
  • Health
  • A stronger economy, social justice and employment
  • The EU in the world
  • Values and rights, rule of law, security
  • Digital transformation
  • European democracy
  • Migration
  • Education, culture, youth and sport
  • Other ideas

The Conference will go on till Spring of 2022, when a commission will synthesize the final results in a report and examines how they can be put into practice in a concrete manner.

Together for Europe invites you to participate in the Conference either as a private person, or as a group in a city or as a national Committee. In this way we can put forward ideas, desires and concrete proposals for the future of Europe based on the experience of Together, which is rich in Christian values.

For further information: futureu.europa.eu

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Pixabay.com

Dreams and visions

Dreams and visions

This is what the students of a Roman college had to say regarding the future of the Continent: active citizenship in Europe starts with education!

That’s quite true, and easily shown through facts! “Your elders shall have dreams, and your young people shall have visions” (Joel 3,1). When teachers offer stimuli, present ideals and reveal prospectives, young people are able to respond with enthusiasm, perspicacity and creativity. This is the case of the students of the Augusto College in Rome and their teacher Maria Paola Aloi (who supports Together for Europe).

While involved in a project regarding active citizenship in the European Union, they have identified and carefully analyzed several hot issues with the aim of putting forward solutions. Listening to a piece of classical music, the young people saw in it the metaphor of harmony in diversity in a European context, which is a shared symphony. Through a play about a girl on a boat moving toward the unknown, they censured the on-going terrible tragedies on our seas.

While delving into the myth of Europe, they recognized the roots of a culture that, in its DNA, has hospitality and the welcoming of those travelling or migrating. Using an imaginary videogame entitled ‘The Game’, they facilitated a reflection about the migrants moving along the Baltic Route. They have shown great clearness of mind when they wrote a fictitious letter to David M. Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, in which they outlined a strategic plan regarding the ‘humanitarian corridor’ based on: Prevention, Rescue, and Welcome.

These initiatives were among those held in other colleges on May 10 to celebrate the Feast of Europe. Then they were shared on June 3 during a meeting on the platform Meet; taking part were members of the Italian network of Together for Europe (8 Italian cities; 6 Movements that adhere to Together for Europe). Irene Loffredo (Focolare), a young woman from Pozzuoli (Naples), spoke on behalf of a group that provides voluntary service at a local prison. The group is made up of members of diverse Movements and Churches. Their endeavour brought about enhanced humanization and changes. Aldo Bernabei (Followers of St Catherine) expounded the plans of the EU regarding the Erasmus project and the European Corps of Solidarity: the latter will see about 270,000 young people involved in activities of solidarity in the next few years.

We now hope to be able to propose this initiative to schools in other cities; we intend to contact teachers and to propose twinning of classes. Moreover, we will offer the help of those involved in this experience.

The European Offices in Milan and Rome were informed about this initiative. They jointly expressed their congratulations for the great commitment and care shown in the various projects that were carried out.

Dolores Librale and Ada Maria Guazzo

Photo: Pixabay

Faithfulness to the future

Faithfulness to the future

Christmas is round the corner. This year’s will be extraordinary under many aspects, because humanity is still dealing with COVID-19. On March 27, 2020, in an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has prayed in St Pater’s Square for the end of this pandemic. The words of the Bishop of Rome seem to be relevant as never before.  

Herbert Lauenroth, a member of the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe, wrote an empathetic introduction to the Pope’s words for the prayer session during the meeting of the ‘Friends of TfE which was held on November 14, 2020. His perspective leads us to “consolidate our own interiority […] without, however, closing ourselves inside our own home or our own identity”.  (The complete text of the prayer, with the intercessions, can be downloaded from the bottom of the page).

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The Lord is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made (Ps 145, 8-9). The words of the psalmist lead us into this space of God; a God who wants to be recognized and implored in all his passion, his com-passion, patience and mercy, in the fidelity of his love – a Creator of all his creatures and of all creation – , which is always a ‘faithful creativity”, a “faithfulness in the future”.

Let us stand around that frail man, clothed in white, who looks somewhat lost in that immense St Peter’s Square, which was completely empty, under an insistent rain that came down on that Friday evening of March 27. Together with him let us look at the “Eternal City”, which, albeit marvellous, seems empty, abandoned, and closed in its historical sites, in its monuments, mausoleums, museums, homes, palaces, places of worship, streets and squares. All empty. Let’s stand around that one man clothed in white, whom we recognize as to be the Bishop of Rome, and therefore, our brother; that evening, however, he was also: a shepherd without his flock, “a last man standing”. Together with him, let’s give visibility to communion in Christ; together with him, let’s beseech the Real Presence of the Lord: in the midst of our communities, the various denominations, nations and as members of ethnic and cultural realities; in our midst, in the midst of humanity, and by doing so, let us, together with Pope Francis bless” –“urbi et orbi” – the city of Rome and all the cities, our Countries and the whole of Europe, a Europe that is concerned with the entire world.

Yes, let us stand around the Bishop of Rome, whom we recognize as our brother, and pushed by the COVID-19 experience, let us give visibility to the Christian Community, a community that in this time of pandemic is characterized as an experience of a Co-Immunity; a communion that comes about – paradoxically – from the regulations and experiences of “social distancing”. At a time of enhanced global communion, this crisis brutally reminds us of the necessity to consolidate our interiority, our belonging to our own Church, family, vocation and personal history – without, however, closing ourselves inside our own homes or in our own identity. It is only thus that we can rediscover our true roots, our common belonging: that of being brothers and sisters, all equal for the fact that we are unique, intimately linked and yet completely distinct from each other: we are all brothers and sisters – in Christ!

Let us, therefore, gather around as a praying community so as to resound the words of Pope Francis, and to give them meaning and efficiency; words addressed to God, in the name of the people of God, through Jesus, through Jesus in our midst, through Jesus forsaken by the Father, whose mercy and com-passion were highlighted by the words of the psalmist.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The Lord is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made (Ps 145, 8-9).

2020 11 14 TfE Prayer in the evening_Herbert Lauenroth (675.8 KB, 44 downloads)

Looking at “the score” from Above

“The music score is written in heaven; let us listen together to the Holy Spirit and then let us do what he says”. This is how Chiara Lubich defined precisely the beginning of Together for Europe (TfE). The initiators of TfE dedicated themselves unreservedly to this program. Some have already reached their final destination: Chiara Lubich (1920-2008) and Helmut Nicklas (1939-2007). Recently they were joined by Sr Anna Maria aus der Wiesche (1952-2020) and last year by Fr Michael Marmann (1937-2019).

They were persons who were so deeply rooted in their respective Church and Community that they could trustily allow the Holy Spirit to guide them into the vastness of Together for Europe. Indeed, TfE knows its existence and achievement to their courageous witnessing, trust and farsightedness.

Sr ANNA MARIA AUS DER WIESCHE, Communität Christusbruderschaft Selbitz  was a woman who, albeit sweet, was indomitable, determined and prophetically gifted [1]

Gerhard Pross, a member of the Steering Committee of TfE, writes:

Sr Anna Maria left us on August 31, 2020. It is with profound gratitude that I look back on her contribution, which lasted 20 years, toward the moulding of TfE. In the year 2000, in Germany, together with Thomas Roemer and myself, she chaired a “Meeting of Evangelical leaders”; on that occasion, Chiara Lubich and Bishop Ulrich Wilckens facilitated the great event of reconciliation between the various Confessions. Besides its birth on October 31, 1999 at Ottmaring, this was a fundamental stage for TfE and for its mission of unity. Since the very beginning, Sr Anna Maria was part of the Steering Committee of TfE; together with others she chaired the great Congresses held in Stuttgart in 2004 and 2007, as well as the reconciliation gathering between the Churches during the Munich event in 2016.

She possessed an innate aptitude for leadership. Apart from a clear vision and the capacity to integrate, she also had a well-defined spiritual vision. One of her gifts was the love of persons: she made her closeness felt to individuals, while, at the same time, she was aware of the bigger picture. Her thoughts and actions were moulded by her donation to God, her love for the Church and a life spent for unity. She discerned the signs of the times very carefully and she was always ready to welcome the common listening of what was important at that moment. Her positive outlook on life, her joy and her laughter were contagious. Sr Anna Maria leaves behind a great void. Let us keep her in our heart as a sign of our gratitude for all that we received through her.

Fr MICHAEL MARMANN – a man of communion, strong and free [2]

 Just before the first great manifestation of TfE in Stuttgart in 2004, Fr Marmann stated: “We feel that this process in action in Europe is a clear sign of times. And the signs of times are God’s voices. Christianity cannot be solely a religious superstructure: it has to embrace the whole person”. In 1991, he was elected Superior General of the Schoenstatt Fathers, and, at the same time, he was also president of the General Presidium of the Movement. In this capacity, he was a pioneer of ecumenical openness and communion between Movements of diverse Churches. “He had a natural openness for an enhanced communion between spiritual Movements, especially in the network ‘Together for Europe’ (…). He was strongly convinced that the unity of the Churches and their reawakening is a decisive condition for a new vital bond between the autonomous and fragmented world and its infinite origin.[3]

In him, Fr Heinrich Walter, saw a ‘prophetic’ attention and sympathy; “by ‘prophetic’ I mean a response to today’s challenges that goes beyond expectations, brings about synergies and triggers off un-hoped for processes[4]This happened even after the Pentecost vigil with John Paul II in St Peter’s square in 1998: Fr Michael immediately joined Chiara Lubich, Andrea Riccardi, Salvatore Martinez and Frances Ruppert (Cursillos de Cristiandad) to form the first nucleus of communion that the Pope wished to see between New Movements and Communities. The following year, the circle was enlarged with the members of the Communities of the Lutheran Evangelical Church: and ‘Together for…’ was born!

In 2001, a meeting was held in Munich to update the members of the Movements about the strong experience that their leaders had done. In front of 5000 persons, Chiara proposed to the audience to seal a pact of mutual love. The first to agree were Helmut Nicklas and Fr Michael Marmann. This ‘pact’ has become the basis of all that has been achieved since then through a common commitment. Thank you Father Michael!

For more information see the Video Story >>

Compiled by Cornelia Karola Brand, international secretariat of TfE

[1] From the letter of condolences of Herbert Lauenroth, Ottmaring
[2] cfr. Ekklesia, n.4 (2019/3), S.51-53
[3] Obituary by Fr Theo Breitinger, Provincial of the Schoenstatt Fathers, February 2019.
[4] cfr. Ekklesia, n.4 (2019/3), S.51-53
Political projects need to be spiritually nurtured

Political projects need to be spiritually nurtured

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

Letter Of The President Of European Parliament David Maria Sassoli To TfE 2020 07 09 (3.0 MB)

 

 

A special event

A special event

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.

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 in English in documents.

Sr. Nicole Grochowina, Christusbruderschaft Selbitz

Photo Pope Francis: Pixabay/Manfred Kindlinger

 

Young people, be responsible

Young people, be responsible

Europe for the future – Future for Europe. František Talíř is 27; when he speaks about democracy and reforms, his enthusiasm is contagious.  

“Since 1989, we have experienced the freshness of democracy and freedom even in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Joining the EU as well as travelling and working in other Countries bear witness to this. It must be borne in mind, nevertheless, that the Countries that used to form part of the Eastern Block have a different mentality and culture than that of the Western European ones. Co-habitation is still marked by tensions, and, now, Covid-19 has shown that our privileges are not that evident”.

František is a historian and much involved in politics. At the last elections, his party chose him as a candidate for the European Parliament in Brussels, and in the next regional elections he will be the main candidate for the Christian Democratic Union of Slovakia.

“Above all, we young people ought to be interested in what happens in Europe and in the world, and then take initiatives, for example, to vote or to be active in a political party. It’s not democracy that needs to be changed, but the persons who shape democracy”. According to František, the journey is a long one; however, what is important is to start with one’s self, and not try unloading one’s responsibility on others. “I do not subscribe to all that Fridays for Future entails. Nevertheless, the young people succeeded to highlight a problem and to elicit a reaction from persons of all generations”.

František Talíř invites all persons to be aware of their roots in order to give a future to Europe. “I’ve read what the Father Founders of Europe wrote. Adenauer, De Gasperi and Schuman faced by far greater difficulties following the Second World War than the ones we are facing today. And yet, together, they did great things”.

Beatriz Lauenroth

František Talíř took part in the meeting of  ‘Friends ofTogether for Europe’ that was held in Prague in 2018.

The entire interview of František Talíř with Maria Motykova is available (In Czech, Slovak and German) on: Podcast Europa per il futuro – Futuro per l’Europa

 

 

An epochal challenge for Europe

An epochal challenge for Europe

Letters from Together for Europe to the E.U. and the Vatican

It is a crucial moment for Europe and the European Union, requiring concerted action. For this reason Together for Europe has written to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council (David Sassoli, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel) to thank them for their work, and to support them in their decisions in the fight against Covid-19.

To quote from the letter: “… at this time, we want to work and pray for the whole of Europe and for solidarity in Europe. We are convinced that Europe’s future – and that of the world – has be worked out together. Even now Europe can lead by example. And in the midst of the enormous challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we ask you not to forget the refugees and asylum seekers at the borders of the European Union. Please take timely measures to help and – as far as possible – welcome those people.”

Another letter has been sent to Pope Francis. On Easter Sunday, he specifically invited the world to face the pandemic together. The Steering Committee of Together for Europe assured the Holy Father of their support and commitment. “In particular, we feel challenged by your special appeal to the European Union to find a positive way forward in this epochal challenge, knowing full well that «not only its future, but that of the whole world could depend on it». Furthermore, “We firmly support your call and renew our commitment in many parts of Europe to   give further proof of solidarity also by resorting to alternative solutions.”

Beatriz Lauenroth

 

Photo Von der Leyen / Sassoli:  © European Union 2019 – Source: EP / CC BY  /
Photo Michel:  Belgian Federal Government //premier.fgov.be/nl/biografie
Photo Pope Francis: //www.korea.net/
Following in the Founding Fathers’ footsteps

Following in the Founding Fathers’ footsteps

23 February 2020: Intergenerational Day in Brussels. 51 European citizens  – young and old – members of two diverse Communities, which are part of the network Together for Europe, share a “discovery tour” of significant places.

Agnès Grenier writes from Brussels:

“During the Ottmaring meeting that marked the 20th anniversary of Together for Europe, I came to know Pierpaolo of the Pope John XXIII Community. Pierpaolo has recently asked me to help organize a guided visit to our city for a group of 51 young and older persons from all Europe. Philippe and I, members of the Focolare Movement, immediately accepted to act as guides. In spite of the rainy and cold weather, we did our best to help our new friends discover some aspects of the European realities present in the Belgian Capital City.

For example, in the Parlamentarium we could follow the various stages of the integration of Europe; we also saw how the European Parliament functions and understood better the work that the MEPs carry out to face today’s challenges. We were all struck by the complexity of this structure and we understood how great and fundamental the intuition of the Founding Father of the European Union was to build new relationships of collaboration and trust between the various European Nations.

We then visited the Grande Place/Grote Markt, the historical City centre of Brussels. For many centuries it was the venue of political meetings, court sittings, cultural and religious festival, and even where capital punishments were carried out.

At the end of the day we felt enriched with so much history. Above all, however, we felt that the bonds that link the Focolare Movement and the Pope John XXIII Community have been strengthened: we felt as if we were one family. Together, we have enlivened a small expression of the European Union!”

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: ©Matteo Santini; Photo Planetarium: Wikipedia

Schönstatt visits the International Centre  of the Focolare Movement

Schönstatt visits the International Centre of the Focolare Movement

Some time ago, before the covid-19 emergency, leaders of the Schönstatt Movement coming from seven European Countries have visited the International Centre of the Focolare Movement in Rocca di Papa, near Rome. They came from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The group was accompanied by Fr Heinrich Walter, a former president of the General Presidium of Schönstatt and a member of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe.

The main objective of the visit was to “encounter Chiara Lubich”: they visited the places where she had lived and they also prayed at her tomb. Another objective was to hold a dialogue with some leaders at the Focolare Centre; one of these was Jesús Morán, the Co-president. They discussed the role of the Movements and their charisms in a context of ecclesial, political and cultural transformations in Europe. They also looked at the importance of the communion between the Movements, especially as part of the ecumenical network Together for Europe.

Both groups shared the view that the meeting and the dialogue were cordial, precious and fruitful. Obviously, this was yet another step forward in the long journey of communion and collaboration that Schönstatt and the Focolare have shared since Pentecost Eve of 1998 in St Peter’s Square, Rome, during the meeting for New Movements and Communities organized by John Paul II.

Diego Goller

 

STOP!

STOP!

Encountering Chiara Lubich to celebrate her birth centenary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ilona Toth

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

 

A young Irishman’s impressions

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

Christian Churches and Movements unite to be Together for Europe

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

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

What does togetherness look like?

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

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

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

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

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

4what?

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

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

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

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

“It was like Easter”

Larisa Musina is an Orthodox Christian and she is the pro-rector of the Educational Institute ‘St Fileret’. Last November, Larisa took part in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Together for Europe at Augsburg (Germany) representing the ‘Orthodox Transfiguration Brotherhood’.

During the Meeting, we also remembered the historical signing of the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’ of October 30, 1999; that same day the ecumenical network TfE was born as a concrete response to the thirst for unity felt by all Christians.

Following are some excerpts of the interview Larisa Musina gave to Oleg Glogolev on her return to Moscow.

“The Lutheran Bishop Christian Krause participated at this Meeting; he is one of the two signatories of the 1999 Declaration since he was the President of the World Lutheran Federation. He spoke about two important things: first, that the road leading to the Declaration was far from easy. Many great efforts were needed so that the XXth century may end without leaving such a significant division for future generations. Secondly, Bishop Krause expressed his great appreciation for the work carried out by the ecclesial Movements and Communities.

This dialogue and the associated processes originated, and are still developing, within the context of renewal of the ecclesiastic life. The aim is to maintain the authenticity of the Christian Church, while developing her capacity to fulfil her own vocation in the world. It’s interesting to note that it is the ecclesial Movements that are at the forefront of this initiative.”

Commenting upon the solemn conclusive evening, Larisa said: “In the evening we prayed together in the Lutheran church of St Anne, the same Church where the Declaration was signed. This was followed by candle-lit procession to the nearby square. We thanked God for his gifts, including the gift of Christian unity, of which many shared their experience. Then, still holding our lit candles, we walked toward the city. It was like Easter.”

The participants went back home with the light of the Risen One in their heart, ready to take God to the Nations.

Edited by Beatriz Lauenroth

Source: //psmb.ru/a/eto-bylo-kak-na-paskhu.html

 

 

Europe’s splendour is its people

Preparing the ground for reconciliation.

Walter Kriechbaum is an Evangelical Pastor and secretary of the YMCA of Bavaria. He has a soft spot for Europe and takes reconciliation seriously. To this end he has established friendships even in Poland and Ukraine within the international and ecumenical network Together for Europe

As a German, in my travels in Eastern Europe I’m often reminded of the historical cruelties. Once, while in the company of Polish friends, I found myself speechless at Lutsk (Ukraine), the place that commemorates the thousands of Poles that were mercilessly murdered. The same thing happened in a cemetery in the middle of one of the greatest battle fields of World War Two. All of a sudden, my friends asked me, a German and a member of the Evangelical Church, to pray upon the dead and ask for forgiveness and peace for our peoples of Europe”. Walter Kriechbaum experienced that living reconciliation together may entail, among other things, journeying with others along the pathway of affliction, taking upon oneself the sufferings of the others. Ecumenical reconciliation entails evaluating the gifts of the others and creating space for their development. Walter considers the suffering of an incomplete unity as a seed for the future.

Reconciliation does not require proportional representation

Munich 2016: During an ecumenical prayer meeting for the unity of Europe organized by Poles and Germans together, some twenty Russians entered the church unexpectedly. Water was leading the prayers together with a Polish friend, and for an instant was at a loss how to manage the new situation. Then he asked one from the Russian group to come forward and pronounce a prayer. At the end the participants – Catholics, Protestants, members of the Free Churches and Russian Orthodox – received a blessing from a Polish priest of the Schoenstatt Movement. Walter: “I learned that ecumenical reconciliation does not require either proportionality or deciding who is right. Jesus Christ dwells in the other’s heart and in a fantastic way he transforms diversity into a complementary, without any cancellations”.

Reconciliation requires trust

During his many travels in Eastern Europe Walter continues to weave a friendship net:  “This, however, demands patience and perseverance. Sometimes it takes years to eliminate distrust. I have understood that the ecumenical experience “in the periphery” means feeling close and far away at the same time, and to be able to tolerate tension. When all of us turn our gaze upon Jesus, an interior closeness slowly develops. This cannot be forced; it is God’s work”. Walter is convinced that the mutual trust that ensues allows persons to speak freely and to experience an interior freedom.

Reconciliation requires that we be detached

According to Walter “reconciliation and ecumenical harmony cannot be organized. We ought to be detached all the time, and keep on entering into the Kairos of God. Only he knows the right time”. Nevertheless, we may prepare for this. “Together we will succeed to make Europe to shine. Its splendour is its people that are journeying toward reconciliation”.  Walter is convinced of this and lives for it – starting anew each day.

Beatriz Lauenroth

The vocation of Ottmaring

VIDEO – INTERVIEW  

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

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

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

 

Enjoying the beauty of truth

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

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

Photo: Diego Goller

Facing the great global challenge

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

The report is by journalist Claudia Di Lorenzi

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

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

Honourable Sassoli, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which marked the beginning of the European Union, many point out that Europe has lost its Christian roots, placing too much emphasis perhaps on finance, bureaucracy and national interests, incapable of showing solidarity and welcome, or encouraging development focused on the human person. What do you think?

“It is important that Christians make themselves heard more; there should be networks among Christians which would provide a witness and example to others. There is no doubt, values such as peace, co-existence, solidarity and justice, which are of Christian origin, are today also considered as paradigms of political, cultural and moral commitment by citizens who are not themselves Christian. These are the key values that constitute our European identity: something Christians ought to be happy with, because within what is considered the European identity, as such, are these definitely Christian values. What needs to be done now is to explain all this well to the European citizens. Currently the idea of Europe frightens and makes people anxious. It appears burdensome; instead we need to show the value of unity to the peoples of Europe. What is also at stake here, the challenge for this Century, is to shape a global market. Globalisation without rules leads to marginalisation, poverty and misery, and environmental catastrophes. The great challenge Europe continues to face is to give rules and values to the world. Market rules which do not successfully safeguard human rights, freedom and democracy would be merely economic laws allowing the stronger to win, and this is not what we want. So, the challenge is this: Christian values which are at the basis of European identity today must provide the key elements to face this great global challenge”.

Read the full interview>>

Photo: ©Thomas Klann

Seeking together

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

Foto: © Maria Kny

Bearers of hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarita and Edgardo Fandino, Bogotá/Columbia

 

Voices from Prague – part 2

Voices from Prague – part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth prevails

Europe lives from the ideas it was born from.

In preparation for the upcoming meeting of Friends of Together for Europe, we asked Jiři Kratochvil from Prague and expert in intercultural dialogue the following three questions.

The next appointment of Friends of Together for Europe will take place in Prague, the land of the ‘Hussites’, ‘Prague Spring’ and the ‘Velvet Revolution’. The great history of the Czech nation will become a backdrop to the ensuing dialogue at this meeting. How can we best approach this great history with an aim to understand it better?

It is a troubled history, characterised by great idealistic and spiritual awakenings, by a search for justice and truth which often ended with disappointment and disillusion. This applies to all three historical moments referenced in your question. Firstly, the Hussite movement born from the ashes of Jan Hus who was burned at the stake in 1415, and who was considered by his followers as a martyr for the Truth. Unfortunately, the ensuing wars which bore witness more to power than truth laid waste to the country. Several centuries later, in 1968, in a similar fashion, the main actors of the “Prague Spring”, with what seemed like the whole nation behind them, sought to establish a form of socialism with “a human face”. This new regime strove to shed the lies and cruelty of the previous era. Sadly, this new hope was dashed in the tracks left by the tanks and stagnated into a general collective resignation, which not even the heroically sacrificial gesture of Jan Palach, a student who burned himself alive in protest, was capable of ending.

Finally, the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 which many of us remember clearly, was carried ahead by the slogan of its main protagonist Vaclav Havel “Love and Truth will overcome lies and hatred”. No one however expected the hard battle that followed. The spiritual values of the first months which were so strongly felt in the mass demonstrations in the squares slowly receded and were replaced by the pragmatism of the “technology of power”.

The flag of the president of the Czech Republic reads “Truth Prevails” however, two words have been left out from the original version of this quotation which was “Truth of God Prevails”. We are certain that His Truth will win at the end of History. However, before that happens, it must be dealt many blows as history, not only Czech history, shows. This does not relieve us of our obligation to always align ourselves to His side, the side of Truth.

“Together for Europe” wishes to contribute to building unity between Eastern and Western Europe, what role does the Czech Republic play in this commitment?

Due to its troubled history, the Czech Republic is a highly secularised country. The majority of the population do not identify with any Church. This does not mean all are atheists however, surprisingly the number of self-declared atheists has been diminishing. There is a strong sensitivity to spiritual and cultural values among young people and the intelligencia. This was demonstrated in 2009, by the warm welcome received by Pope Benedict XVI at the Accademia in Prague. It may have been that very welcome that inspired Benedict to establish the “The Court of the Gentiles”, an initiative aimed at dialogue with the laity.

Christians of different denominations united among themselves and engaging in such a dialogue in its various forms, show one of the ways of building the project of Together for Europe. Secular lay people in the Czech Republic are already leading the way in this dialogue.

Looking ahead, what further challenges await us in reaching our objective – unity?

An extremely difficult question, the answer to which, while not simple, seems logical. People say that every nation lives from the ideas it was born from. This can also hold true for a continent. Let us recall the roots of the Europe in which we all live. In Jerusalem (faith), Athens (reason) and Rome (law). On these strong foundations grew Europe’s cultural, spiritual and material greatness and wealth. Today we face situations of migrations of people similar to those of medieval times. The greatest challenge lies in knowing how to live with the diversity of the new arrivals, of which there will be many. Migratory currents will continue to flow not only for political and economic reasons but also due to the impacts of climate change.

Let us not delude ourselves: Europe as we know it, will sooner or later disappear, also due to decreasing birth rates. As Christians, we need to be that creative minority, returning to the solid foundations of our tradition and to the values it generated, whilst maintaining a sense of openness to new inspirations. Based on these spiritual foundations, asking continuously for the grace of God, we can seek a new unity for this new Europe.

Jiři Kratochvil, born in 1953. Degree in economics obtained in Prague. For many years worked in state owned bodies under the auspices of the Department of Finance. After the fall of communism, he was instrumental in the renewal of the Czech Caritas. He has lived in Canada, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Currently he lives in Prague and works as a translator for the Czech Episcopal Conference.

Photo: Prague: ©Canva; Jiři Kratochvil: private

Europe in an “Era of Fear”

It´s a matter of growing ever more into a “culture of trust”, including a worldly trust in God.   

Herbert Lauenroth’s presentation at the International Congress of “Together for Europe – Munich 2016″ is as current as ever. Here is the full text.

Dear friends,

I would like to start my – rather fundamental – reflections on the subject of fear, fear in Europe, with two striking biblical respectively secular images:

1 In a dramatic moment in the book of Genesis God calls man: “Where are you, Adam?” This call is addressed to the one who has sought refuge in the underbrush, full of shame and driven by fear. To the one hiding from the sight of God because he has become aware of his existential nakedness and wretchedness. This image depicts the present situation in Europe in a quite drastic way: A continent barricading and entrenching itself in its seemingly hopeless presence. Europe is hiding in the underbrush, stuck in the entanglements of its own limitations and a history of guilt. This underbrush is Idomeni, the Macedonian border, the barbed-wire fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border, but also the various exclusions in society.

If we read the biblical scenario as for turning Europe into a fortress, a measure against migrants, it allows another different reading: It´s the European sovereign standing before us, it´s his exposure and homelessness we`re looking at. He is the real refugee, trying to escape from himself, the most fatal of all flights. Therefore Europe has to hear this call from the Biblical God once again. It´s a question of its destiny, mission and responsibility for itself and the world: “Adam/Europe, where are you?”

2 This image of an existential narrowness God calls out of, finds its counterpart in the visions of men`s cosmic forsakenness in an indifferent, inhospitable universe. Philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal expressed it like this: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me!” It´s about a sense of being appalled or exposed that frightens man, as he is isolated and being thrown back on his own. In European history this recurring theme has been described as “loss of the center” or “transcendental homelessness”.

3 However, this fear of loss of self and the world can make room for new experiences at the same time: Czech poet and President Vaclav Havel, looking back on the peaceful revolutions in Eastern Central Europe in 1989/90, spoke of fear as “fear of freedom”: “We were like prisoners who had become accustomed to the prison, and then, being released to the long-desired freedom out of the blue, did not know how to deal with it and became desperate because they constantly had to decide on their own and take responsibility for their own life.” It is, according to Havel, to face this fear. This is how it “enables us to acquire new abilities: The fear of freedom can be exactly what teaches us to fulfil our freedom. And fear of the future can be exactly what forces us to do everything to make the future better.”

Finally, the great protestant theologian Paul Tillich takes fear for the basic experience of human existence: “The courage to be,” he writes, “is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the fear of doubt.” This means: only the experience of fear – as the loss of an image of God, man and the world that was formerly formative and considered to be immutable – unleashes what is called the “courage to be“. The true – divine – God appears so to speak in the heart of fear, and he alone causes de-frightening. In turn this experience leads man to deeper experiences and horizons of being. God reveals himself in the supposed facelessness and ahistoricity of the world as the face of the other.

4 It is therefore necessary to descend into these ‘inner rooms of the world’ of biographical as well as collective fears and experiences of loss, in order to meet the God who saves us. Two examples:

4.1 Yad Vashem: my visit to the Shoah memorial site last autumn is an unforgettable experience for me: I walk through the mazy-like architecture as if in a daze and finally reach the Children`s memorial, a subterranean space where the light of burning candles is reflected by mirrors. It`s a dark resonance space of bodiless voices, which unceasingly recall the elementary life-data of the innocent victims and I feel a new, deep solidarity – especially in view of this profound primal fear of not only being physically destroyed, but being even eliminated from the cultural memory. The testimony of this place becomes my own experience: to provide a place for the lost name, to preserve a memory for the name of God and its creatures. My guestbook entry is a sentence of the prophet Isaiah that expresses both my consternation and the new hope in the captive closeness of a fatherly God: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I called you by name, you are mine!” (Isaiah 43,1)

4.2 In view of the great European tales of fear, Czech philosopher and theologian Tomáš Halík describes a similar experience: “We do not build the bold project of European unity on unknown ground or wasteland. We build it on a ground, in whose layers forgotten treasures and burned debris are stored, where gods, heroes and criminals are buried, rusted thoughts and unexploded bombs. From time to time we have to set out on looking into the depths of Europe, into the underworld, like Orpheus to Eurydice, or the dead Christ to Abraham and the fathers of the Old Testament.”

5 For me, these various “descents into the depths of fear” converge in the description of the baptism of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment, heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven, said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:16–17)

We have to descend with Christ to reach that point of origin, above which the sky opens up quite surprisingly. It´s where God’s law of life shows itself: “What comes from above must grow from below.” In this way, in, with and through Jesus, the “fraternal” community of solidarity is formed, in which the individual members do not only recognize themselves as “sisters and brothers” but also as “sons and daughters of God”, in which “dignity of man” and “God-likeness” form an indivisible unity.

6 In his book “Letters and Papers from Prison” (Widerstand und Ergebung) Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes the core of the Christian identity as a response to the question of Jesus at the moment of his mortal fear in Gethsemane: “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26,40) – It is an invitation to the night watch at the side of Jesus, in his presence facing the Father, in a secular – supposedly godless – world. This presence of Jesus transforms different locations into places of experience and expectation of Trinitarian life.

7 In this key section of the Gospel of Matthew “fear” appears as a privileged place of learning for our faith where diffuse, “blind” fears converge and transform into the authentic “fear of God” of Jesus that offers new insights.

As:

  • In, with, and through Jesus, de-frightening takes place as a real frightening-through of man towards God: The supposed exposure of the Son changes to devotion to the Father.
  • Unity grows as an experience of mutual trust. It grows from sensitivity for the mystery of God which is not at our disposal, the otherness (alterity) of the other. French-Jewish philosopher Simone Weil expresses this experience in a striking way: It´s only the unconditional “consent to the distance of the other” that allows for authentic closeness and communion with God and man.
  • So that´s what it is about: Preferring the unknown, the unfamiliar, the marginalized – as a “learning place” of faith – in, with, and through Jesus.
  • This especially applies to the different charisms and their communion: in Paris in November 2013 at a meeting of Together for Europe with Jean Vanier, founder of “L’Arche”, it became apparent to us: one of the real aims of the charisms is also to receive the “charism of the world” and to reflect it to this world. Vanier’s testimony has been very impressive: primarly it´s not about living with and for the “addressees” of the Beatitudes of Jesus, but from In fact they – the supposedly needy and receiving ones – are the God-gifted and giving ones. They are the bearers of a message, a presence of God that has to return to the center of our societies from their margins. Klaus Hemmerle, Bishop of Aachen and religious philosopher wrote concisely: “Let me learn from you the message that I have to pass to you”.

8 This attitude, however, requires a “thrust reversal”, a true metánoia of many a Christian on their understanding of themselves and the world. It calls for a new faith in God’s love for the world which is revealed in Christ. It´s a matter of growing ever more into a “culture of trust”, including a worldly trust in God that is founded in Jesus.

9 Looking up into the dome of the Circus-Krone building, we might think of some trapeze artists. For me, they are the true artists of de-frightening: Flyers hovering in the air, always taking the risk of trust, letting go and stretching out again for future spaces. An artistic moment in that prophetic and always fragile, risky intermediate state of “grace and gravity”: The grace of weightlessness, yet the creature always having a knowledge of being held and secure, in a certain sense “redeemed” from itself and liberated for turning towards the other.

With this in mind, Henri Nouwen writes: “A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms and open hands that his catcher will be there for him. […] Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust! “

Herbert Lauenroth, Ecumenical Center Ottmaring (Germany), in Munich, Circus-Krone-Bau, 01/07/2016

Photo: trapeze artists ©Thierry Bissat (MfG); H. Lauenroth: ©Ursula Haaf

Young people love to be practical

Is there a future for Europe? What do you think is the contribution that Churches and Ecclesial Movements can offer in this respect?

There is indeed a future for Europe. Communities and Churches do have a role to play individually as well as together and as part of civic life which has been growing stronger. In time it will generate its own new political leaders and until then it will continue reinforcing its civic commitment. The greatest damage to society comes from the apathy of millions who do not attempt to make a positive contribution. So these communities have a precise role. They develop and exercise certain aspects that are important for the functioning of society (for example order, freedom, obedience, responsibility, equality, hierarchy, respect, correction, individual and collective ownership, truth and so on).

9th May is Europe Day. What does this date mean to you?

The choice of date to celebrate is at once understandable, good and also necessary. The question is how to celebrate. We would like to see a big scientific interdisciplinary conference taking place as well as other forms of celebration that would appeal to society at large. Rather than an official celebration, we were thinking that perhaps an event like that of the European Capital of Culture might be interesting. We know from experience that official celebrations tend to be political and that the exploitation of such occasions for political purposes has the effect of distancing people from the event.

If you were President of the European Union with their responsibilities and decision-making powers, what would be your priorities aimed at increasing the unity of peoples in Europe?

I would avoid uniformity, and aim at pursuing, reinforcing and accelerating integration, based on a mutual recognition of identities and on solidarity. The United States is an example of such an approach, where only one language is spoken, and a looser integration bonds were replaced by centralization. We would be for increasing the extent of international projects such as Erasmus for researchers and third level staff and gradually opening up to involvement of secondary education teachers; making a six-month period of studies abroad obligatory for university students independent of their field of studies, as well as running continuous inter-institutional courses between bordering countries.

How do you see Europe in today’s international political context?

I think it is facing two main challenges: Firstly, unity: if Europe does not succeed in becoming more unanimous in personifying unity, it will lose its position on the international scene; and secondly, corruption: any type of abuse, even the slightest one, be it political, moral, or sexual, damages greatly the international community independently of whether it is carried out by an authority or an individual. This can only be prevented through a continuous examination of conscience or reflection performed together.

It appears as if young people were not interested in politics. Do you think it is true?

Young people love to be practical. Abstract things do not appeal to them. The key is to increase numbers and invest money in international study programmes, so that young Europeans can have a chance to get to know Europe and its young people. Europe should also strive to define its main objectives in more concrete terms so that the young people can believe in them and become enthusiastic about them.

What do you think about populist tendencies? Are there better ways of going ahead Together?

Populism is a consequence of the latest economic crises as well as of military conflicts (for example foreign interference’s). It is also caused by nationalism. The European Union does not deal with nationalism efficiently which puts populists at an advantage. Furthermore, European citizens do not tend to have a direct relationship with European politicians. They often know only their own national political representatives who are the ones ‘listened to by the crowds’ and therefore directly responsible for how information from Brussels is transmitted in individual member states. In any case we need to learn to advance together. In what way? In the context of what was discussed so far, the first step might be to act on a personal level and gradually assume a collective responsibility, acknowledging the effectiveness and the role of acting together.

Zsófia Bárány PhD and Szabolcs Somorjai PhD, Hungary, researches in the field of modern sociology and economy, and politics and history of the Church

Discussion – Dialogue

 

DISCUSSION

 

DIALOGUE

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 ©

Europe – a „revolutionary project“

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

Dialogue in diversity

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

Download the full talk >   

The principles of dialogue

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.

Our “Yes” to Europe

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.” [1]  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.” [2]  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 [3]:

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)

 

[1] “Together on the journey” ISBN 978-3-00-022045-6, Br. Franziskus Jöst at the 2007 T4E Congress in Stuttgart, p. 21

[2] Piero Coda in “Christian Culture in one Europe” by Hanspeter Heinz [Hrsg], p. 33

[3] P. Lothar Penners at the European meeting of friends in 2016 in Castel Gandolfo with reference to Pater Kentenich

 

 

Introduction by Gérard Testard

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.

*            *            *

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

Together towards a more open and philanthropic Europe

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

 

 

What distinguishes us?

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). “

Start with ourselves

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

 

 

 

The joy of being European

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).

Sharing resources

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)

 

We urgently need a European culture

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).  

 

Being “for” Europe

“We marvel at the action of the Holy Spirit in our times”. Cardinal Kasper accompanied and supported Together for Europe network from its very beginnings. On the 30th June 2016, on the occasion of the last Congress in Munich, he shared his views on the importance of the network and his hopes for the future.

THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS STILL AT WORK TODAY

Dear friends, it is wonderful to be with you again and even more wonderful to see what has become of you since Stuttgart 2004.  The dream of that time is becoming reality. The Spirit of God is still bearing fruit today.  We have good reason to be grateful.

Our Dream

It all started on 31 October 1999 in Augsburg.  Protestant and Catholic Christians made an official and collective declaration: together we acknowledge that Jesus is our salvation. Many said this declaration means nothing, that nothing has changed.  No, things have changed.  You are the result. Your movement is the fruit.  Pope John Paul II was right. The declaration was a milestone.

A milestone is a marker along the way, not the goal.  The next marker is ahead of us: Autumn 2016 in Lund, October 2017 in Wittenberg. Once again there are those who are skeptical.  We say five hundred years of separation is enough. Something has to change. It would be betraying Jesus Christ and a disgrace for the world if we didn’t act upon our words.

We have a dream.  We know that ecumenism is the Holy Spirit’s passage through the Church. We can rely on Him.  It was He who initiated the movement for ecumenism, and He will lead it to the finish-line. Unity in reconciled diversity is possible.  Tell those hesitant experts of division that we are the experts of unity. We have seen that even today unity is more possible than you think! Everyone needs to start moving; everyone needs to change their ways and way of thinking!

Together in Europe

Unity in the Church is now more important than ever because unity in Europe is in danger.  “Together for Europe” is now more important than it has ever been.  When I was young, after the disaster of the Second World War, Europe signified a peace project for us young people. Enemies were to become friends and we did. We were granted seventy years of peace and prosperity that our forefathers would never have dreamt of and it isn’t a dream; it’s reality. It’s our future.

Noone is denying the fact that Europe needs a flourishing economy to achieve this.  An economic system is needed for life and survival but it is needed for life. It’s not the meaning of life itself which is why Europe needs more than an economic system. Europe isn’t just an economic community. Europe is a community of values. It has strong Christian foundations without which Europe cannot be called Europe. Many people have forgotten this. So, it is our duty to stand up for it again.

We cannot allow the ghosts of nationalistic egoism – believed to have died long ago – to rise from their graves and spread fear and terror. Every one of us loves our own homeland, our own language and our own culture. We’re not looking for uniformity. Europe’s diversity is the Europe’s wealth. Patriotism has nothing to do with nationalism which creates walls and fences.  Nor does it mean withdrawing to a national “Island of the Blessed.” Patriotism is about being open; it allows itself to be enriched and seeks to enrich others. Whoever raises the drawbridge in front of it will soon starve.

Pope Francis recently said Europe is a “work in progress.” Europe was never simply a fait accompli; it has always been “in progress”. It has always been its strength to integrate other cultures: Celts, Germanic tribes, Normans, Slavs and Muslims whom we are not meeting for the first time today.

We were ecstatic after the fall of the Berlin Wall, hoping for borderfree communication, universal democracy and universal human rights. We are now facing the problems of the world becoming one which do not appear as abstract numbers but as real people with real faces. They are children of God. They present us with new challenges.  We need to show them how attractive Christianity is, show them that being a Christian is a good thing. We can only do this together as Protestants and Catholics if we set aside our differences.

Is it possible? Yes, it is. As Christians we believe in the resurrection and the power of the Spirit of God.  We believe that life is stronger than death and that love is stronger than hate. Jesus Christ is in our midst; he goes before us.  As Christians we are witnesses of hope that we can live and work together as Christians and live and work together in Europe.  What’s needed is not fear, but hope.  Let us not be those who doubt, but those who build bridges and bring hope.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Emeritus of the Roman Curia and President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity

Download Keys for interpreting and prompts for dialogue by Sr. Nicole Grochowina

Keys For Interpreting And Prompts For Dialogue Sr Nicole Grochowina (176.4 KB)

Does hope have a future?

Much research on the future of our continent has been conducted in areas such as culture, sociology and religion. The European Year of Cultural Heritage broadens this view. What is the specific contribution that Movements and Communities can offer in this regard?

Excerpt from a talk by Michael Hochschild entitled ‘Becoming Reconciled with our Future’, Together for Europe, 1 July 2016

Does hope have a future, or is our world embroiled in a hopeless cycle of crises and problems? If we give our future a chance, what sort of world can we imagine in this future? Would it be a world sustained by social and religious creative forces?
Let us consider:

1 If we do not want to get lost within our contemporary crises, we need to strengthen our hopes for the future.
2 In addition to hope the world we imagine needs to be characterised by something other than “modernity”, since the modern social order has been compromised leaving us without a clear direction forward. In order to secure a different future, we need to orient ourselves towards an improved society, one which could be called ‘post-modern’.
3 This can only happen under the influence of new cultural players. Here, I would like to invoke the prophetic contribution of new religious and social Movements, which are led by very high ideals. These Movements, thanks to these ideals, prefigure today how society and the Church can live together tomorrow.

There are two challenges that we can identify. We are experiencing a severe systemic crisis of modern society. Now, it is no longer sufficient to adapt to new situations but due to the radical changes in modern society, we need to see new ideas and ways of living. The second challenge addresses the new religious Movements as such, whose faith, engagement and trust are put to the test. If they pass, they will lead the way into a new world characterized by a sense of confidence in our future. But to achieve this goal the new religious Movements need to understand themselves in a new way, i.e. as creative social and cultural powers. Put simply: religious Movements need to become social Movements.

It is clear then, that what is needed, is to look forwards and to reconcile ourselves with our future.

In this, the new social and especially religious Movements come into play. These are important, as it is part of their very DNA to express a vision for the future. They not only offer viable alternative for living in society, they also loosen the restrictive shackles of modernity, which characterises today’s society. A member of such a Movement, which brings together the religious and social aspects, is equipped with a capacity to take responsibility for themselves and their environment.

Under these circumstances, it is their task not only to perform as religious, but also as social Movements. Through their faith, they achieve the possibility to harness their own cultural creative force. In this sense, religious Movements offer something that social Movements cannot since their engagement cannot be restricted to one single topic. On the contrary, being aware of God’s relationship to the whole world, there is an indefinite number of concerns that religious Movements can focus on. It is crucial that Movements and the Churches they belong to work together. Only a reconciled Church can bring about wider societal reconciliation in a credible way. Indeed, a single “Together for Europe” might not be sufficient to reach this goal; instead, a “Together for the world” is required in this case.

Prof. Dr. Michael Hochschild, director and professor for post-modern thought at Time-Lab, Paris/Institut d‘Études et de Recerches postmoderne,
studied education, sociology, philosophy, psychology and theology at the Universities of Hamburg, Frankfurt and Bielefeld.

To download the full talk, go to: 

2016 07 01 TfE M Hochschild Becoming Reconciled With Our Future (25.6 KB, 134 downloads)

555th year anniversary

“Hidden treasures” in Vienna

555th anniversary on 31st October 2017! What am I talking about? Let me explain: 500 years since Luther’s Reformation, 50 years since I was born and 5 years since I have moved to Austria.

When I realised this coincidence, I wondered how to celebrate the big round anniversary uniting my personal history with the ecumenical one.

I am a Swiss citizen; my mother is reformed and my father Catholic. My siblings and I were baptised into the Reformed Church, but after we went our separate ways. As a child I joined the Catholic Church, hence my strong passion for the unity of Churches. I now live in a Focolare community in Vienna.

Some time ago, in a meeting of consecrated people in the Ecumenical Centre in Ottmaring, attended by the Lutheran Bishop Emeritus Herwig Sturm, I presented a performance on Luther, based on images, spoken word and dance (I am a ballet dancer by profession). It occurred to me, why not celebrate my birthday by offering the same performance to the public?

 

On 29th October, more than 60 people gathered in Am Spiegeln, in the Meeting Centre of the Focolare Movement in Vienna, for my ‘ecumenical birthday show’. Instead of bringing birthday gifts, I asked my guests to offer a contribution towards translations of the meeting of Friends of the ecumenical network Together for Europe which was to take place in the Meeting Centre a few days after my birthday.

What a joyful occasion it has been to bring the money raised through the show to the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe!

Roswitha Oberfeld, Vienna (Austria)

Europe, a promise of peace

A meeting at the Vatican to rethink about Europe. Together for Europe was there.

«In our time, Christians are called to revitalize Europe and to revive its conscience, not by occupying spaces, but by generating processes capable of awakening new energies in society”. Pope Francis said these words at the end of his address to the 350 participants, present at the Vatican for a meeting sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (Comece) in collaboration with the Secretary of State. The title was “(Re) thinking Europe – a Christian contribution to the Future of the European Project” (27 -29 October 2017). This conference was meant to create an opportunity where one could discuss the contribution Christians can give to the European project, with the hope that dialogue put into practice can be of help to Europe and its institutions at this very critical stage.

During meetings held in previous days, Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and President of Comece, gave a picture of the continent’s realities, perspectives, challenges and hopes. He spoke of issues, such as environment, work, refugee crisis, that have to be faced “with a very clear vision of our present, and above all of the future

Msgr Jorge Ortiga, Archbishop of Braga and delegate for the Portugese Bishops’ Conference said, “the European Union needs a soul, it needs something new. This is not the case of just considering the territory or the economy; but it is the responsibility of building one society, one body that expresses diversity, respect for every culture, every country with its different characteristics

András Fejerdy, professor at the Catholic University of Budapest said: “Even if the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, divisions in our minds still exist. Maybe, we who live in the eastern part of Europe know the history, culture and thought of the Westerners better. On the other hand, we face many misunderstandings because of lack of knowledge. I participated in a workshop with representatives from the East and South of Europe, and it was interesting to see that we all share the same hopes and fears about the future of Europe”.

Katrien Verhegge, director general of Kind en Gezin, in Belgium, said: «It is in this context that we promote our message of unity and diversity. For me this means going back to what is essential: love and the golden rule. We can unite ourselves in living the golden rule, “in not doing unto others what we would not have others do unto us”. If we start to live this in our rethinking about Europe, we will already be making a step foward”.

For Pedro Vaz Patto, president of the Portugese Peace and Justice Commission, this is actually a moment “of crisis of confidence in Europe. As Christians, we have tried to contribute towards a Europe in search of a soul. The EU motto is “unity in diversity”. We Christians believe in God, who is one and who is Trinity. So our faith helps to live this unity in diversity, first of all through our witness. Among Christian Movements, Churches, individuals”.

Ilona Toth, Focolare Movement’s delegate for Togther for Europe was among the participants. Together for Europe brings together more than 300 Christian Communities and Movements spread across the Continent. While preserving their independence, these collectively form a network to pursue shared goals, each contributing through its own specific charism. Toth said that: ”The Together for Europe Project is very much in line with what was discussed during this conference and many showed interest in it. We have been invited to Brussels to start work of collaboration, while envisaging the importance of empowering Europe’s peoples to build their history”.

Significant the presence of leaders of different Churches, including Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and representatives of the Conference of European Churches (CEC): General Secretary Rev. Fr Heikki Huttunen and Vice-President Rev. Karin Burstrand.

At the end of his address, Pope Francis said that the commitment of Christians in Europe “must represent a promise of peace” and that “it is not the time to dig trenches, but to work courageously to realize the founding father’s dream of a united and harmonious Europe, a community of peoples who wish to share a future of development and peace”.

Source: SIF  

Address of Pope Francis >

Video: //vimeo.com/240377109

Decades of surprise

‘Behind the iron curtain’ was a metaphorical attribution given to those countries that from the end of the Second World War until 1989 were part of the communist bloc. The ‘iron’ curtain in question represented the ideological split which divided Europe in two halves, an ideological split physically represented by the Berlin Wall.

When for research purposes I visited Prague, in former Czechoslovakia, the memory of Jan Palach was very much alive with many university students considering him a hero: on 16th January 1969 Jan Palach set himself on fire to draw the attention of the world to the exasperation in which his nation lived. My impression was that in the capital city of Czechoslovakia two parallel worlds coexisted: one official and visible, and another hidden but ever so present.

I had a similar experience living in Hungary in the 1980s. At that time, only a censored and sanitized version of news from Eastern European countries reached the West… Not much was known about Hungary outside the events of 1956. Initially I travelled to Budapest on a research scholarship into children’s literature, but my stay developed into a chain of surprising events and considering the political and historical context – small miracles.

Thanks to the translations I became known for, I received an award which allowed me to remain in Hungary as a lecturer at the Janus Pannonius University of Pecs. In a context of politics manipulated by interests and ideology, the ability to incorporate any kind of positive message into teaching required a sense of personal responsibility and freedom.

On one of my train journeys, while waiting at one of the endless border custom checks, I spotted a bird jumping on the barbed wire fence dividing the two countries. This sight prompted me to ponder how long those barriers would remain and I drew some hope from Giambattista Vico, a philosopher from Naples, Italy, who spoke about the fact that things which are outside their natural order do not remain so.[1]

In 1989, immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall I happened to conduct a sociological study on the change of toponyms of the streets and squares of Budapest and on destiny of statues left in that country by communist realism. These were eventually to be transferred to a specially designated garden which served as a sort of a ‘historical ZOO’ where parents would bring their children on Sundays… Some of the Soviet red star sculptures would have to wait for years to be taken down owing of their sheer size and weight.

After 16 years in Hungary, and after visiting other former Warsaw pact countries such as Slovakia or Poland, and places such as Auschwitz I understood better the reason of my being and I have become more and more grateful to God for the possibility to help make Europe and the entire world a family.

I also feel how right Victor Hugo was in in his famous [mis]quote : Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.[2]

by Tanino Minuta

[1] Giambattista Vico, Opere Vol. I, Tipografia della Sibilla, Naples, 1834, p. 12. [free translation]

[2] //nuovoeutile.it/222-frammenti-sulla-creativita-a-cura-di-annamaria-testa/ [//www.quotecounterquote.com/2011/02/nothing-is-more-powerful-than-idea.html]

 

 

Studying, living, and teaching history

9 November 1989: an unforgettable date in recent history marking the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the evening of that same day I was too transfixed in my chair in front of the TV to notice an unexpected event the import of which my own young generation at the time could not possibly grasp.

I had studied (and held a degree in) modern history. I studied all about the Cold War and the building of the Berlin Wall, which in those November days was being reversed to rubble. A few months later we were to learn from the press the stories of the peoples of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania who, by means of more or less peaceful revolutions, were freeing themselves from seven decades of Soviet burden.

I could never have dreamt on that November day, that the stories and images from the media would have become incarnated for me, in real people whom I was about to meet, as only a short month later I descended in Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, brought by train from Rome crossing Slovenia and Croatia. I was offered the post of Italian language and history teacher in a secondary school in the Hungarian capital. A small group of people with big smiles and a bunch of flowers welcomed me in the smoky atmosphere of the station. This was my first encounter with a country in Eastern Europe: the cordial encounter with these normal people who soon became a family to me, in distinct contrast to the atmosphere of sadness and distrust that still prevailed, with unambiguous signs of ‘control’ (groups of Soviet soldiers discharged onto footpaths by imposing military trucks). This despite the fact that a Hungarian Republic had been proclaimed in October 1989. It would take more than two years for the last soldier donning the red Soviet star to leave the country for good.

The first months of ‘freedom’ were a transition phase both politically and socially: whilst the democratic government was making its first steps and had to cope with many unknowns (and strikes!), a variety of products, some from abroad slowly filtered into the shops. Daily life was still complicated, at least for me, coming from the West. I was used to a certain style of cooking, but it was impossible to find the same ingredients on the market. One day in 1990, the taxi and the public transport drivers blocked all bridges over the Danube in protest against the increase in the price of petrol. In a flash there were endless queues outside shops selling bread and soon all shops were empty. «it’s like in ‘56» – people would say, meaning: there was nothing left to eat. People were unable to reconcile these conditions with a belief that the worst had already passed never to return.

Only when I began to teach did I fully appreciate the different social history in which I was now living, where all historical references were seen from the perspective of Moscow and revolved around the concept of class struggle. I found myself having to explain to my ingenuous students, things which until then I had taken for granted. Among the most obvious was an episode just prior to Christmas in 1990. In order to practice Italian conversation, we spoke about Italian Christmas traditions. I described enthusiastically images of the Nativity and the crib present in those days in every Italian family. After I spoke for about half an hour, a girl with dark hair put up her hand at the back of the class and asked: «Professor, but who is this Jesus?».

by Maria Bruna Romito

 

A view of the Balkans by a man from Naples

It is not easy to sum up more than ten years in Slovenia, Croatia and Romania.

I can say that I felt immediately at ease. My early times in Slovenia were demanding, because it was so completely different to where I had come from. I did not speak the language; the weather was very cold with the typical smell of coal burning in stoves inside seemingly every house. One of my first enduring impressions was the sense of order and discipline. I can recall going to buy fruit with one of my friends from the community. While he joined the queue outside the shop, I stood slightly to the side. Then I noticed that there was another queue forming behind me… I soon realised that the same was happening at bus stops too. I was very impressed by it.

After 5 years in Slovenia I then moved to Croatia which accompanied an immediate sense of freedom: I was starting to study the language at university, I was meeting many people, exploring and discovering the city I was living in and doing many interesting things which I could not do before. I found the Croats similar to my own people: warm, welcoming and appreciators of good food.

Fall of the Wall
This was an unforgettable experience lived with my friends moment by moment, aware that what we were seeing on the TV was the world in the process of changing!

The war
The war in the Balkans was one of my strongest experiences of that period. It was a strange one in that Zagabria, where I lived at the time, was not involved in the conflict directly. The first few days, however, were terrifying because of the presence of snipers shooting randomly at civilians. My strongest memory however is not so much of destruction but of solidarity among people. It was very moving to witness the arrival of humanitarian aid in the form of food and clothes. Around that time my parents both passed away in Naples. I went back to Italy, emptied my family home in Naples and brought everything back with me to Croatia to help those in need.
I recall how in 1993, still in the midst of war, we managed to organise a youth festival for approximately 3.000 young Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as well as Muslims from former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova. One of the most emotional moments was a chant by a Muslim choir! The event was broadcasted by TV and radio and was on the front pages of all newspapers in the capital.

Dacia (Romania)
My experience in this country was one of coming from a life of prosperity and wellbeing to a situation of relative poverty. There was a sense in which the communist regime had managed to destroy all cultural, civic and folk tradition of that country. I was shocked! I recall a youngster whom I knew from having seen him around and who asked me for money. At the time, I could not help him because I did not have the amount he required. The episode made me think a lot: why did he asked me of all people? Because he knew I was Italian and thought I can return at any point where I came from. Real poverty is a feeling of not having anything and no one “able to help”.
As in Zagabria, also in Romania I experienced a deep communion among brothers and sisters who were looking for something that would finally give meaning to their life: Love! And with many of them, just like with those in Slovenia and Croatia to this day I have strong brotherly relationships.

by Gennaro Lamagna

Further and further East

Rossiya mon Amour  

Winter 1991, Moscow. In the early afternoon, my plane touched down in Sheremetyevo Airport.

The arrivals hall was poorly lit, the queue outside the passport controls and visas, long. I had gotten a job at the famous Lomonosov University and with all my possessions was moving to Russia. It was already dark outside and I had the impression that this was the end of the world. Then I heard an announcement: Connections for Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk which made me realise that this was where everything started.

Magical beginnings

In Moscow, I lived in a small ecumenical community. Our apartment on Volochaevskaya street was in a working-class quarter, which did not feel particularly safe. When I asked why we didn’t move, like all the foreigners, on the secure embassy grounds, I was told: “Not to worry because where we were, we were protected by the proletariat.”

Contact with our neighbours was indeed spontaneous and easy: elderly women, sitting in the courtyard day and night knew exactly of all the comings and goings; the spontaneity of the children made me forget the awful smell of the dirty staircase. Our new friends – colleagues, students, old and young – all came gladly to Volochaevskaya. They don’t mind that the sofa in our apartment was half eaten by mice and that there was a water leak from a tube in the corridor. The beginnings of our deepening friendship helped us see everything in a different light and forget all the rest.

“Spiritual children” of Alexander Men

In the early 1990s production in Russia decreased rapidly. Shops were empty, everything was scarce. Religious life appeared to be extinct. Within the walls of former churches there were vodka making factories, offices, shops …

We had a long-standing acquaintance with the Russian Orthodox priest Alexander Men. Since the 1960s he had clandestinely baptised thousands of people and had shown a level of ecumenical openness that was dangerous for his time. A lively Orthodox Christian community formed around him. When he was violently killed, he left behind his “spiritual children” as traumatised orphans.

Where two or three are gathered together in my name” (Mt 18:20)

Soon many people joined us. We lived together the word of the Scripture, for example, ” Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). As they said, they found a new homeland with us. “You don’t proselytise, instead you help us to become yeast for a self-renewal of the Russian Orthodox Church.” After years of spiritual drought, we experienced with them and many others a new Spring. I had never been so happy. The thirst for spiritual life united us despite our cultural differences, diverse upbringing or mentality.

My discovery

In the 1990s – with perestroika and glasnost – many organisations, among them sects, as well as genuine charities from a variety of Churches (Renovabis, Kirche in Not, Bonifatiuswerk, …) and religious Movements (Communion and Liberation, Neocatechumenal Way, Focolare, Community of Sant’Egidio, …) succeeded in entering countries behind the so-called “Iron Curtin”. Some stayed on and some have since left.

What is my personal experience as a citizen of Western Germany after nearly two decades in Russia? I have received much more from this country than I could ever give: among which the gift of deep contemplation which during the Russian Orthodox Liturgy allowed my relationship with God to grow deeper; solid friendships which continue in spite of distance and which reminds me of how much I am loved. In short, I have rediscovered my vocation as a Christian and as a woman: I am called to love.

I believe that during these years we have, in our own way, re-written the Acts of the Apostles. The reality of “having love for one another and having everything in common” (see Acts 4:32) both marked and moulded us. In this light, everything appeared as new: the Gospel goes much further … well beyond Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk!

by Beatriz Lauenroth

Address by Mons. Nunzio Galantino

Mons. Galantino, Secretary General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, during the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017

«You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world».

In order to appreciate the force and the scope of this expression, we need to reflect on the preceding verses (Matthew 5:1-12), in which Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes. In this wider context, we will see that the concluding statement «You are the salt… you are the light» is by no means a praise that Jesus confers on his disciples! Instead, having proclaimed the Beatitudes, Jesus wishes to say to his disciples: Look, only if your life is spent according to the logic of the Beatitudes … are you the salt and light of the earth; only if you live following the logic of the Beatitudes does your presence contribute to adding taste and beauty to your own life and that of others.

I wanted to state this premise, because many of us still think that simply by introducing themselves as “Christians” do they deserve to be given credit, and in their being to have recognised the function of “light” (points of reference) and of “salt” (bearers of sense). This goes for us all, and probably too for all Christian traditions and for all those belonging to any faith. It seems to me that this is a temptation that can affect simply anyone, from any background, independently of their religious background. There are even those who think that by dressing or speaking in a certain way they are automatically considered as people who have the ability to confer new taste and new meaning to life!

For the Beatitudes to be followed immediately by the statement «You are the salt … you are the light», Jesus is showing the path a person of Faith must take. Jesus’ disciples follow a path clearly sign-posted by the Beatitudes. A passion for works of peace, merciful attention towards others, a life lived in poverty and marked by sobriety. This is what gives meaning and taste to the life of a believer, transforming it into a luminous life.

Instead of seeking to give taste and add splendour through tangible gestures and choices, as asked Jesus asks of us, we “busy ourselves” with showing off. Instead of giving light, we sometimes prefer to organise pompous events for show.

The Gospel however does not ask for this! Instead it gives us instructions – which at times may appear banal – as when it affirms that love is not to be shown off, but rather is to be lived; and when it is lived, it reveals itself. Therefore, things need not be shown off to be authentic, they just need to be authentic. Light is not to be put on display, it needs only to be turned on and made visible.

When Jesus states ««You are the salt … you are the light …», it is as if he was saying to us: Would you like to get to know God? Do not discuss Him, do not try to convince anyone; rather do something tangible; something beautiful, meaningful, something that can truly be savoured… So that those who see it, will spontaneously say what beautiful things you do and live! Who makes you do that? In whose name do you do that?

This is how God wants to be shown and witnessed! With the strength and clarity of light; the distinct taste of salt: through tangible choices and gestures which emanate and give life its true flavour.

Many of our pastoral choices, and many of the positions we adopt in relation to the society in which we live, especially those which bring with them a tendency to show off and convince, are in the end only distractions. They eventually cloud the one and only approach suggested by the Gospel: that of evidence/witness; which entails making choices and gestures that make evident the abundance of “taste”  in a life lived following Jesus. If the life of a believer is presented in this way, as a life replete with meaning, in short, a fullfilled life, then everything else we say, write or convey will aquire a new meaning!

So, what does is mean to be salt, to be light? What can give taste and radiance to our life of faith?

We can do it by finding new ways, opening up to new possibilities, being more daring and fighting against fatalism and the force of habit: two lethal diseases for anyone, not just believers!

We need to start smiling again in such a way that whoever meets this smile smiles in return. They will smile because they sense that they have encountered a person who is not a warmonger, someone who does not discriminate like “little souls” do. So, we need to go back to smiling and make our smiles contagious. Our being should be radiant without claiming to be blinding; and our being brings salt in the measure that emphasises other tastes without obliterating them. Just think of the bother caused by a blinding light or an excessively salty dish!

Be light and salt in the way that respects those you meet!

There is a great sensitivity required of a believer, particularly today!

We can never remind ourselves enough of Peter’s advice in his first letter: «Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience». (1 Peter 3:15-16)

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Let us pray with Matthew 5:13-16

Lord, You have asked me to be “salt”.  You have therefore asked me to remain connected to the earth, to be present in my temple, here and now. Attentive to my own needs and to the needs of those beside me.
You have asked me to be “light”, at a time when darkness appears to have thickened. The light enables me to see the outlines and colours of things, of reality and of the world in their nuance and in their beauty. It also allows me to learn of their countless needs.
Give taste, oh, Lord, to my life; make my hopes consistent; put trust into my fears; put light into my darkness, and peace into my heart, my thoughts, my feelings.
Help me understand, oh Lord, that to be “salt” means to be temperate, at this time of arrogance; a peacemaker,  at this time of overpowering; free from “things”, at this time when a person’s worth is measured by their bank account.
Help me understand, that I will be real “salt” and real “light” if I commit to denounce every western exploitation where well-being is founded on an usurpation of authenticity.
I will be “salt of the earth” if with and in my environment,
I do not renounce to look face-to-face to the needs of others.

 

Address by Andrea Riccardi

Andrea Riccardi, Founder of Community of Sant’Egidio, during the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017

Dear friends,

Let us not deny it: many Europeans feel lost and disorientated. Where is Europe going? Will it resist the temptation of division? Europe does not seem to protect its citizens any more. In fact, it is travelling in the opposite direction than that envisaged by the Founding Fathers of Europe, who had a living memory of the horrors of the war, of the walls of hatred, of death camps and ruins. Today the generation that remembers that history, is gone. Not much attention is given to history, instead we busy ourselves with the current politics replete with emotions and anxieties. Resorting to war has returned to being considered as “normal”, no matter how insane this appears to those who saw how – even yesterday in Iraq or in Libya- war only begets war.

Europe cannot live without memory. If we are to be the continent of the future, we need to be the continent of memories. The great peace, which has lasted for seventy years and which was built solidly after centuries of war needs to be remembered. It is the fruit of a united Europe where peace has brought about prosperity and the development of a culture with ancient roots. This is the reality that stands out clearly, even clearer than the emotions and scares that preside over our present time. This Europe represents our peace and our prosperity.

The crisis of Europe began when it was arrested in its progress by national, group and individual selfish interests. They blocked Europe’s flight and prevented it from becoming a world leader, with a common foreign and defence policy. Not only peace for Europe, but a common peace policy for the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Africa and the world. “Europe, the gentle power” – as Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, one of the founders of the European Single Currency, used to say. These selfish interests threaten to stop and devour Europe from within. They push for self-determination and for the other to be seen as a threat. In turn borders gain a new meaning: borders to restrain immigrants, borders between generations, between rich and poor, between North and South of Europe.

Borders can turn into barriers, walls. As if to protect ‘us’ from the tragedies of the world. On the contrary. The cruel war in Syria, which has lasted for 6 years, more than the First World War, also concerns Europe. It is merely an illusion that the walls are there to protect: in reality they witness to failure. They are the Maginot line of Europe’s moral and political defeat.

In a global world, history does not have embankments, but it needs strong and coherent actors. It demands that we advance united, without turning back to seek shelter according to group or nation, in reaction to new global circumstances. There is no turning back. The boat of national self-sufficiency has sailed. Today, we have to take into account the scale of the challenges and of life. In today’s global and interdependent world, Europe, closed and divided, will be flooded by other markets and by other economic and political giants. In the narrative of globalisation, Europe needs to come more to the fore – if we want it to be a place for young people, with our identity of humanism, religion and law intact, rather than merely a retirement place for the next few years for our generation. A world without Europe will lack a power of peace and of historical wisdom.

Today, we are here gathered among Christians. The idea of Europe was not linked to a particular religion, but was itself deeply Christian. And it grew with the Church’s passion of that time. Today, however, when East and West go two separate ways, when the great European ideal, which expresses a Christian extroversion is shaking, where are the voices of Christians? And those of the Churches? When borders turn into walls in front of refugees, where are these voices? When this world is running the risk of getting involved in another war, there is often silence.

The strong voice of Pope Francis – in his address for the Charlemagne Prize – remains isolated in a Christianity as fragmented as Europe itself, incapable of leaving behind group or ecclesial ego-centrism, incapable seemingly of a new vision. Is our joint prayer, the Word of God capable, as in the time of the prophets, of nourishing a new vision for our times in the hearts and minds of our people. We need to start to think and act again in ways that are inspired by a great vision, because for too long now we have been living within narrow dimensions, feeding on words without light. Karol Wojtyla wrote at a time when Europe was divided by a wall: “the world mostly suffers from a lack of vision”.

 

Address by Gerhard Pross

Gerhard Pross, Moderator of Together for Europe, during the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017

Together – for – Europe. There is no more exact way to express the importance this holds for us: Together for Europe”.

We are an ecumenical network of more than 300 Christian Communities and Movements. We come from 30 European countries, spanning from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. We speak different languages, live in different cultures and belong to different Churches: among us are Catholics, Evangelical, Orthodox, Anglicans and members of Free Churches. We follow a variety of spiritualities each different from the other.

And yet, based on our experience, we are convinced that unity is possible. Our shared journey began with a deep moment of reconciliation among a group of leaders of our Movements. Unity became possible.

We live unity in diversity, in such a way that the uniqueness of each person remains intact. From reconciliation in Christ stems the ability to experience the diversity of the other as an enrichment.

Today in a special way, we remember three of the networks’ founders, who are now in Heaven: Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the Focolare Movement, who had the first impulse to begin; Helmut Nicklas, responsible of CVJM (YMCA) Munich, the ‘architect’ of the Together for Europe project; and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, whose input has been precious in terms of the link between charism and ministry.

When in 2004, Together for Europe held in Stuttgart a large event for some 10,000 participants, Europe was celebrating the entry in the EU of new member states. In 2016, however, at the time of our international Congress which was followed by a large Public Rally in Munich, only three days after Brexit, the mood in Europe was quite different. We have been and continue to be aware that Europe is experiencing a period of turmoil. The European Union seemingly lurches from crisis to crisis.

In times such as these, punctured by acts of terrorism, we publicly proclaimed, with thousands of people during the 2016 event in Munich, loud and clear, our YES to Europe. “In Europe, there is no alternative to being together”, were the opening words of the concluding message in Munich.

If I may express this, in a personal way and as a spokesperson for Together for Europe… I was deeply touched by the network’s event in Munich and it put Europe on the first place on my agenda. For 17 years, we have been on this journey together, but never before has giving our YES to Europe resonated with such importance.

  • In times marked by an upsurge of populism, selfishness and nationalism we give our YES to relationship and alliance.
  • In times marked by a return of negative fanaticisms which in the past brought catastrophe upon catastrophe, we give our YES to the Gospel, to reconciliation and to love.

Within our Movements we need to wake up to the awareness of the urgency of giving our YES to Europe.

As Communities and Movements, we should not hold back in expressing publicly our YES to Europe.

We work for a Europe that is Together. For a Europe that recognises diversity as enrichment and lives together in peace and unity. And last but not least,

God, throughout history, has entrusted this Continent with the mission to connect and bring closer heaven and earth, faith and its impact on the world, since on the Cross, Heaven and earth meet.

Today on the eve of the celebrations of the “Treaties of Rome” we come together to pray and to re-state, as always, that as Christian Communities and Movements we count – besides our own commitment – on the help of God.

Europe needs our prayer.

 

 

 

 

Interview with David-Maria Sassoli

Hon. David-Maria Sassoli, Member of the European Parliament, Italy, Democratic Party, during the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017

Honourable Sassoli, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which marks the beginning of the European Union, many point out that Europe has lost its Christian roots, placing too much emphasis perhaps on finance, bureaucracy and national interests, incapable of showing solidarity and welcome, or encouraging development focused on the human person. What are your thoughts?

“It is important that Christians make themselves heard more, there should be networks among Christians which would provide a witness and example to others. There is no doubt, values such as peace, co-existence, solidarity and justice, which are of Christian origin, are today also considered as paradigms of political, cultural and moral commitment by citizens who are not themselves Christian. These are the key values that constitute European identity: something Christians ought to be happy with, because within what is considered the European identity, as such, are these precisely Christian values. What needs to be done now is to explain everything well to European citizens. Currently the idea of Europe frightens and makes people anxious. It appears burdensome, instead we need to show the value of unity to the peoples of Europe. What is also at stake here, the challenge for this Century, is to shape a global market. Globalisation without rules leads to marginalisation, poverty and misery, and environmental catastrophes. The great challenge Europe continues to face is to give rules and values to the world. Market rules which do not successfully safeguard human rights, freedom and democracy would be merely economic allowing the stronger to win, and this is not what we want. So, the challenge is this: Christian values which are at the basis of European identity today must provide the key elements to face this great global challenge”.

In the context of overcoming the divisions between countries that are economically more or less developed, we often speak about a “two-tier Europe”, what is your view on this?

“If this means that there would be countries of class A and class B, then that is wrong. Instead, if it means that non-member countries can collaborate, under the ‘closer cooperation’ provision of the Lisbon Treaty, in the context of joint policies, without upsetting EU standards, then it could be interesting. This is how the euro was introduced – with a closer cooperation starting from ten, eleven countries and others joined in later. Because within EU mechanisms it is effectively difficult to achieve unanimity. If there were countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and others which were to opt for a common defence solution, that would be great: we would have a core which would lead the way that others might follow”.

There has been much discussion about the necessity to review the Treaties. It was underlined also by Pope Francis in his speech at the European Parliament in May 2016, on the occasion of the Conferral of Charlemagne Prize. In what way do you believe they need to be modified?

“They should be changed, I would be in favour of arriving eventually at a European Constitution, but realistically and with regret I need to say that currently it might be very dangerous to re-open a discussion on the Treaties, so one needs to be very careful. Who knows what the outcome would be for Europe if we reopened the debate on Schengen with the current nationalist governments afraid of the influx of immigrants? It is better to focus on those policies which can contribute to developing Europe, because beyond institutions, rules and treaties, that is what is now needed most of all”.

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Luca Maria Negro

Luca Maria Negro, Baptist Pastor, President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), during the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017

An event like the one tonight, where different Christian Churches unite in prayer shows that unity in diversity is possible. How can one reconcile the affirmation and safeguarding of own’s identity and traditions with the encounter and openness to the other?

“As an ecumenical body, we have had experience of this dynamic for over 50 years, because our Movement has as its motto ‘united but different’, that is to say united whilst respecting the charism of each of the churches. This is close also to the motto of the European Union, indeed we are not sure whether it derives deliberately from the Ecumenical Movement’s motto, in any case we believe that today it is more valid than ever before. Unfortunately, it appears as if Europe has lost its soul. We do not want to arrogantly claim to be the soul of Europe, however, as Churches we wish to strongly witness that ecumenism, dialogue, building of societies in dialogue, and the promotion of lay ecumenism within society are essential”.

To recover those Christian values that constitute Europe’s very foundations means to offer a heritage pertinent to all peoples, not only to Christians…

“As protestants, we do not emphasise the recovering of Christian values in any particular way as not to seem to want to force them also on those who do not share our faith. There are, however, values such as dialogue and solidarity, which are also Christian and which can be shared by all people of good will. This is what we aim for, the rediscovery of values out of which Europe was born. Because let us not forget that while it is true that many Christians contributed to the growth of Europe, there were also many others who founded it. Over the last days, we recalled the fact that the European Federalist Movement in Italy started in the house of a Waldensian, Mario Alberto Rollier, there were however others, non-believers such as Altiero Spinelli, meeting together and working to build a united Europe”.

How do people learn, in practical terms, to dialogue?

“How do people learn to walk? By practicing walking. The same goes for dialogue. You need to make a start, to come out of yourself. You will make mistakes, because at times it is easy to, despite your best will, hurt the other and their feelings. In this context, the Ecumenical Movement certainly has much experience to offer to those who are new to dialogue”.

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Donato Falmi

Dr. Donato Falmi, former Director of the Italian New City Publishing House and Co-responsible for the Focolare Movement in Rome and Central Italy, during the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017

Looking at Europe today, divided and lost, it seems that Chiara Lubich had a prophetic intuition, back in 1999, when she began establishing an international ecumenical network of Christian Movements…

“It was prophetic in that Chiara had foreseen the obstacles that unity in Europe would encounter, and the need for a fundamental, perhaps hidden spiritual force capable of facing up to the negative and disintegrating tendencies present in Europe today. When Chiara lunched this idea, the European ideal was still popular, today it needs to be rediscovered. Had we not had the experience of this journey together, we would be ill equipped to face today’s challenges. It is, beyond any declaration of principles, a practical way of giving Europe back its Christian soul, putting Christianity back as the foundation of Europe (…). The experience made together by Movements and Churches belonging to different ‘Christian souls’ – because Christianity is made up of one reality with many different expressions – might be just the right way to show that Europe has a Christian foundation. In this sense, Chiara’s intuition was ingenious”.

Pope Francis emphasised dialogue as the one thing needed in order to build Europe with more unity and solidarity. And it is in dialogue that the Focolare Movement, since its very beginnings, has found a path to unity. What does it mean to lead a dialogue – and how can one learn how to dialogue?

“Chiara makes a rediscovery of the nature of God itself, of God who is love. Another term for ‘love’, a term that expresses the dynamics of a loving relationship, is ‘dialogue’. What is more dialogic than love? On the other hand, there is no real dialogue without love. This is because dialogue requires a welcoming of the other and forgetting of self (not negation of self, but a sort of stepping back in order to welcome another). That is a basic rule. Once it has been established, dialogue becomes fundamentally the only way to achieve unity, because it both respects diversity whilst focusing on what is good and what unites”.

In the last years, there has been a proliferation of populist and so-called sovereignty movements. Perhaps Europe needs an examination of conscience to ask itself what went wrong and where to go next?

“What we are witnessing is a result of Europe’s focus on material wellbeing. Europe has developed to the benefit of the entire world, with values such as those summed up by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and signed by the world leaders, it has, however, also been affected by the temptation to settle on wellbeing of a material character, forgetting the depths of the human person. In achieving the highest objectives of human civilisation, Europe also reached a level of wellbeing which made it forget deeper preconditions of civil co-existence. Today we are paying the price for this. We have, nevertheless, also been rediscovering forgotten values, and becoming aware that material well-being has its own value in the right place, together with other values which need to come first.”

 Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Fr. Heinrich Walter

Fr. Heinrich Walter, Responsible for International Coordination of the Schoenstatt Movement, on the occasion of the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration in Rome 2017

In your view, what contribution can Pope Francis offer to the building of a Europe in which there is more solidarity and more inspiration drawn from Christian values?

“Being of Argentinian origin, I believe the Pope sees Europe differently than we do, more objectively, and understands that Europe is frightened and as a result is lacking vitality. Pope Francis is enthusiastic and understands very well that what the world as a whole needs its renewal.”.

What witness can Christian Churches united in their diversity offer Europe?

“In this Europe in crisis countries lack the ability to offer solutions based on their own individual resources. Some countries have suffered excessive pressure due to the refugee emergency situation. What is needed is an alliance among the countries of Europe, so that each can offer a contribution freely to an overall solution”.

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Christian Charisms and Europe

The contribution of Religious Orders and Institutes towards unity in Europe

During the times of the Roman Empire, Europe experienced a period characterised by a certain type of unification. This was a fragile unity forcefully imposed by “Roman legions”. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe found itself once again fragmented, with ethnic and cultural differences reasserting themselves as each of its peoples sought to restate their own sense of identity. By the 5th century, Europe was full of different rival groups.

During this period and in centuries to follow, the presence of certain men and women guided by the Spirit, inspired in the peoples of Europe new ideals and universals values, mostly rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage. They were values and ideals that brought European peoples into dialogue, sharing their respective riches and in this way generating a new, unitary social and cultural fabric for the Continent.

In a conference, a few years ago, Cardinal Walter Kasper said: “Saints like Martin, Benedict, Boniface, brothers Cyril and Methodius, Adalbert, Bernard, Francis, Dominic and many others, moulded the history of Europe. Through these saintly men and countless saintly women, the Church made a precious contribution to the unity and the sense of identity of Europe”.

These individuals gave rise to new spiritualities, spiritual movements, religious orders and centres of cultural and social works, that helped the peoples of Europe to gradually develop an identity based on shared values.

The first big charismatic order originated from Benedict of Nursia (Italy, 480-547). Benedictine Monasticism, brought about by Benedict both in Africa and in the East as well as in the West, was in its many historical expressions a determining factor for the evangelisation of the Continent whilst contributing to the formation of European medieval culture. In short, it played a crucial part in establishing the dialogue between values of the Roman civilisation, Judeo-Christian values and those of the so-called “barbarian” cultures that were introduced to the Continent by the peoples of the North and East in the centuries to follow.

The religious brothers of the order of Saint Benedict with their widely disseminated and sizable abbeys, established centres of spirituality, which also served as centres of culture, human empowerment and social and economic progress, putting themselves mostly at the service of the poor and marginalised.

In the 11th century in Eastern Europe, Cyril and Methodius, two monks of Greek origin, having evangelised peoples of Eastern Europe, started a process which, it can be argued, led to the foundation of the Slavic culture. The breakthrough of these brothers from Salonica (Greece) consisted in the creation of a new alphabet, whilst they were in contact with Western Greco-Roman culture; in this way, they made a decisive contribution to what would become the literature and culture of Slavic nations.

Between the 11th and the first half of the 12th century, other charismatic individuals and great cultural figures emerged. One of these, Bernard of Clairvaux, hailing from the tradition of Benedictine Monasticism founded a new movement, the Cistercian order.

In the 13th century the Mendicant Friars emerged giving rise to many other charismatic movements. These originated from charismatic figures in individual nations, fast developing into supra-national movements spreading all over the Continent and in turn to the rest of the world.

Among these the Dominican movement stands out, founded in Spain by Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) and the Franciscan movement, which itself originated in Italy with Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). Religious movements whilst rooted in deep spirituality were able to inspire and promote many aspects of human culture and knowledge. They developed theology, philosophy, literature, sciences, arts. At the time and in the centuries to follow, every European university, would number among its lecturers and pupils, friars from the Mendicant orders.

With the arrival of Humanism and the Renaissance, powerful nations were established. This process was contributed to in a decisive way both by established charismatic movements as well as new charisms which grew and spread.

Many new religious orders were established in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuit order; Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and the Carmelites in Spain; the Brothers of Mercy of John of God who cared for the sick; in France, Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of Charity; Francis de Sales, John Baptist de La Salle known for the formation of young people and for the setting up of schools accessible to all; Philip Neri with the Oratory, in Italy, Girolamo Emiliani, Cajetan of Thiene, Camillo de Lellis who operated in the hospitals, and so on. At around the same time the Capuchin reform emerged from the Franciscan tradition and in Germany the great reform of Martin Luther took place.

Many other new spiritualities made a key contribution to the cultural, social and economic identity of modern Europe. Each charism was born with a strong spiritual identity, while sensitive and open to issues, challenges, social and human needs of peoples and individuals. This allowed access to culture, health care, housing, human rights, economy and dignified human life to an ever-growing number of European citizens.

The same phenomenon can be seen in the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite the abolition of religious orders imposed first by Napoleon and later by several European States, countless religious institutes and orders were established. In the 19th century we cannot go without mentioning Don John Bosco and the Salesians (Turin, Italy), John Benedict Cottolengo and Joseph Cafasso, who looked after the sick and the marginalised; in England, the contribution of bishop John Henry Newman, and so on.

In the 20th century Europe, besides the establishment of new religious orders such as those set up by Don James Alberione, Don Luigi Orione, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe and others, saw the beginnings of many other expressions of charismatic life which manifested themselves as vast lay ecclesial movements. Each with its own strong spiritual identity, but also with a great sensitivity to the dramatic challenges brought to our Continent by modernity.

Europe would be poorer and more fragile were it not for the contribution offered in the past by orders and religious institutes and today by the wealth of ecclesial movements which have emerged within different Churches and Christian Communities.

These spiritual and charismatic forces, whilst born in precise geographical locations, have spread beyond national borders, offering in this way a powerful and decisive contribution to the constituting of a united, strong, free, sympathetic and brotherly Europe.

Fr Egidio Canil, Sacro Convento of the Franciscans in Assisi, Italy

My Vision of Europe: Young People in Their Own Words

The European dream has been, since its very beginning, an opportunity to overcome the mutual distrust and misconceptions which have existed between European peoples for centuries.

Throughout the history of European integration, issues pertinent to young people were often overshadowed by other, no less important topics, such as ecology or workers’ rights. This began to change in the 1990s and especially from 2000, when several educational youth exchange programmes including ‘Erasmus Mundus’ for university students as well as employment support programmes such as the Italian ‘Garanzia Giovani’ Projects were set up.

For young people, a united Europe is an enticing prospect. Many see it as an opportunity to form a broad community of men and women within which to seek points of contact between cultures and traditions stemming from a shared root. Europe represents an opportunity to work and travel, expand one’s horizons and transcend one’s own narrow national borders. Young people’s protests over Brexit calling for a review of the vote, expressed a strong desire to belong to a Europe with shared values.

Young people’s prevailing vision of Europe is not, however, entirely reassuring or optimistic. People of our generation are asking themselves whether the promises of material and spiritual wellbeing, equality and charity between European nations is being upheld. Currently, Italy has a youth unemployment of 40%. Whether the fault for this lies with successive Italian governments or with the European Union, the result is the same: a lack of jobs translates into a lack of dignity (as both Benedict XVI and Francis pointed out). The European reaction to the economic and fiscal crisis has been slow and insufficient and ended up only deepening inequality and causing more suffering. Whilst 5 or 6 years ago, no voices objected to the European project, today, many are tempted to give up on what appears to be a futile dream. Young people are fully aware of these difficulties. As shown by voting preferences in Italy, Spain and France, the so-called “Erasmus generation” has lost some of its lustre for the European dream.

Were the future of the young people considered by those who govern Europe, this situation could be revolutionised. What sort of future lies ahead? What world will we live in? One where society is divided, unjust and full of fear, or another where society is united and reassuring towards its citizens, safeguarding the Rule of Law and looking towards a hopeful future? The latter option is only made possible by a united Europe. To save young people’s future, sacrifices are required by those currently in power. This is not about cutting down on cars and salaries. That goal has already been achieved with perhaps excessive alacrity. Rather, the real sacrifice consists in the ability to give up one’s own power for the greater good. Why, for example, has a European department of Finance not been established? We are a Union with a currency but without a State. Why does the concept of European diplomacy as such, not exist? Maintaining official diplomatic relations among countries belonging to, what is effectively, a quasi-federation, where ministers speak to each other daily, is simply a waste of money. Why is the appointment of the President of the European Commission not done through an election process? Having such an election process within the public sphere, could bring more accountability at the top and more awareness at the roots. Why is this not happening or if it is, why in such a lethargic fashion?

Those who are Christian have an answer. They understand the difference between power used for one’s own aims and power exercised as a duty of care sustaining communities. Young people are undoubtedly prepared to support the European dream, provided that it stems from a community of men and women, not from selfish interests or mere regulations. Only through shared objectives and an awareness of a joint destiny can a cultural leap be taken which Europe is calling for. A leap which can be made from one day to another because, as was said before, it is people’s choice that changes the course of history.

 

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) and acts as Italian delegate for the European Youth Forum.

Baumann “Thirst for Peace”

“(…) All stages and phases of human history have one common denominator: they are characterised by inclusiveness of the other on the one hand and their exclusion on the other hand. These also define categories of identification.

“Us” being a measure of mutual hostility. The meaning of ‘we/us’ can be seen in opposition to ‘they/them’. People needed each other to feel connected and to identify themselves as belonging to a group or place. This form of self-identification differentiating oneself from the other persists throughout human history resulting in much bloodshed. Related to our own identity is our perception or concept of humanity.

The next inevitable stage in history, is one in which we now find ourselves, confronted by the call to expand our own notion of humanity.

I believe that we are required by this call to make a new step, one which consists in abolishing the pronoun ‘they’ from our vocabulary. Up until now our predecessors had something in common – an enemy. Now, facing concept of a global humanity, where do we locate the enemy?

We are surrounded by a global reality in which anything that happens, even in the most remote corner of our planet, impacts one way or another on us and on our future prospects. We all depend on each other, and in this, there is no going back (…).”

 

Zygmunt Bauman, sociologist and philosopher, opening assembly of the international meeting “Thirst for Peace”, Assisi (Italy), 18th September 2016

 

Mattarella on Europe and Young People

“(…) Now I would like to address the young people.

I am well-aware, that for you, work and dignity go hand in hand. I realise that today in our country there is a lack of work opportunities, and where there is work it is often insecure and underpaid. This situation affects all in the work force, and even more so you, young people.

Your generation has received more education than those who have come before you. You have both – great knowledge and great potential, and deserve every opportunity to become full protagonists of life in our society.

Many of you study or work in other European countries. This is often a great opportunity. But it must also be a matter of free choice. If you are obliged to leave Italy for lack of opportunities, this signals, that our country is suffering an unhealthy situation which needs to be remedied. Young people who make this choice are always deserving of respect and support.

When the experience gained abroad cannot be brought back to our homeland, all of society becomes impoverished.

In February 2016 in a university in New York, I met with some students from all over the world. One girl opened her contribution by affirming that she feels she is a European, as well as an Italian citizen. Experiences of young people like her who share values, ideas and culture with others show that Europe is not simply the product of treaties. A continent that for centuries was divided by hostilities, chose the path of peace and joint development.

These young people understand that the choices of our times are best faced together. They comprehend the value of peaceful European integration, all the more when faced with the tragic situation in Aleppo, the thousands of people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and the many conflicts around the world.

They do not accept the contradiction represented in a Europe that is divided and indolent, over issues such as the question of immigration.

We expect the Union to show tangible gestures of solidarity in the context of the distribution of refugees and a dignified management of repatriation for those who are not granted asylum. (…)”

Sergio Mattarella, President of Italy, address to the nation, 31st December 2016

 

New Horizons after Lund (Sweden)

An Anniversary in Communion

(…) “It brings me immense joy to be here today, bearing witness to the work of the Holy Spirit sowing unity among the followers of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit, in the words of Martin Luther, ‘calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in unity with Jesus Christ in the one true faith’. Today, in Lund and in Malmö, we are experiencing the modern miracle of the Holy Spirit as the disciples experienced it in my hometown Jerusalem two thousand years ago. […]

We thank the Triune God that we are moving from conflict to communion. Our historic gathering today is sending a message to the entire world that strongly held religious commitments can lead toward reconciliation rather than always contributing more conflict to our already troubled world. When religious people work for unity and reconciliation, religion can promote the flourishing of all human communities.”

From the address by Bishop Munib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation, Lund, 31st October 2016

 

An Anniversary in Communion – Commemoration of the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation

In an article posted in the Vatican daily newspaper Osservatore Romano on 17th January 2017, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity explains the significance of the Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation.

In the article, Koch reflects on the ecumenical prayer of Pope Francis in Lund on 31st October 2016 with Bishop Munib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation, on the occasion of the Reformation anniversary. This historical prayer “was on the one hand received with gratitude and on the other hand faced criticism and opposition. Whilst some Catholics were concerned about a possible Protestant drift of Catholicism, some Protestants spoke of a betrayal of the Reformation”. For Cardinal Koch, however, the commemoration of this anniversary “presents itself as a welcome invitation to dialogue about that which the Catholics can learn from the Reformation and the Protestants can draw from the Catholic Church as an enrichment to their own faith”, overcoming any polemic or partial tone.

In his time, Martin Luther “did not wish for a fall out with the Catholic Church and for the establishment of a new Church. Instead his vision was that of a renewal of the whole of Christianity in the Spirit of the Gospel. (…) The fact that at the time this vision was impossible to fulfil is due partially to political factors”.

For Cardinal Koch, the occasion of the 2017 anniversary commemoration ought therefore to be understood as an “invitation to return to the original vision of Martin Luther”, a vision seen in the light of three key-concepts: gratitude for the 50 years of intense dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, repentance accompanied by purification of historical memory and hope, that a joint commemoration of the Reformation might allow for “making further steps towards a binding ecclesial communion. The latter must remain the objective of every ecumenical effort which is the reason why also the commemoration of the Reformation has this as its ultimate aim. After one hundred and fifty years of division, after having lived for many years turning against or remaining indifferent to each other, we must now learn to live with each other, linked together by strong bonds, and this we ought to do, starting today.”

(Summary of Beatriz Lauenroth)

 

 

Pope Francis’ Dream

On the occasion of the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize in Rome on 6th 2016, Pope Francis shared his dream for Europe

(…)  With mind and heart, with hope and without vain nostalgia, like a son who rediscovers in Mother Europe his roots of life and faith, I dream of a new European humanism, one that involves “a constant work of humanization” and calls for “memory, courage, [and] a sound and humane utopian vision”.

I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life.

I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter.

I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless.

I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being.

I dream of a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment.

I dream of a Europe of families, with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption.

I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all.

I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia. Thank you.

Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, from the Address of Pope Francis, Rome, Sala Regia Friday, 6 May 2016

For the full text go to: //w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/may/documents/papa-francesco_20160506_premio-carlo-magno.html

A glance from France

60 Years after the Treaties of Rome: A French Point of View

So here we are! While not all countries are represented we did manage to get a total of 28 countries who will share in the celebrations of the past 60 years of Europe. On the 25th of March 1957, the date of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, just 6 countries stipulated the establishment of the European Economic Community, which in 1992 became European Union. France was one of those 6 determined countries. Lead by the ideas of Jean Monnet, voiced by Robert Schuman, the French accepted this great European idea.

Seen as an instrument of peace and stability, this idea of Europe was put at the service of European countries to enable an easier and speedier reconstruction of the continent. Successive French leaders considered Europe among other things (but perhaps most of all) as a springboard towards greater power and influence on the European stage. Love for the French fatherland, protection of national values and French influence characterised the French actions throughout the process of European integration. As recalled by General De Gaulle in 1954: touching French sovereignty was not part of the “European contract”. France has maintained this same attitude to date.

The great French Founding Fathers, who loved Europe as much as they loved France itself, were succeeded by an inspired lineage. Many French presidents (in the first instance Valéry Giscard d’Estaing) continued to work for the European cause. D’Estaing (like Jacques Delores), inherited the ideals of the Founding Fathers, allowing for a vision of a European Union of a more political character: a union of European peoples, united but respectful of diversity of each culture and religion.

In 2005, on the occasion of the treaty referendum to establish the European Constitution, the French vote expressed clearly that leaders and politics can only do so much, they are powerless without popular consent. The treaty was rejected by the majority of French people. The French could not have been clearer in their view of the Union on this occasion. This motif has been often repeated by the French since: while the European Union is necessary, more Europe would be “too much”. Why too much? Because the French just as other European peoples resist the idea of being incorporated into a supranational Europe, where there would be no distinction between a French and Italian person, where the distinction and sovereignty of each country would be absorbed by an “All-European” model.

If the French accept the current model of Europe today, it is owing to the fact that they feel valued in their identity and socio-economic order. More importantly, the French accept Europe, because they share the principle values underlying 1957: solidarity, freedom, peace and fraternity among peoples. All these values are mostly of Christian origin and represent how the French see Europe. Leaving out specific religious implications they feel attached to its moral foundations that constitute the basis of today’s Europe. Although reflecting on and claiming such values does not always translate into action – as shown by the current refugee crisis – it continues to be true that the French feel that they constitute part of this European reality.

On 25th March 2017 in Rome, the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome will be celebrated. It is a reminder of how young Europe in reality is! Various events, and conventions as well as the March for Europe which mark the occasion, will be memorable moments in themselves. Besides the need for a European political re-launch, it will become an opportunity for recalling those Christian values shared by all European peoples. These values will be, in my view, the foundation for a new launch of Europe, since they are the only ones that embody not fear but unity.

 

 

By Marie Trélat. Marie is a French student of Political Science, specialising in the European Union and Eastern and Central European related topics. Marie currently lives in Rome and attends the LUISS Guido Carli University through the Erasmus Mundus Project. She is a member of the Rome branch of JEF (Young European Federalists) and works in the area of International Relations for JEF. She also worked for the French branch of Vatican Radio for a period of 5 months.

A glance from Germany

60 YEARS SINCE THE „TREATIES OF ROME” 24th – 25th March 2017

On 25th March 1957 six European countries – Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries – decided to establish an “Economic Community” which as stated in the introduction to the agreement, was to be built on a foundation of peace, reconciliation and collaboration. The signatories were motivated by a common will to lay the grounds for an ever-closer collaboration between European countries. They were determined to safeguard economic and social development in each individual country through joint action, remove barriers of division and consolidate peace and freedom on the continent.

At the same time, other European states were invited to “join forces”.

The ultimate significance of the “Economic European Community” went well beyond a search for economic advancement. Already in the early 1950s the French Minister for Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman (1886-1963) made clear that sustainable peace in Europe could only be guaranteed through joint control over resources such as the coal and steel required in warfare.

In addition, Germany was accepted as an equal partner in the nascent community, just 12 years after the war ended.

This was a decisive step towards reconciliation on the continent in which France and Germany had a determining role.

Since 1992 the European Union has become a guarantor of political cohesion on the continent. This would have not been possible without the agreements leading to the “Economic European Community” – the “Treaties of Rome”.

Whilst the Treaties dealt in detail with issues such as import, export, customs regulation, tribunals, economic policies, free circulation of goods and establishment of commissions, it can be considered primarily as the act through which a united Europe was born.

In this, of key importance, is firstly the fact that the signatories were former enemies and secondly that the intention behind its stipulation, clearly set out in the Preamble, was that the Union should aim to eliminate barriers, safeguard peace and freedom, promote development, thereby improving conditions of life for Europeans.

 

 

Written by Sr. PD Dr. Nicole Grochowina of Christusbruderschaft Community in Selbitz (Germany). Since 2012 Sr. Grochowina has been lecturing in modern history at University of Erlangen/Nuremberg (Germany). She is a member of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe and of the Committee of experts on ecumenism of the Evangelical Church of Bavaria.

A glance from Italy

TREATIES OF ROME AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

On 25th March 1957, the Treaties of Rome were signed. They are considered the inaugural act of the great European family of countries. The first treaty established the European Economic Community (EEC), whilst the second set up Euratom, aimed at joined research for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. 

The EEC Treaty brought together the signatories France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands in a Community with the objective, as stated by Art. 2, of establishing a Common market and promoting the development of optimal economic conditions for exchange and production within the Community.

There was also a political objective, to contribute towards building a new political identity for Europe, directed towards broader unification. As stated by the signatories in the preamble to the Treaty: «determined to establish the foundations of an ever-closer union among the European peoples».

The Treaties of Rome were preceded by the so-called Treaty of Paris of 1951, through which the European Community of Steel and Coal (ECSC) was established. Through shared control over these industries the aim was to avoid any potential one-sided rearming of any one member state.

The attempts to promote greater unity within the European union on political and economic fronts stemmed from the desire after the second World War to integrate European states in such a way as to render impossible another armed conflict.

«For future peace, the creation of a dynamic Europe is indispensable. (…) We must therefore abandon the forms of the past and enter the path of transformation (…). Europe has never existed. It is not the addition of sovereign nations met together in councils that makes an entity of them. We must genuinely create Europe» (Jean Monnet, Memorandum, 3th May 1950).

«World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it. The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. (…) Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity» (Robert Schuman, 9th May 1950).

«Let us build peace within and without, and in order to achieve this, let us show discipline, order, good will and hard work. Let us seek better ways to share the goods of the earth and overcome difficulties. These are part of life, but can be won, if people are ready to make sacrifices, conscious that in order to succeed a complete faith in the Divine Providence is required» (Alcide De Gasperi, 20th April 1950).

The vicissitudes of Europe, from extraordinary thrusts to sudden halts brought about in the following years the ratification of further treaties (//europa.eu/european-union/law/treaties_en) and the establishment of institutions among which, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

 

 

Written by Maria Bruna Romito, Focolare Movement. Maria Bruna holds a degree in history. From 1989 to 2000 she lived in Hungary, where she taught Italian and history at the Catholic University of Budapest. She currently lives in Rome and works at the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Europe through the eyes of young people

Europe… Light and shadow… and a lot to offer.

An evening with a group of young people from all over the world in the headquarters of the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

At the end of April, eight university students some newly graduated, came to spend an evening with us, the Secretariat Team. They arrived with great anticipation and openness as well as with a sense of determination and an awareness that any serious discussion on Europe today requires a level of commitment. The evening started with sampling of a variety of tasty national specialities (Hungary, Slovak Republic, Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines) which had been prepared by the students and brought with some Italian pizza. The students surprised and enriched us with their views on Europe, in which neither light nor shadow were missing. They showed a great interest in the upcoming Event in Munich “Encounter. Reconciliation. Future.” They were also enthusiastic about any opportunity to help and enable Europe’s rich tradition and culture to be put to full use, and become source of inspiration both in their respective countries and for the whole of humanity.

Looking over the draft programme for Munich, they asked to listen to some of the music which will be featured by different groups that will perform in the city square on 2nd of July 2016. One of the songs that stood out as particularly significant for them was entitled “Wir sind eins“ (“We are one“) > //www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4zX98_Sr4s

In the days leading up to Munich our young friends will support the Event in different ways. They have promised to let their friends and acquaintances know about it and spread the invitation through the Social Media channels that they use.

Whilst in July some of them will be in their home countries, others – Marcos, Marie and Szabina – are planning to come to Munich to join us in actively building Europe of today.

Team of the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

 

TOGETHER in Rome

TOGETHER in Rome

At the beginning of January a number of representatives of Together for Europe visited Card. Koch in Rome. Leaders from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were also present at the meeting.

The open atmosphere which presided over the dialogue was attested to by Gerhard Pross (YMCA Esslingen), Diego Goller (Focolare Movement), Cesare Zucconi (Sant’Egidio), Fr. Heinrich Walter (Schoenstatt), Thomas Römer (YMCA Munich) and Heike Vesper (Focolare Movement) who were also touched by Card. Koch’s openness and availability. During the meeting the Cardinal expressed his hope for a greater level of involvement from the Orthodox Church in the preparatory process for the upcoming event in Munich in June/July 2016. With the intention to contribute to the event and to facilitate the majority of other speakers based in Germany, the Cardinal has made himself available to travel to Germany for a preliminary meeting.

A personal visit to Card. Kasper concluded the day of meetings in Rome. It was also very open and constructive. Gerhard Pross commented: “Over the last 15 years Card. Kasper accompanied and followed us like no other. He has declared his availability to speak at the Congress. The fact that he also involved us in some issues which occupy him at present appears to be a clear sign of the relationship of trust which has grown over the years”.