Category Archives: Europa

Europe’s splendour is its people

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 Town Hall of Augsburg – a historical place

The Town Hall of Augsburg – a historical place

20th anniversary of Together for Europe, 7 – 9.11.2019 at Ottmaring and Augsburg

In 2019 Together for Europe returns to Germany: to the ecumenical Centre of Ottmaring/Augsburg where it all started back in 1999. Leaders and representatives of various Movements and Communities belonging to the Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and the Free Churches will meet at a European level to take stock of the situation and plan for the future.

On Friday November 8, 2019 an official reception for the ‘Friends of Together for Europe’ will take place at the Town Hall of Augsburg. In This historical place the City wants to honour this international initiative.

The ‘Golden Hall’

The heart of the Town Hall of Augsburg is the ‘Golden Hall’, which was built between 1615 and 1620 by Elias Holl. In virtue of its impressive doorways, paintings and the magnificent lacunar ceiling, the ‘Golden Hall’ was immediately hailed as an apex of internal artistic design. The Hall was so named because of the many golden ornaments that adorn the interior.

Augustan Peace Prize – The Winner of the Inter-Confessional Prize

In the “Golden Hall’, in 1988, on the Feast day of the Augustan Peace, Chiara Lubich was honoured with the Prize for Peace for her commitment in the ecumenical field on a world-wide level.  The prize, which exists since 1985, honours those leading personalities who have given a special contribution toward an open and peaceful cohabitation of culture and religions. Among others it was granted to Rabbi Levinson, Pope Schenuda III of the Coptic Church, the former German Federal President, Richard von Weizsäcker and the former Head of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. In 2017, this prestigious honour was given to the General Secretary of the World Lutheran Federation, Martin Junge.

Oberer Fletz

On the floor under the ‘Golden Hall’ there is the historical ‘Oberer Fletz’ – a hall with a characteristic style where the Town Council holds its meetings. That is where, on November 9, 2019, the participants of the annual meeting of the ‘Friends of Together for Europe’ will converge.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Together for Europe turns 20!

Together for Europe turns 20!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The vocation of Ottmaring

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?

 

Facing the great global challenge

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

Europe Day, People’s Day

Europe Day, People’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ada Maria Guazzo, Ilona Toth

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

French cities celebrating the Europe Day

French cities celebrating the Europe Day

Here the various appointments

TOULOUSE

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

LYON

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

STRASBOURG 

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

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

PARIS

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

LONGJUMEAU 

Tuesday, 14 May 8.30 pm prayer for Europe

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

Invitation 11 Mai 2019 Toulouse (75.0 KB, 29 downloads)
Invitation 2 Avril 2019 Paris (177.4 KB, 34 downloads)
Affiche Strasbourg Mai 2019 (857.0 KB, 28 downloads)
Affiche Lyon Mai 2019 (209.5 KB, 31 downloads)
Invitation Longjumeau 14 Mai 2019 (639.8 KB, 27 downloads)
And what’s happening in Rome?

And what’s happening in Rome?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volantino 8 Maggio 2019 Roma (228.1 KB)

 

 

Slovenia is getting ready

Slovenia is getting ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Carinthia, a crossroads of nations

Carinthia, a crossroads of nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the invitation here (available only in German)

KLAGENFURT Europa Einheit In Vielfalt - Flyer_2019 (1.4 MB)
Works in progress in Padua

Works in progress in Padua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Team of Together for Europe in Padua

Bearers of hope

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

2° Day TfE at Prague

2° Day TfE at Prague

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heinrich Brehm

The enduring legacy of the “Velvet Revolution”

The enduring legacy of the “Velvet Revolution”

Together for Europe 2018 – Prague

Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, a country at the very heart of European culture and history, with pay host from 15th-17th November 2018 to the annual meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe.

The great history of Central Europe, in particular of the Czech nation will serve as a backdrop for a new stage in the journey of Together for Europe, which promotes dialogue between divergent cultural and political identities.

In November 2017 the European meeting of Friends of Together for Europe took place in Vienna, a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. This year, we will have the opportunity to take another step to the very heart of Central Eastern Europe – Prague, with a singular desire to face challenges, prejudices and fears which weigh on the collective conscience of EU member states and beyond. Through the life of the Gospel, nourished and enlightened by the presence of Christ in the Christian communities, we wish to witness to the fact that the path towards Europe as a House of Nations and a Family of Peoples is not a utopia.

The enduring legacy of the “Velvet Revolution”

On 17th November, the Czech Republic commemorates the anniversary of the “Velvet Revolution” (so called due to its peaceful nature) which transformed the Czech Republic into a co-protagonist for the ongoing process of European reunification. The presence of the Friends of Together for Europe in Prague on this very day, urges us to renew our shared commitment: to bring to a post-secular culture the spirit of Christian Humanism, and in so doing contribute to building a more united Europe.

The renowned Czech Philosopher and Theologian Tomas Halik, friend of the late Vaclav Havel, Jaroslav Sebek of the Historical Czech Academy of Science, and Pavel Fischer an emerging Czech politician, together with leaders and representatives of different Movements, Communities and Associations will be present. Their contributions will reinforce the daring objective of this meeting: to recall a Europe of hope and promise, a Europe which stems from a rich heritage of ethnic, social and cultural diversity and calls out for communion and dialogue.

In this way, the Prague event will become a fundamental phase of Together for Europe which continues its commitment for a more united, brotherly and just Europe. It will also be a unique opportunity to prepare together for the upcoming elections for the European Parliament. The meeting will conclude with an open evening, in which Movements and Communities from different churches and which are present in the Czech Republic will be represented.

Address: Mariapolis Centre, Mladoboleslavská 667, 190 17 Prague 9 – Vinoř, Czech Republic – Tel. +420 286 007 711; Email: cmpraha@espol.cz;  www.centrummariapoli.cz

Beatriz Lauenroth

Foto: Canva

 

Truth prevails

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

Looking ahead

Looking ahead

In 2019 Elections will be held for the European Parliament. Two weeks earlier, on May 9th, “Europe Day” will be celebrated. If we want to give our contribution to the establishment of a lively Europa with a promising future, we have to get started in time in the various countries and cities.

It seems that Together for Europe is more relevant than ever today, at a time when our continent is facing many challenges. We are convinced that God did not raise this network  without a reason.

Europe is on everyone’s lips. But how will it be possible to make our contribution as Christians in the construction of today’s Europe? Our possibilities are limited. And yet it’s the small, but creative and motivated, minorities that can make a difference and contribute to change. For this reason it will be important that we leave our charisms to unfold: Our vocation of unity, our culture of “Togetherness” is today more necessary than ever.

9 May – Europe Day

At the meeting of the ‘Friends of Together for Europe’ in Vienna in 2017, the intent of Jeff Fountain (Netherlands) and of the Italian group, to make May 9th, Day of Europe, a lively event has given rise to much interest. This year, events have already taken place in some regions.

For 2019 it seems important to start including this date in our annual program, to gather locally as Movements and Communities and explore the possibilities of this day. It could also be useful to include other initiatives that are committed to a “Togetherness” in Europe. Two weeks later elections for the European Parliament will take place; there will certainly be favorable pressures and creative ideas. Therefore, in 2019 there is an added value: May 9th should be a day of joy, of celebration, of commitment and of prayer!

Europe needs our prayer.

In addition to the impulses and initiatives already launched , we see our contribution to Europe in prayer as well. After our initiatives in the wake of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, on March 24, 2017, we saw its transforming force.  We trust that much will move in heaven and on earth when we pray together in unity for our Continent.

Gerhard Proß, Diego Goller, P. Heinrich Walter

See also: Involve your city>  

Foto: ©Ursel Haaf – www.urselhaaf.de

Europe in an “Era of Fear”

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

Small prophetic steps for Europe

Small prophetic steps for Europe

We have experienced many times that European unity is not a utopia and does not solely depend on institutions. European unity is generated through encounters between people: encounters without prejudices, with a willingness to uncover the riches in the other which brings us to discover, surprisingly, our own identity in deeper way.

That is what happened on 3rd June during the visit of Ljubljana (Slovenia) by sixteen representatives of Together for Europe from the Styria and Carinthia regions of Austria. The guests were members of different Ecclesial Movements and Communities such as Schoenstatt Movement, Focolare Movement, Charismatic Renewal, Freie Christengemeinde and Kloster Wernberg.

The visit began with a morning tour of the historical centre of Ljubljana led by a cultural expert, Silvester Gaberscek. A typical Slovenian picnic followed with fifteen members of different Slovenian Movements and Communities. There were beautiful moments of brotherly and sisterly friendship among the participants that gave a taste of what a united Europe could look like.

The visit continued with a programme in one of the local halls with a meeting which opened with some traditional Slovenian songs. The participants introduced themselves and shared their spiritual experience as well as their commitment and concrete initiatives in different areas (such as refugee welcome, youth initiatives aimed at citizen bonding, pro-family referendum initiatives). There were also moments of prayer as well as musical interludes. The Austrian guests asked to learn how to sing a prayer in Slovenian. We all felt encouraged and full of enthusiasm to keep working for unity in Europe.

That evening we parted mutually enriched and with the intention to meet as often as possible. We are delighted to have that opportunity next November in Prague.

Mariana and Pavel Snoj, Coordinators of Together for Europe in Slovenia

Fragments from Europe Day 2018

Fragments from Europe Day 2018

In the days before and after 9th May, a spirit of creativity and imagination animated Europe for the occasion of Europe Day 2018. Let us take a short tour of some of the places and initiatives associated with this celebration.

In Bratislava (Slovakia), apart from a meeting attended by 120 people, an evening dedicated to youth took place with the objective of exchanging ideas on a more united Europe and ways of becoming instruments of dialogue and understanding for others.

In Trent (Italy) the Movements – Friends of TFE met on 9th May to prepare for an open meeting which was held on May 21st with a programme built around the DVD recording from TFE event ‘Munich 2016’.

In Belgium three Movements used this opportunity to meet and get to know each other better.

In Milan’s Ambrosianeum (Italy) the Movements involved in TFE attended a reading of Robert Schuman’s essay “For Europe”.

In Zagreb (Croatia), forty members from Charismatic Renewal, the Schoenstatt Movement, Ignigo, Ecumenical Forum, the Focolare Movement as well as representatives of the Baptist Church and one of the Free Churches met together to pray for Europe and to listen to a reflection by American actress Kathleen Ann Thompson. The piece she performed, entitled “Is it right?” inspired by D. Bonhoeffer, the Scriptures and Thompson’s personal experience showed the Christian response to suffering.

In response to an invitation launched last November in Vienna offering formation on Europe to young people, the Movements of TFE of Slovenia visited a catholic secondary school in Ljubljana, where they met 60 third year students (all around 18 years of age). In a two-hour session they spoke about the Founding Fathers of Europe (Schuman, De Gasperi and Adenauer) as well as about the journey of TFE which was presented through experiences of personal commitment. The session was met by great interest by the students and their teacher. Another initiative of the Slovenian Committee of TFE was a letter addressed to the President of Slovenia in which the committee introduced TFE Network and proposed a collaboration on the occasion of the 9th May celebrations. Whilst awaiting his response, the Committee went ahead and staged a sizable public event in Ljubljana City Centre.

In Esslingen (Germany) City Major Dr. Jürgen Zieger, was invited to an event held by TFE. The Major spoke about Europe, addressing in particular the historical development of the Union and some specific local situations. Twinnings among cities following the catastrophe of World War II, stood out as an example of conciliatory peace in action. The enormous importance of Europe for Germany as a whole and for the city of Esslingen itself was clearly evident in all the addresses. Together for EuropeYES to Europe was emphasised in the presentation of TFE activities and ‘Munich 2016’ video. After a joint prayer for Europe, participants shared a moment of conversation around the table with French wine and Italian focaccia bread.

In Rome (Italy), the local committee of TFE celebrated 9th May with a focus on commemorating Schumann’s Declaration. This year, 15 Movements, Communities and Associations extended an open invitation to a catholic mass held in the church of St. Mark the Evangelist in Campidoglio. Auxiliary bishop Mons. Gianrico Ruzza who concelebrated with a number of priests from different Movements invited the participants to value their European roots echoing Pope Francis. The day before the solemn mass, a high-level conference was held in the Vatican by an Italian voluntary group “Civiltà dell’Amore” and the NetOne communication network (www.netone.org) on the topic of disarmament and the safeguarding of creation (one of the topics of the Munich Congress 2016).

Europe Day was celebrated in Paris (France) on May 12th outside the Municipal Hall, in partnership with the “Maison de l’Europe” (House of Europe) where Together for Europe Network with other associations and bodies set up a “Village of Europe”. This event took place in the very heart of civic life and the majority of participants were young people. Together for Europe was represented at a stand, and visited by among others the Mayor of Paris, Ms Hidalgo and the Minister for European Affairs, Ms Nathalie Loiseau who showed a keen interest in the Network’s vision and initiatives.

In the Netherlands, three churches of Utrecht (Roman Catholic, Vetero-Catholic and Protestant Church) organised together a moment of prayer (Europe Day Vesper) in Utrecht Cathedral, followed by a symposium entitled: “Europe? Impulse to connect!”. As with other social institutions, the Churches felt compelled to begin a reflection on the state of the Continent, which, despite the recent re-emerging of difference and autonomies, carries within it seeds of collaboration. the presence of political and cultural figures facilitated a dialogue, signalling that ‘Together’ – a commitment to work together – is Europe’s only chance.

Who knows how many initiatives are happening all over Europe that we do not even hear about!

by Ada Guazzo

Young people love to be practical

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

 

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“

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

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

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

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

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.

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Quotations by Robert Schuman

Europe will not be made all at once, or according to single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. (Declaration of 9th May 1950)

Following quotations are from Schuman’s book «Pour l’Europe»

“The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.”

“Europe before being a military alliance or an economic entity must be a cultural community in the highest sense of expression”.

“Political unity does not signify the absorption of the nation.”

“Who does not dare to stand up to that which is bad, defends badly that which is beautiful.”

“Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. It was born the day that man was called to realise in this temporary life, the dignity of each human person, in his individual liberty in the respect of the rights of each and by the practice of brotherly love to all. Never before Christ had comparable ideas been formulated.”

“Have we taken the wrong path? The result will to a large extent depend on the calibre of people before us, the extent of their honesty, the understanding we can gain of them and of their followers.”

“May from henceforth this idea of a reconciled, united and strong Europe become a watchword for the younger generations desirous of serving a humanity free at last from hate and fear.”

“Europe will acquire her soul in the diversity of its qualities and aspirations. The unity of these essential conceptions can be conciliated with the plurality of traditions and convictions and with the responsibility for personal choices. The present arrangement cannot and should not remain a technical and economic enterprise. It requires a soul, the conscience of its historic affinities and its present and future responsibilities, a political will serving the same human ideal.”

“Borders maintain their raison d’être if they can elevate their function to a spiritual level. Rather than barriers that divide, they should become the lines of contact where material and cultural exchange takes place.”

With regards to his Declaration of 9th May Schuman has stated that he made it because of his belief in Europe’s Christian foundations.

by Gérard Testard

Together towards a more open and philanthropic Europe

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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?

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.

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

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, 46 downloads)
A Culture of Togetherness becomes clear

A Culture of Togetherness becomes clear

Saturday, December 9th, YMCA-Building in Wuerzburg: about 100 people from nearly 50 initiatives, communities and movements – which are active in Germany and connected in the network Together for Europe – come together for their annual national meeting.  

“Together – how otherwise?” This is the headline that summarizes for me for what we experienced on this day in Würzburg. Such a long way travelled together that has brought out what unites us and how much power reconciled togetherness has! “Indeed a „Culture of Togetherness“ becomes clear, and I wish with all of my heart that it may gain ground in our communities, in our country and in the whole of Europe”. That was how, Sr. Nicole Grochowina from Christusbruderschaft Selbitz summarized her impression of the day. And she continued: “Therefore I am fully in favor of continuing to visit each other and go beyond our borders; we should find new friends in east and west and go on to shape togetherness throughout Europe – and be enriched by this”.

Theme of the Day

Besides a review of experiences in Together for Europe 18 years after it began, this year the question about the future way forward for the ecumenical network was the focus of our shared thinking.

„Unity among the people of God is a challenge for the future of Together for Europe, especially on how east and west Europe can come together more”, Gerhard Pross reported from the recent meeting of the European group of “Friends” of Together for Europe in Vienna.

Experience of Togetherness

Many of the participants spontaneously reported about their positive experiences during the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the reformation. There were also good experiences with “Prayer for Europe” on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome and after the Reconciliation Service between the Protestant and Catholic Church in Hildesheim. Roswitha Fuerg, from the Focolare-Movement in Solingen was „impressed by the openness and depth in Together for Europe that has grown over the years”.  The spontaneous reports of the participants showed how God leads people of different denominations and communities to get involved in this work for unity in many places“.

Fruits of Together for Europe after 18 years

Using the image of a growing tree, Sr. M. Vernita Weiss from the Schönstatt Movement made us envisage the fruits of Together for Europe after 18 years. She mentioned the deep roots from which a fruitful tree for the unity of Europe has grown and is growing.

Europe in the midst of challenges – A Culture of Togetherness

Regarding a Europe facing a lot of challenges from the political point of view, Gerhard Pross considered the task of Together for Europe first of all as living togetherness and mainly involving oneself in prayer for Europe.  But a discernment of spirits is also required. „At a time, when the old negative spirits that led Europe repeatedly into disasters are coming up again, we say our No to nationalism and state more clearly our Yes to the Gospel, to reconciliation and to love (…). We say Yes to a culture of relationships and covenants – No to simplistic and ‘one size fits all’ solutions. (see also the address by Gerhard Pross in Rom, 24.3.2017 

Steps towards the Future

Regarding the next steps, the participants shared the suggestions which had been developed during the annual meeting of the “Friends” of Together for Europe in Vienna. Especially highlighted were for example, encounters and mutual opportunities to meet and get to know each other with partners in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the idea to plan May 9th (already considered Europe Day) in 2018 and 2019 as a “Together for Europe Day” in the cities and regions.

„We felt a deep atmosphere of mutual appreciation and respect, but also of truth“, said Elisabeth and Hans-Georg Hagmann from Schönstatt movement describing their impressions. Johannes Golling, Leader of Julius-Schniewind-Haus e.V. (house of spirituality), summed up his experience of the day: „Meeting and visiting each other, making friends, listening to each other and being open to what is holy for the other person – that developed a dynamic exchange in the past which was illustrated today by plenty of examples”.

See also the detailed report on the German homepage> 

Text and photo: Heinrich Brehm

Vienna Cathedral at the Centre of Europe

Vienna Cathedral at the Centre of Europe

An ardent ecumenical prayer service. On the 9th November, 2017, Vienna Cathedral – dedicated to St Stephen – became the focal point for Europe.

Visible, inviting, and European – this is how this “Ecumenical Evening Prayer for Europe” came across in the cathedral church of Vienna, the Stephansdom.

Members of the ecumenical network Together for Europe at the heart of the Austrian capital city, at the vigil of their annual Congress. They came from countries such as Portugal, Russia, England, and Greece.

Their aim: unity and reconciliation among various Christian denominations and cultures, as well as solidarity and integration within Europe.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn lead an ecumenical group of representatives of various Churches: hundreds of people gathered under the “Lettner” Cross which is a significant memorial of the victims of the two world wars. “People today do not expect us to rule, but to serve,” the Cardinal emphasized in his speech. The solemn prayer for a TOGETHERNESS of cultures and generations and for peace resounded powerfully.

“This moment of prayer was a multilingual, visible, and European sign of hope,” said one of the participants, “and it gives us hope for the future.”

Video Ecumenical Prayer Vienna (German)>

At the reception that followed the celebration, Thomas Hennefeld, Superintendent of the Reformed Church of Austria and President of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria, and Joerg Wojahn, Head of the European Commission Representation in Austria,  underlined that Christian values are the basis for a united Europe. “We need everybody,” exclaimed the representative of the EU.

After November 9, 1938 (the Night of Broken Glass) and November 9, 1989 (fall of the Berlin wall), couldn’t November 9, 2017, day of the ecumenical prayer, be a significant step on the road of Together for Europe and a sign for Europe?

Beatriz Lauenroth;  Photo: Annemarie Baumgarten

 

 

Europe, a promise of peace

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: https://vimeo.com/240377109

Decades of surprise

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

 

 

Studying, living, and teaching history

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

 

9th May: Europe Day

9th May: Europe Day

It is encouraging to see the good intentions and new commitment to the European project

This day marks the anniversary of the beginning of the process of European integration. On 9th May 1950 Robert Schuman presented a plan for European cooperation known as ‘The Schuman Declaration’. This day also marks the anniversary of the end of Second World War, following the Nazi surrender on 8th May.

However, this day also marks victory for the then Soviet Union in 1945 as a result of which many Central and Eastern European countries became satellite states to Moscow.

It is a day in history of territorial gains, affecting an entire section of humanity, both in positive and in negative ways. As such, it is a historical day, Europe Day.

In European Union member countries, the EU Institutions hold Open Days in order to help European citizens to better understand the great “enterprise” which, since the year 2000 has as its motto: ‘United in diversity’. A motto that “signifies how Europeans have come together, in the form of the EU, to work for peace and prosperity, while at the same time being enriched by the continent’s many different cultures, traditions and languages.” To date, the motto appears as a challenge more so than a lived experience. However, it is encouraging to see the good intentions and new commitment to the European project, shown by the joint declaration of heads of state and government, which was signed on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.

We, Christians of different Churches, through our respective charisms, within our Movements and Communities, feel called upon on this Europe Day to continue our work for a more brotherly and united Europe. On the journey of Together for Europe, we have experienced that unity in diversity is possible based on a shared premise that we are all children of God and brothers. Every effort to build friendship and brotherhood in our communities, is precious. Our diversity becomes gift and mutual enrichment. And if this works on a small scale, it can be extended further to all in helping to serve the greater common good.

Ilona Toth

This is the Europe we want to build

This is the Europe we want to build

Ecumenical and International Prayer Vigil – Faith opens up to culture

On the eve of 24th of March 2017, the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles (Basilica dei XII Apostoli) in Rome was heaving with some 750 people who gathered for a Vigil commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the signing of Treaties of Rome presided by Card. Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Anglicans, clergy and lay gathered, taking up the invitation of Together for Europe, a joint initiative of over 300 Christian Movements and Communities. Together for Europe was also represented at the Vigil by a choir composed of eight Movements and by a choir of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella sent a message to the Vigil participants, in which he expressed his “desire to have been present and his firm conviction that such moments of encounter, offer a strong sign of hope, necessary in building a Europe of unity and solidarity.”

Mons. Nunzio Galantino, SecretaryGeneral of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Andrea Ricardi (founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio) and Gerhard Pross (current moderator of Together for Europe) spoke during the programme on various aspects of the crisis currently gripping the European continent, provoked by among other things, national greed on both collective and individual levels. They launched an invitation to uphold the belief of the Founding Fathers in the European project and to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world (Preamble to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, declared by Heads of State on 29th October 2004).

The Trisagion hymn “Holy God, Holy Mighty!”, sung by a gathering themselves deeply moved, sounded particularly powerful and solemn against such a backdrop.

In an interview, Fr. Heinrich Walter of the Schoenstatt Movement, emphasised: “There are two key moments on the journey towards renewed European integration. Firstly, the Christian roots of Europe ought to be nourished. This is something which the Movements have been working for. Secondly, we must respect the freedom of others. We try to do this within the Together for Europe network and we wish to share this experience of ours with all of Europe.”

After the Vigil, Symeon Catsinas, a Greek Orthodox parish priest in Rome, shared his joy: “I am very happy with this evening’s event. As Christians, we need to work together in order to offer a joint witness. It is imperative that we follow on this path together.”

When asked if the document “From Conflict to Communion” can be regarded as a model for Europe, the dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy, Pastor Heiner Bludau, said: “The document certainly shows a positive step. We now need to see its impact on life in order for it to be a convincing model for all of Europe.”

The words of high politics and those of Holy Scriptures resounded as if on the same level. Jesus Moran, Co-President of the Focolare Movement, said: “Europe is unthinkable without Christianity. Christianity which formed Europe is the Christianity of a united Church: ecumenical “Catholicism” (universality) therefore is the most fundamental reality of Europe. As such, Europe needs to rediscover itself as a civilization of Christianity. Christian values are European values and vice-versa. Culture of dialogue, tolerance, openness and brotherhood can be lived beyond any denomination, religion or creed. This Vigil will serve to re-awaken these great values.”

Over 4,000 people followed the event live and it was widely shared on social media.

In 50 European cities, parallel events of solemn prayer were held, and were well attended. The voice of Together of Europe was made heard loud and clear!

Beatriz Lauenroth

To see the complete photo gallery: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotomas2008/sets/72157681856163965

 

Christian Charisms and Europe

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

Europe: inconceivable without fraternity

Europe: inconceivable without fraternity

17th February 2017, Chapter House of San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome (Italy): Together for Europe at the Conference of Association “City for Fraternity”

After the welcome by President Milvia Monachesi, a series of reflections on the potential and the challenges of the European continent followed. Among the speakers were Donato Falmi, former Director of the Italian Publishing House New City, Marco Filippeschi, Mayor of Pisa and President of the ‘League for Autonomies’ (Lega per le Autonomie) as well as Ms Silvia Costa, European Parliament MP and Coordinator of the S&D Committee on Culture and Education. Ms Costa concluded her remarks stating that: “Europe is inconceivable without fraternity”.

Under the heading Europe: Freedom, Equality and… Fraternity? A Chance for Today, the experience of the network Together for Europe, presented by Diego Goller (Italy) and Ilona Toth (Hungary) highlighted the action taken by Communities and Movements belonging to various Christian Churches and how, drawing on their rich spiritual and cultural patrimony, they aim to contribute towards greater European unity.

In his contribution, Diego Goller said: “It is often thought that uniting Europe means uniting European cities. This is because it is in the cities that the most pressing issues that require solutions exist. People also say: ‘act locally, think globally’. Perhaps we could rather say that what we need today is to ‘think locally, act globally’. This is because ideas stem from life, on the ground, in suburbs, whilst issues which cause concern in our cities often originate on a global level.“ Speaking in this context about Together for Europe, Mr Goller continued: “Chiara Lubich said from the network’s early stages that ‘TOGETHER’ stands for ‘brotherhood, fraternity’; and ‘Europe’ is a synonym of ‘political’, because Together for Europe works for a political project in the broadest sense of the term.”

During its 17 years of existence Together for Europe matured an identity, which in the concluding message of the event called “Stuttgart 2007” was expressed through a number of “YES” commitments to certain social realities, aimed at making European cities more welcoming and more open to different cultures”, said Ilona Toth. Ms Toth quoted a French sociologist Prof. Michael Hochschild, who, when asked about hope for the future at the recent Together for Europe event in Munich 2016, said: “The answer lies within the Movements themselves, creative forces of social or even religious character. Their faith, their commitment and most of all their trust are valuable assets for overcoming the crisis of our society because they make us believe in the future. This is the reason why spiritual Movements ought to see themselves more and more as creative cultural forces and act accordingly. In a way, they need to become social Movements”.

Alcide de Gasperi, one of the Founding Fathers of Europe, already in 1952 formulated an invitation to democratic dialogue, which is still valid today: “We need to choose: do we speak, discuss, appeal to reason and to human abilities? Or rather do we resort to force, orders and imposition of one person’s will over others? (…) In the past, the inability to agree, to have a meaningful discussion, to convene in an Assembly and negotiate about peace, often resulted in conflicts and even wars. Is striving for peace, creating peaceful processes and establishing institutions to guarantee peace not preferable?”

Expressing gratitude for the welcome invitation to attend the Conference and to collaborate, Diego Goller said: “Let us work together so that our homes, communities and cities become laboratories of friendship and fraternity, capable of facilitating integration and of opening up to the whole world”.

The Conference concluded with a conferral ceremony of the Chiara Lubich Fraternity Prize. In its 8th edition, this award was conferred to the Municipality of Assisi, a city where, as stated during the conferral of the award, 600 years before the three principles of Modernity (Freedom, Equality and Fraternity) emerged from the French revolution, the word Fraternity was already echoing throughout the works of Francis.

For more information see: www.cittaperlafraternita.org/europa-e-fraternita-binomio-impegnativo

For video footage from the Conference see: https://youtu.be/edJSuqMdDaI

The joy of working TOGETHER

The joy of working TOGETHER

We are publishing only short pieces of news to share some of the updates that have been arriving from ‘Friends’ in various parts of Europe.

In Hungary, a widespread and ongoing initiative to assist refugees is being carried out together by associations such as the Society of the Sisters of Social Service, the Focolare Movement, a Jesuit group and the Community of Sant’Egidio. Through their collaboration, these communities provide food and clothing for those in need, while assisting them in their dealings with official services, language acquisition and accommodation and job search needs. In this way, together they bring relief to people in situations of great distress and restore hope for those who might have lost all hope (and in some cases the will to live). The Christian charity that these communities try to put into practice seeks out practical ways to facilitate the integration of refugees by mediating appropriate contact with young local nationals as well as with co-nationals. With respectful attention to different religious affiliations the communities have assisted Christian refugees in finding Catholic liturgical services in a language they understand. The experience which runs like a golden thread through the initiative is that of reciprocity: each person involved has something to offer – for example the more settled refugees can help the newly arrived. Once established, the group maintains relationships with the refugees even after they have been transferred elsewhere.

Marija Belošević, vice-president of the International Union of Catholic Esperantists (IKUE) informed us about an extensive information campaign carried out by the Union promoting the 2016 TfE Event in Munich through their journals and bulletins, the Radio Vatican programme broadcast in Esperanto, as well as through the official IKUE Facebook page. IKUE also spread the Esperanto version of texts of video messages recorded for the occasion by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as well as the Event’s concluding message. Participants of several recent IKUE conferences – July 2016 in Nitra (Slovakia), September 2016 in Vranov, near Brno (Czech Republic), and a number of conferences in Croatia – were updated on the 2016 TfE Munich Event.

In November in Pazin (Istria, Croatia), approximately fifty participants from ten associations came together to plan for possible follow up initiatives to the 2016 TfE Event. Other similar meetings have been planned in Zagreb (Croatia).

 

 

Courage, Europe!

Courage, Europe!

Friends of Together for Europe: From 10th to 12th November 2016, 129 participants from 13 European countries met in the International Formation Centre of the Focolare Movement in Castel Gandolfo (Rome). There were eight languages represented, with simultaneous interpreting provided for four of these. The representatives of 39 Movements and Communities shared – as one said – “a small miracle of Pentecost”.  

All participants whether leaders or representatives of the Movements, expressed continued gratitude and joy for the Together for Europe events in Munich (June-July 2016). The participants shared their conviction that, after the Paris attacks one year ago which happened while the Friends were meeting in Holland, after Brexit, the news of which arrived shortly before the Munich TfE international congress and rally, and after the challenging outcome of the US elections just a few days ago, Together for Europe is needed today more than ever!

At this time we ask ourselves pressing questions: what will the future journey of Together for Europe be like? Which practical steps will be required to be taken by individual Movements and Communities as well as on a national level and within Together?

The meeting was characterised by numerous suggestions and proposals to this end which were developed in talks, individual meetings and working groups yielding various ideas to plan for 2017. Two of these are as follows:

  • 25th March 2017 will be the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, considered one of the single most important events of the process of European integration. Important political figures will meet on that occasion in Rome’s Campidoglio, seat of the Italian Government. The network Together for Europe will show its presence at an evening vigil, to be held the night before the event, with hopefully similar vigils held in other European cities where TfE is represented. It also intends to present to politicians gathered in Campidoglio a document outlining TfE’s vision of Europe;
  • A new desire for “creating places to meet” was expressed. As a part of the programme for 2017 we would like to increase communion among Movements at the local level and relaunch the “Programme for the City“.

Below is some feedback gathered during and after the meeting:

Elke Pechmann (Offensive Junger Christen OJC eV.): “Together for Europe is not a luxury, it is not something ‘extra’, but rather a significant investment in the present and future of Europe.’’

Larisa Musina (Transfiguration Fellowship of Minor Orthodox Brotherhoods, St. Philaret, Moscow): “In order to become real friends, we need to get to know each other well. We will broaden dialogue between countries of Eastern and Western Europe. Along with other Eastern European countries Russians have much to offer to Western Europe.”

Pavel Snoj (Focolare Movement, Slovenia): “We will update the other Movements on our return to Slovenia about this meeting. We will take this opportunity to invite two bishops (a Catholic and a Lutheran one) so that they can see that lay people along with the Churches in Europe are getting organised to help bring about a better future for our continent.”

Selomi Zürcher (JAHU, Switzerland), speaking on behalf of the youth of her working group: “We feel that the future of Europe concerns us. We appreciate the experience and wisdom of adults present. In turn we ask them to have faith in us and a willingness to learn from us, so that the Europe of our fathers can also become Europe of the children.”

Constanze Wolf (Focolare Movement, Germany): “I am looking forward to sharing my enthusiasm for Together to other young people. I started spreading the word about it in the parish and at work and I hope that next year in Vienna, at this annual meeting, there will be even more of us.”

Summing up: now more than ever, the experience of reconciliation and friendship offered by the people of Together for Europe is necessary, so that through it, it becomes possible to discover how to play on Earth – as Chiara Lubich said – the “music scores written in heaven.“

The next meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe will take place from 9th to 11th November 2017 in Vienna.

Beatriz Lauenroth

“In summary…”

“In summary…”

…the Together for Europe Munich experience (30.6 – 2.7.2016) had it all: ENCOUNTER with a great variety of people, single-minded in their determination to face up together to the FUTURE, as well as testimonials of RECONCILIATION that showed how a journey together is possible. In the context of recent events in Munich and elsewhere, the message of Together for Europe is now more timely and urgent than ever.

Here are some impressions from participants (in the original language):
  • München zeigte ein tiefes echtes Gesicht eines Europa, das sich auf Gott und die Welt öffnet. Es wurde verständlich und erfahrbar: Miteinander geht es, Miteinander aller Charismen und Gaben. Der Glaube, die Liebe und die Offenheit führen zur Entängstigung…
  • Magnifique rassemblement avec le souffle des origines et qui ouvre un nouvel avenir pour Ensemble pour l’Europe. Une lumière et une espérance dans une Europe qui en a bien besoin! Remarquable organisation de nos amis allemands.
  • I am British and have always had a very strong sense of being European, and part of a positive process of unification. It was a challenge coming to Munich a week after Brexit, knowing that everyone would ask my opinion about it. I was initially very sad, but I know that being European and being Christian is a bigger idea than any particular political process or institution, and that unity will go ahead anyway. The positive attitude and support of a very impressive list of Christian leaders was very important and can only further this process. The young people present were a great witness to things already happening , and a hope for a better future.
  • Ho colto la profondità, il desiderio di continuare sempre più insieme per una nuova Europa nel cammino della pace costruita sui valori comuni del dialogo e dell’amore. Non abbiamo paura, andiamo avanti, nella certezza che Dio Amore ci precede sempre, a noi tutti gli sforzi, a Lui la gloria del Suo Amore passato dalle nostre azioni positive.
  • Das Podium „Zukunft der Gesellschaft – Auftrag und Verantwortung der jungen Generation“ erfüllte aber voll und ganz meine Erwartungen: Junge Leute, die von ihrem Glauben und ihrer Jugendarbeit innerhalb ihrer Gemeinschaft berichteten. Mir gefiel es sehr gut, mich endlich mit anderen Jugendlichen, die sowohl ähnliche als auch komplett verschiedene Ansichten als ich hatten, auszutauschen und zu diskutieren.
  • Ho capito che anche i piccoli come me possono fare qualcosa per l’Europa, nella stessa strada dei grandi, per iniziare questa unione spirituale dell’Europa, gli uni per gli altri.
  • Hi everyone, I did watch this wonderful event which was a wonderful way to involve people like me around the world in Unity with all ‘People of Good Will’. God’s choicest blessings on everyone who organised this and those who took part. We are meant to be together and not live selfish lives in isolation from our neighbour.
  • Il fatto che ci siamo trovati in un circo mi suggerisce che è importante mettersi in gioco come fanno i protagonisti del circo, giocarsi la vita  per essere di aiuto agli altri.
  • J’ai beaucoup apprécié ce moment à Munich. Maintenant avec toute l’équipe de Lyon nous nous engageons à diffuser ce que nous avons vécu. Bien avec chacun.
  • Insgesamt bin ich sehr dankbar für die Erfahrung der Veranstaltung in München und trage die Erlebnisse und Begegnungen noch lebendig in mir. Vor allem verbinde ich mich im Gebet Tag für Tag weiterhin mit allen, die dort waren, und habe die Hoffnung, dass das Wunder der Einheit der Kirchen eines Tages von Gott geschenkt wird. (…) Für alles, was bei der Kundgebung am Stachus auf der Bühne geboten wurde, kann ich nur meine Anerkennung aussprechen.
  • Anche l’aprire e chiudere l’ombrello (…) non ha distolto da un clima di unità, di gioia, di profondità che ho avvertito. Mi è sembrata la manifestazione della speranza.
Live from Munich – 2nd Day

Live from Munich – 2nd Day

“Europe is going through the dark night of its own principles, the dark night of its dreams. (…) We believe Together for Europe is something which can inspire individuals or associations in their commitment to a free, reconciled, democratic, supportive and fraternal Europe”. Steffen Kern of the Evangelical Confederation of Wuerttemberg continues the reflection on Europe and hope: “Why should we continue to hope as Christians?”. In Stuttgart we have opened the “House of Hope” that welcomes women in trouble and lonely people. We want to witness our commitment that God never abandons anyone”. Thomas Romer (YMCA, Munich) explains that the strength of our continent is Christ and his Gospel: “Jesus is there even in the storms: we need to have faith. He climbed onto the boat to save us”.

This afternoon the Congress opened its doors to dialogue, confrontation and projects. The round table on “Christians and Muslims in dialogue” focused on the need to get to know each other, meet and work together on social and cultural challenges. Pasquale Ferrara, the new Italian Ambassador in Algiers, stressed that dialogue does not happen among cultures or religions, but among people: “We need to be more concrete, to stick to reality”.

Imam Baztami invited everybody to go out of our confort zones and meet different people. Many ideas and projects emerged from the debate among th philosopher of religions Beate Beckmann-Zoeller, dr. Thomas French, the Evangelical pastor Amberg and the french Bishop Michel Dubost. “The remedy to the division between Christians and Muslims is “otherness”, which means to consider the other as a brother, a sister”, said Gérard Testard of Efesia (France).

At the round table “Towards sustainability in Europe” card. Turkson, the environmental engineer Daniel Renzi, Hans-Hermann Böhm, and other experts invited to follow Pope Francis’ invitation to have a serious debate on climate change and ecological issues. Card. Turks concluded that ”sciences and religions should talk together, religions should talk together, and all of them should give their contribute to society together!”.
“Martyrdom, a painful witness of Christians today” is the title of another round table. Michael Brand, member of the Bundestag was present. Concerning the present european situation, he recalled a phrase from St. Boniface: “We do not want to be like dumb dogs”. “Personally I think that, if the terrorist threat comes from abroad – he said – inside our borders we are attacked by an aggressive secularism. I do not fear Islamization of Europe,rather the decrease of Christian faith”.

Live from Munich – 1st Day

Live from Munich – 1st Day

Encounter, reconciliation, future. These are the words of the 4th international edition of Together for Europe. Since 1999 more than 300 Christian Movements have made a path of reconciliation, mutual understanding and unity from 1999 and 200 of them are present here, at the CircusKrone in Munich from june 30 to july 2, 2016. Today 1.700 people from 40 countries arrived for the Congress of the representatives of the different Movements wishing to give their contribution to today’s european challenges with the Christian values. This morning opening session was entitled: “The Holy Spirit Works in our Time”.

Martin Wagner (YMCA Munich) one of the moderators welcomed everybody: “Reconciliation is our keyword, we need it, we want to be ambassadors of reconciliation: we already experienced it. This is our future. Our goals are sharing, working together for unity and above all to give our contribution as christians to all the challenges Europe is facing today”. Then Gerhard Pross (YMCA Esslingen) addressed the 1700 participants: “God wants us to walk together towards unity”. And card. Walter Kasper (Catholich Church): “500 years of division is enough: we have a commitment to unity, otherwise we betray Jesus. The unity of our Churches is now even more important considering that European unity is in danger”. Bishop Krause (Evangelical Church): in 2007 we, christian movements, committed ourselves for “7 Yeses” and subscribed to the Manifesto for a united Europe: we had a dream, we prayed and hoped and God answered”. And Sr. Lioba Ruprecht: “We need to build the culture of alliance”. Hartmud Steeb of the Evangelical Alliance: “In the ’90ies we started a common dialogue; God has prayed for our unity: encounter, hope and future are words that will accompany us in the next days”.

The afternoon was dedicated to 19 forums on social responsibility, integration, economy, ecumenism, pastoral challenges, youth and Europe, marriage and family, reconciliation, evangelization today, and many others. Movements and communities have shared experiences, activities and projects, but also faith witnesses. “The cost and reward of unity, overcoming frictions and conflicts” was well attended and card. Walter Kasper said that one of the main need in the ecumenical movement is forgiveness and reconciliation”. “Reconciliation needs hard work”, said Walter Kriechbaum of YMCA Munich, “through reconciliation we will be healed; through reconciliation, we become messengers of unity.”

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

After the news of last Friday morning, the day after “Brexit”, the members of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe unanimously declared: The European Conference from 30th June  to 1st July  and the 2nd July Outdoor Rally in the  “Karlsplatz”- the square in the centre of Monaco takes on a new, broader meaning.

Fr. Heinrich Walter, from the Schoenstatt Movement, appeared shocked but decisive: “Now our ‘Together’ becomes even more a sign of hope against hope. The Christian source is central to the issue of identity. On the historical background of this week, God himself makes Together for Europe a prophetic sign. “

Gerhard Proß of the Esslingen YMCA and spokesperson for the initiative in Germany said: “It is now more important than ever that Munich sends out a clear sign to Together for Europe – a sign of communion, against the selfishness and fears of our time. I think it is significant that it will be Pope Francis, Andrea Riccardi and Jeff Fountain who address the central message to Europe, and not the politicians. “

And from Rome,  Maria Voce, President of Focolare Movement, said: “This referendum confirms that it is not politics or economics that will make a united Europe but the values shared by Europeans. Together for Europe could not come at a better time. “

 

Endorsement from key EU Institutions

Endorsement from key EU Institutions

Another Patronage has been granted to Together for Europe for its upcoming event to be held in Munich in early July 2016

With words of strong encouragement and appreciation for the Together for Europe initiative the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz granted the Patronage of the European Parliament to the event “Encounter. Reconciliation. Future”.

In his lengthy letter, President Schulz highlighted the importance of shared commitment in the service of solidarity, peace, mutual respect, dialogue, European identity and active citizenship.

This is the third European Institution patronage Together for Europe has received for its imminent Munich event. The other two patronages are from the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland.

The endorsement from these European Institutions strengthens our commitment  to carry on in fulfilling our “vision” of a “united and multifaceted Europe, with strong social cohesion and cultural diversity. A Europe, where differences are no longer a reason for fear or separation but instead are valued and encouraged”…  >read more: WHAT IS OUR VISION OF EUROPE?

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Foto: Ulz

Charlemagne Prize for Europe

Charlemagne Prize for Europe

On 6th May 2016 in the Sala Regia in the Vatican, Pope Francis was awarded the prestigious Charlemagne Prize. In his address to the eminent guests the Pope offered the award bestowed upon him for Europe as an expression of “our shared hope for a new and courageous step forward for this beloved continent”.

Indeed, the recent history has turned the eyes of the world to Europe, begging the same disquieting question that was posed by the Pope and that echoed among the dignitaries gathered for the conferral ceremony ”What has happened to you, Europe?”.

The Pope’s response on this occasion, and its three key words – “integrate, dialogue, generate”, could be read as a sort of a Magna Carta for Europe in these challenging times, and calls for a new appraisal of the idea of Europe. Through the upcoming Event “Together for Europe” in June/July 2016 in Munich (Germany) we wish to make our own contribution for Europe and witness to the fact that the ability to “integrate” grows through ENCOUNTER, the ability to “dialogue” ties in closely with RECONCILIATION and without the ability to “generate” there is no FUTURE.

On 6th May the Sala Regia at the Vatican seemed enveloped in an atmosphere of serenity, mutual support and shared hope for the future, perceptible through the small fraternal gestures of the guests. Perhaps it is a responsibility of all of us to ensure that the courageous intents shared by those present in this occasion are not wasted, but translate into a conviction that the Pope’s dream for Europe be realised.

ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS

Foto: Andreas Herrmann