Category Archives: Events

Let’s disarm ourselves

Let’s disarm ourselves

Friends of Together for Europe in Porto (Portugal)

“When we disarm, expropriate and open ourselves to the God-Man who makes new all things, then, He cancels our wicked past and donates to us a new time in which all things are possible” (1)

I’m feeling a little embarrassed. I’ve been asked: how was the Meeting with my friends in Porto, and, after all, what is this ‘Together for Europe’ all about? What could 166 persons coming from 19 different Countries, and belonging to 45 Movements and Communities from 8 Churches achieve, knowing that “like attracts like”, and diversity rarely – perhaps never – can become a force of cohesion? Added to this there are the diverse geopolitical, cultural, historic and confessional views: now, what will the Russians and the Ukrainians, present in our midst, do? The idea of ‘Europe’ is not popular anymore; why keep on chasing utopias and useless dreams in this polarized society?

While my mind was being bombarded by these thoughts and possible responses, I remembered that, when asked, Jesus did not explain how and where he lived; his response was a simple invitation: come and see (Jn 1,39). Those present in Porto did indeed “come and see”.

I witnessed the communion between 11 Portuguese Movements; these, with great commitment and generosity provided a home, food and technology, and, above all, created a ‘family’ among all those taking part.

I listened to experts who, through their expertise, have widened the horizons of an attentive audience.

I saw ecclesial leaders who, through their presence and prayers, wanted not only to bless the gathering, but also to show their strong support for this ecumenical network.

I was glad to meet young people who have given a meaning to their life after taking important decisions; these young people, showing generosity, impetus and poetry, spoke about future concrete projects for their Countries and cities.

I felt a sense of gratitude toward those who, after years of sterling service, are moving on to take up new tasks; there were tearful eyes when, with open hearts, we renewed the Pact of mutual love.

In a nutshell: I saw a small people, who, like the ‘chosen’ one, keeps on looking for water in the desert. To drink and to provide water for others.

When we gathered for the nightly ecumenical prayer in the majestic Igreja do Cedofeita church in Porto, I sat on the back pew. Then a friend invited me to move and sit on the front pew; from there, behind the alter, I could see a statue the likes of which I have never seen before: it did not present the suffering Redeemer on the cross or the Risen Lord who conquered death. It was a big statue showing a ‘disarmed’ Christ, with dropped hands, coming out of a base full of cracks – an icon of the polarizations and the divisions in us, among us and around us.

I fixed my gaze upon him. We, too, ought to disarm ourselves! Here lies, perhaps, the secret of the force of cohesion! Could this be the key idea that will allow Europe and the entire ‘Together’ to open up to new horizons and possibilities?

Ilona Toth

(1) Excerpt from a text by Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople

Meeting of European Friends in Portugal

Meeting of European Friends in Portugal

Due to the pandemic, for the past three years the Friends of the ecumenical network Together for Europe were forced to hold only online meetings. Things have changed and now they plan to meet physically this autumn: in Porto, Portugal, from 11 till 13 November 2022.

In the invitation letter sent by the Steering Committee we read: “Porto is found in the extreme west of Europe and we are very happy to discover the richness and the challenges that our brothers and sisters have in this part of the Continent”. The Portuguese national Committee, which embraces 10 Movements, has extended its invitation three years ago, and its desire will soon be a reality. “Undoubtedly, it will be a great discovery for all of us and we are grateful to the many persons who have been working for some time to welcome us”.

A NEW MISSION FOR EUROPE

The motto of the Meeting of the Friends will be “A new mission for Europe!”. It entails praying together with our Portuguese brothers and sisters, listening to them and reflecting with them, while they share their experiences of unity and reconciliation.

The aforementioned letter continues: “In the present difficult times that Europe is passing through, we want to be united and live that unity to which we have been called. This Meeting will surely be a discovery and an adventure for all of us, because we shall meet the city of Porto and its history, the communities and the Movements of the Portuguese Together, as well as many committed young people in Portugal”.

To allow the greatest possible number of Portuguese the possibility to know the reality of Together for Europe, the organizers decided to hold the Meeting in five languages: English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese. The venue of the Meeting is the meeting hall of the “Associação Católica do Porto”.

Registration, via the leadership of individual Communities, is still open and will remain so till October 10, 2022.

Heinrich Brehm

 

7 May in Brussels

7 May in Brussels

An unforgettable experience

On May 7, 2022, we celebrated Europe Day at the Chapel of Europe in Brussels, where we found a lot of support: besides the use of the premises, they put at our disposal their means of communication. A God-sent providence!

The event was entitled “Europe: builders of peace”, and we prepared for it for months with great enthusiasm, commitment and conviction. Those Movements that could not collaborate concretely with us were close to us with their prayers and unity. What a challenge! Speaking of “builders of peace” in a Europe torn apart by war in Ukraine and where there are constant references to division, separation, etc; and yet we believe that our drop of water is necessary in the ocean. The program was followed in presence and through a webinar.

The two contributions by Walter e Annemarie Kriechbaum of the Munich YMCA were the fulcrum of the afternoon. Through their lived-out experiences they led us into a world of reconciliation. The journey toward reconciliation is long, but one that lasts, and this instilled in us the desire to be instruments of reconciliation wherever we live.

During the days prior to May 7, we had the opportunity to share and hold dialogues with the Kriechbaum couple at the Focolare Centre in Rotselaar; likewise, we met the St Egidio Community in Brussels and we also held a prayer meeting in the Basilica with members of the Renewal in the Spirit Movement. These were unforgettable moments of mutual listening: a really vital learning curve.

The conversations with the friendship cup, which concluded the May 7 meeting, gave us the opportunity to establish new contacts, to meet once again old friends and to encourage one another. We were strengthened with the certainly that, with the help of the Holy Spirit in our midst, we will be able to leave a significant impact upon our Continent and reveal its true values.

Some feedbacks:

“Yesterday I took part in the webinar. Congratulations to the whole group and to you personally. It was wonderful to see you in action. We are very grateful for the contents and the prayers. We found the experiences of Annemarie and Walter to be clear and impressive. Walter’s biblical foundation regarding the meaning of Jesus’ sufferings, death on the cross and resurrection in relation to forgiveness and reconciliation was very central. We hope that many Belgians have followed it, or will do so in the coming weeks. Thank you for all the work invested in the preparation.” (R.R.)

“Many thanks for this extremely rich meeting! As Philippe said, it was a grace-filled moment, that provided support, hope and a new energy! We want to keep on journeying with you! It was nice seeing you! Can we have the link to watch it again on YouTube?” (M.D.W.)

Anne Plancke, for the Belgian Committee of Together for Europe

Photo: pixabay.com

How to overcome divisions

How to overcome divisions

Meeting in Graz to mark the Europe Day, May 7, 2022

The venue was a recently refurbished hall that previously was the refectory of the Franciscan Friar Minors. Now it is the baroque heart of a modern conference Centre in the city centre of Graz. The date was May 7, 2022 and the participants were members of Christian communities from diverse denominations. The purpose was to mark Europe Day and it was organized by Together for Europe.

There were about 130 participants and these came from various places in Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Switzerland. They came together to listen to the Word of God and to share lived-out experiences related to the topic of the conference: “How to overcome divisions”.

The various inputs included:

  • A dialogue project in Hungary to deal with controversial political opinions;
  • Building trust between refugees and those opposed to their presence;
  • Reconciliation of families of victims and executioners 75 years after the Holocaust;

Needless to say, all participants were struck by these and they created the right atmosphere for a lively exchange of ideas in small-group meetings.

The leaders of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, together with those of the Baptist community, had words of encouragement. Friends from Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy who could not be present due to their commitment with refugees, or for health and other reasons, sent their greetings.

After a shared lunch and a guided visit of the city, the afternoon was dedicated to an ecumenical prayer for peace.

All the present difficulties, like the war in Ukraine and in many other parts of the world, the climate crisis, the Covic-19 pandemic, the economic uncertainty… were presented to God. This touching intercession prayer was organized by a family from the Schönstatt Movement.

The participants felt strengthened to fulfil their task in the Church and society by the words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “May the God of peace… equip you with every good thing to do His will” (Hb 13, 20-21).

The meeting was enhanced by the contribution of accomplished musicians who injected the event with a festive and spiritual atmosphere. The participants responded very generously toward a project to help Ukrainian refugees being hosted near the Hungarian border.

In the background of the hall there was an expressive painting of “Jesus feeding the five thousand”, a fitting reminder. The day, which was full of enriching encounters, came to a close with the hymn: “Stay with us Lord, because evening is fast approaching. Stay with us Lord, because it’s getting dark. Stay with us Lord”. 

Michael Murg, TfE Graz

Photo: privat

Education, our only possibility

Education, our only possibility

2022 Europe Day in Italy – Videoconference regarding good practices in education offered by young people from diverse Movements.

This year, Europe Day chose to underline a topic which could seem out of order seeing that there is a war raging in Europe.Together for Europe in Italy highlighted the centrality of an education that offers young generations an integral formation, one that is meant as the only possibility to reconstruct fraternal relationships, to provide a formation for peace and to seek truths that give meaning to life.

This was expounded by Prof Carina Rossa, lecturer at Lumsa and at the University Institute Sophia; she is also a member of the Committee that promotes the Global Compact on Education, the global educative Pact launched by Pope Francis in 2019. It is a Pact that aims to do away with barriers and build bridges.

The EU has declared this year to be the “Year of Young People”, and indeed it was young people belonging to various groups, Associations and Movements that presented good practices in education that were carried out in diverse fields (the downloadable text is at the bottom of the page).

Many shared their impressions in the chat during the link-up via zoom which was being followed live by more than 1,000 persons. Another 700, from Eastern and Western Europe, saw the recorded conference during the following week. Here are some of these impressions:

“I really appreciated the witnessing and the input by young and not so young persons. I was very struck by Beatriz’s lived-out experience and her message of welcoming and love (regarding the Ukrainian refugees).  It was an initiative full of enriching contributions”. (An MEP from Milan)

“The first thing that comes to mind is the choir of voices that, albeit with different tones, witnessed to the power of hope. The next thing is the beauty of young people, something quite illuminating. Indeed, young people are our hope, especially with that initiative that sees them close to older persons, where it becomes hard to distinguish between who is donating and who is receiving. I was really struck by the fact that young and old persons need each other. The last lived-out experience that was shared was the one that filled my heart, saddened with the war, with some peace”. (From Sanremo)

“The sharing was edifying. There was a lot of creativity! We were not given only hope, but also the certainty that a supportive Europe, made up of united hearts, already exists”. (From Munich)

2022 05 08 Education our only possibility, Europe Day Italy

Carla Cotignoli and Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Trento Archive

 

Glimpses

Glimpses

May 9, 2022: a European expression

Once again, this year many original initiatives were organized to mark May 9, Europe Day. The following are just glimpses of some of them.

A trans-borders meeting was held in France and Germany. From Strasbourg (France) the one-hour walk under the banner ‘For a peaceful Europe’ ended at the Church of Peace in Kehl (Germany). At the end of the event, one of the 200 participants stated: “This day will be remembered for a long time. Together we offered a sign of unity and celebrated hope for all Europe”.

The EU declared 2022 as the European Year of Youth. Thus, Together for Europe in Italy focused on “Education” to mark May 9. The online sharing of experiences between young and old persons clearly showed that there exists a mutual dependence between the two for a happy and successful life. The meeting was followed by about 1,800 persons.

About 300 persons from Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Switzerland met in Graz (Austria). Friends from Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy sent their greetings. The meeting reach its climax in the afternoons with a common prayer for peace. The participants then responded generously to the appeal for donations in favour of a project to support Ukrainian refugees near the border with Hungary.

In Munich (Bavaria), Together for Europe went up a panoramic wheel. The gondolas performed numerous rotations, always with eight persons on board – who held a conversation and a meeting at high altitude!

Beatriz Lauenroth

 

 

Madeira together for peace

Madeira together for peace

The network Together for Europe, on Madeira Island, is promoting the rosary prayer for peace in Ukraine, on 8 May, at 8 pm (UTC +1), next to the monument dedicated to Our Lady of Peace, in the “Luta Livre”.

 

France: a cross-border march and the “7 Yeses”

France: a cross-border march and the “7 Yeses”

On 8 May a cross-border march from Strasbourg to Kehl

On Sunday 8 May 2022, a peace march by foot will start in Strasbourg, leading from Alsace (France) to Germany. “We want to give courage and hope to the people of Europe”.  So declares the National Committee of the Together for Europe, France. “Against the background of the many wars, we want to use our own history to remind people that reconciliation is possible.”

The march starts at 5 pm in Strasbourg and ends after 1.5 km in the Friedenskirche in Kehl with an ecumenical prayer. After the prayer – by offering a drink – there will be some more possibility for all participants to meet each other.

Europe Day in Lyon, Monday 9 May 2022

An evening of testimonies and prayers around the 7 ‘YES’ to Europe will take place.

 

Belgium – Italy – Germany

Belgium – Italy – Germany

Activities to mark the 2022 Europe Day

BELGIUM: “Europe: Artisans of Peace…”

This is the theme that Together for Europe chose to celebrate Europe Day with persons that will gather in the Chapel for Europe in Brussels on May 7, at 2 p.m. There will also be the possibility to follow proceedings online.
Movements that adhere to our network have produced short videos that present four initiatives of solidarity.
Pastor Walter Kriechbaum of Munich, Bavaria and his wife Annemarie of the International Association YMCA will share with us their experiences of reconciliation in Germany, Poland, and Ukraine that were aimed to heal wounds caused by World War Two. These will be followed by a brief reflection based on Scripture and faith in Christ and a moment of prayer.
An online webinar will allow participants to offer their input during a sharing session that will follow.

ITALY: “Education: our only possibility”

In Italy, the 2022 Feast of Europe will be celebrated with a video conference on May 8 at 6.30 p.m.
First of all Dr Carina Rossa will give a keynote speech regarding the “Global impact on education” which Pope Francis proposed to the entire education reality in the world. This will be followed by a series of ‘good practices’ of informal education that are being carried out by young people belonging of several Movements in various regions of Italy and Croatia. The last item will be a witnessing that shows the influence that the principles of Together for Europe exert when holding a dialogue with any type of diversity and when striving for reconciliation in situations of conflict.

The link to follow the event is:  //www.youtube.com/FocolariRoma/live

GERMANY: “Meeting and praying in Europe on Zoom”

Following the prayer meeting we held on March 2, we are once again inviting persons in Germany and Europe to join us for an intense prayer on May 10 at 7.30 p.m. This will be conducted in two languages (German and English); it will go on for about 90 minutes.

 

 

Europe Day – Encounter in Graz

Europe Day – Encounter in Graz

Together for Europe – culture of reciprocity

Since 1999 has grown Together for Europe, an initiative of already more than 300 Christian communities  of different Churches. It is a network which is engaged in shared goals where the charism of each community comes into play. It´s „culture of reciprocity“ contains that individuals and peoples get to know and appreciate each other, become reconciled and support each other.

Saturday, 7 May 2022, 9 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Minoritensaal, Mariahilferplatz 3, 8020 Graz, Austria

Free parking: Access via Volksgartenstraße-Afritschgasse

Admission: voluntary donation (approx. € 25 for food and conference fee)

The event will be held in German, translations will be provided.

Programme:

9:00 am Arrival
9:30 am Welcome and spiritual impulse
10:15 am Ways out of divisiveness
Exchange of experiences with participants from Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria, …
12:00 Lunch break
13:30 Small city tour (optional)
15.00 Attunement to the prayer for peace
15:30  to 16:30 Prayer for Peace in the Cloister of Minorite Monastery

Registration for the event
anm.gramfe@gmx.at until Monday, 2. 5. 2022
with surname, first name, language/s, place of residence, country

Overnight reservation (if required)
office@bhs-exerzitienhaus.at, Ms Anna Gigl
Exerzitienhaus der Barmherzigen Schwestern, Mariengasse 6a, 8020 Graz
(Near the main station, 15 minutes walk to the Minorite Monastery)

COVID-19 measures according to the current regulations, in any case negative PCR test not older than 72 hours or daily negative antigen test.

Organiser: Together for Europe – Austria  together4europe.org/Österreich

With the kind support of the Diocese of Graz-Seckau

 

Prayer for Peace

Prayer for Peace

Journeying with young people toward May 9

Who would have thought it possible? And yet, it happened. War is raging in Europe. We’ve seen many protesting in the streets, or praying in churches and homes, while millions are fleeing. When we were asking ourselves what the ‘leitmotiv’ of the next Europe Day should be, we never imagined that it would tragically regard the desire that is inherent in the hearts of all men and women: peace.

Bearing witness to reconciled diversity 

Every nation possesses a rich history and culture: through which, along the centuries, they express this universal yearning.  The event we mark on May 9 came about from the same desire: following World War Two, several farsighted politicians agreed to establish a new order in Europe. Even though the fruit of their effort, the European Union, does not fully reflect the initial intentions, in this tragic moment we Christians are called to nurture the peace that God himself gave us 2000 years ago. Let us continue to pray, to help in practical ways those in need and to witness that reconciled diversity is possible!

Young people, builders of a better future

Allow your voice to be heard!” is what the European Union is appealing for on its website as it designated 2022 as the “European Year of Young People”. The appeal continues: “The initiative shall focus upon the importance of European young people in the building of a better future: greener, more inclusive and more digital”. And now we can add: “more peaceful”! We hope that many young people will make their voice heard – including on the occasion of Europe Day – to promote a Continent where diversity is not a ‘message of war’, but an ‘invitation’ to discover together a path that leads toward a common pleasant future. They will also do this by remembering the other young people who are victims of this absurd war.

Prayer journey towards 9th May

This year, during the six week of preparation for May 9, we will be accompanied by prayer texts that have been composed by our groups in Ukraine, Ireland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia. The ‘Schuman Declaration’ of May 9, 1950, starts with these words: “World peace cannot be safeguarded without creative initiatives on the same level of the dangers that threaten it”. This message is more relevant now than ever before.

Ilona Tóth

1_Prayer-for-peace-TfE_27-March-2-April-2022_Ukraine
1_Prayer-for-peace-TfE_27-March-2-April-2022_Ukraine_original-language
2_Prayer-for-peace-TfE_3-9-April-2022_Ireland
3_Prayer-for-peace-TfE_10-16-April-2022_Czech-Republic
4_Prayer-for-peace-TfE_17-23-April-2022_Croatia
5_Prayer-for-peace-TfE_24-30-April-2022_Romania
6_Prayer-for-peace-TfE_1-8-May-2022_Slovenia

Cultivating the culture of the encounter

Cultivating the culture of the encounter

The annual meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe (TfE) 2022 will be held in Porto, Portugal  

The meeting of the Friends of TfE will be held on 10 – 12 November 2022 in Portugal. The Portuguese Friends invite the Friends from 45 movements that adhere to TfE to visit their most beautiful city of Porto, an architectural jewel, through which the river Douro (Golden) flows between the mountains and the Atlantic.

The Country outlining the Western boundaries of Europe is ready to open its heart and doors to welcome the participants of the Congress. Clotilde, a member of the Schönstatt Movement stated: “We want to promote dialogue with the aim of discovering how we, together, can re-affirm solidarity and brotherhood between all nations. And in order to know each other better we will together have a look at the history and culture of our Country”.

Why, of all places, have we chosen Porto? A smiling Ana Lúcia of the Emmanuel Community explained: “Tourists associate Porto with the famous wine Port. In 1996, Porto was the World Heritage Capital. It’s the city with many bridges, and these symbolize the links between various Countries”.

More than anything else – and this has a special interest to the Friends of TfE – there we find an ecumenical environment. “In Porto there are seven Churches (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lusitanian, Methodist, Lutheran, Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox) that are committed to the ecumenical dialogue”. There are also contacts with the Taizé Community. “Therefore, there’s no better place to build and experience unity”, as José António e Maria Eugénia of the Focolare Movement underlined.

What values can we share there? Maria da Conceição of the Cursillos Movement affirms: “For example we can offer the rest of Europe an experience of a community in which one finds spontaneous closeness and mutual help, inspired by the Gospel”. The family is the optimal place where faith is handed down. During the November meeting there will be the possibility of meeting representatives of the younger generations and hold an in-depth exchange of ideas on how they face today’s challenges, for example, migration, ecology, etc, based on their faith.

Liliana (Verbum Dei) e Filomena (Theresian Institution) expressed the common desire: “We would like the November meeting to give us the possibility to cultivate with our friends the culture of the encounter, something close to the ideals of TfE. We would like to become ever more “’builders of hope’, as Gerhard Pross put in November 2021. Our challenges may be summed up as “reconciled diversity” (Margaret Karram)”.

Porto will surely be a step forward.

Beatriz Lauenroth

 

 

The invisible green pass

The invisible green pass

Reality ought to be faced in light of our calling: this enables us to read and understand together the signs of the times and act accordingly. This is what the Meeting of Together for Europe was all about.

All controls are in place: the green pass, the wrist temperature, the mask and social distancing. However, there’s more. Here, the persons have also an invisible ’green pass’: it’s their ‘Yes’ to their vocation to promote Togetherness in line with their fidelity to the ‘pact of mutual love’. It’s quite evident that today’s humanity is facing unprecedented challenges, and this almost makes it compulsory for us to be united, work together and sustain one another. No one found this an easy task. Marco Impagliazzo, President of the St Egidio Community, stated: “I thank you for having knocked on my door with perseverance; indeed, that’s why I’m here”. Each one had to put aside something: commitments, urgent matters or worries regarding travelling, as, for example, Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio, leader of the Schönstatt Presedium, had to do.

We’re talking about the meeting of the Steering Committee, at last in person, which was held at the International Centre of the Focolare Movement in Castel Gandolfo (Rome), with several leaders of Communities and Movements belonging to various Churches. The latter included Hansjörg Kopp (General Secretary, YMCA Germany) and Martin Bühlmann (Vineyard, Switzerland and Germany). After a day of sharing and work, the evening appointment was an online meeting with various persons that form part of the ecumenical network so as to renew the shared mission for Europe, which is, as the title of the Meeting suggested: moving from polarization toward a reconciled diversity through reconciliation.

Margaret Karram, President of the Focolare Movement, arrived on foot because of the heavy traffic. After expressing her gratitude, the first thing she said was that she was there to learn for the others. The sharing of lived-out experiences during the pandemic, the shared doubts and the challenges that need to be tackled rendered the meeting a school of communion. No one was in a hurry. Even Jesús Moran, Co-President of the Focolare Movement, stayed for lunch: this was an opportunity to know each other better and to clarify ideas and points of view.

The much-awaited 6th November ZOOM Meeting based in Castel Gandolfo was open on the whole of Europe. After a few minutes of meditation and prayers, we set upon a journey that took us from East to West, and from North to South of our Continent. We listened to persons with the ‘green pass’ of Togetherness sharing how they helped others in their material and spiritual needs, thus sowing hope around them. These contributions provided a framework for two keynote speeches: by Gerhard Pross, Moderator of Together for Europe, and by Margaret Karram.

Here is the text of their contributions:

Gerhard Pross “The prophetic mission of Together for Europe” >>
Margaret Karram “The message of reconciliation in the midst of polarisation” >>

The evening prayers, which were prepared by several persons, were conducted in four languages and reached a climax with the ‘pact of mutual love’, according to John 13, 34, which was renewed in many languages.

The chat feedbacks were many; they expressed gratitude for the keynote speeches, the lived-out experiences and the encouragement provided. One stated: “It’s a strong message that is, at the same time, full of hope based on the certainty that the Lord of history is with us, in our midst, if we tread His pathway of Unity”. And another, using a poetic form: “Together for Europe seems to be ‘an underground river, which one cannot see, but which is constantly moving, dragging stuff, excavating, joining others and then one day it will return to the surface; we don’t know where and when this will happen, but when it does it will transform the territories it hits’”.

The monitors were switched off, and off we went. In 2022 we hope to be able to greet each other in person in Portugal, enriched with new experiences. Our ‘green pass’ allows us to reach “all boundaries”– as Gerhard Pross put it – and “adopt a perspective of the Kingdom of God that is wider and more complete”.

In her final greeting, Margaret Karram summed up: “Reconciled diversity, in which we believe because we have experienced it already, may mark a new step forward for Together for Europe in the coming years. It may indicate the program on which to base our living and our initiatives”. Indeed, it’s a program that goes beyond Europe.

Ilona Tóth

Polarization and reconciled diversity

Polarization and reconciled diversity

“We consider the polarization of our society as one of the greatest challenges that Europe and the world are facing”. This affirmation comes from the Team preparing the international Meeting of the ‘Friends’ of Together for Europe, which is scheduled for Saturday November 6, 2021.

The team informs that “on that day, we will look at the causes and try to propose solutions”. Therefore, it’s not surprising that this year’s Meeting is entitled “Polarization – Reconciliation – Reconciled Diversity”.

The issue will be analyzed and studied in-depth by contributions covering diverse perspectives.

Margaret Karram, the new President of the Focolare Movement, will offer a viewpoint from outside Europe. She was born in Haifa (Israel), and from a tender age, her life was marked by dialogue in a context of religious and cultural diversities. In 2013 she was awarded the Mount Zion Prize for reconciliation.

Another keynote speech will be delivered by Gerhard Pross, of YMCA Esslingen (Germany).

The national committees of several European nations will share their commitment at a local level.

Nevertheless, of equal importance will be the sharing of experiences and ideas between the participants at the Meeting during the group meetings. When we are together, we experience new illuminations in our quest for new pathways – this time “to move from polarization toward a reconciled diversity all over Europe”.

Due to the pandemic, the Meeting will be held in a hybrid form. A small group, gathered at Castel Gandolfo (Rome), will welcome the participants via Zoom.

Cornelia K. Brand

Photo: Pixabay / Canva

 

 

Knowing each other to enhance mutual love

Knowing each other to enhance mutual love

Europe Day 2021 – an online journey

Empathy, contemplation and action, ‘ora et labora’: these were but some of the key words that marked Europe Day 2021, which this year was organized by about 40 Christian Movements of the ecumenical network Together for Europe.

EUROPE NEEDS COHESION, HOPE AND INSPIRATION

During the video link-up on May 9, Europe Day, Luigino Bruni, professor of Political Economy at LUMSA (Rome), stated that “In order to build and safeguard Europe we need to celebrate its feasts!” The topic of the video link-up was “For the earth and humanity”; about 1000 persons in Italy took part. He emphasized that from time immemorial feasts have been signs of a common identity.  In this time of pandemic, Europe needs more than ever before to be united, to hope and to be open to inspirations. He also underlined: “Many times I have been inspired by Together for Europe… which is one of the most important and prophetic inspirations of the New Millennium”.

Click here to watch the event on YouTube>>

Download the text of the contribution of L. Bruni “From an integral ecology onto an economy of solidarity”>>

DIALOGUE – THE READINESS TO WELCOME THE OTHER

About 200 European citizens from Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Austria were connected to Graz for a ZOOM meeting. Dr. Petra Steinmair-Pösel, Professor at the Innsbruck (Austria) University, spoke about the importance of dialogue for Europe. She insisted that dialogue is neither a discussion nor a debate, but the readiness to welcome the other. “Dialogue brings us together. From us [Christians] humanity expects compassion and solutions for the problems linked to migration, the ecology and the crisis of meaning”. From where do we start? “From each one of us: by listening and respecting the others who are different from me and, above all, to learn from them”.

Download the text of the contribution of P. Steinmair-Poesel “A conversation that brings us togehter” >>

EUROPEANS OUGHT TO SHOW MORE SELF-ESTEEM

In France, Jean-Dominique Giuliani, president of the Robert Schumann Foundation, urged all Europeans to enhance their self esteem. He wanted to inject optimism and enthusiasm: “Europe cannot be built in a jiffy. Together, however we are strong. We have the same currency, the same common market and we are all committed to safeguard our environment. Our health system is good”.

Click here for the complete recording on YouTube>>

A DIALOGUE BASED ON THE ENCYCLICAL ‘FRATELLI TUTTI’

Together for Europe in Belgium invited the bishop of Liege, Mgr Delville, and the Flemish member of the European Parliament, Cindy Franssen, for a meeting at the “Chapel for Europe”. The lively dialogue was centred on Pope Francis’ social encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’. They both underlined the importance of a new creativity: one that is contemplative and, at the same time, active.  While presenting their project #sauvonsnosaines the St Egidio youths exclaimed: “ça suffit ! Il est temps de changer !” Especially during this time of pandemic they want to provide a voice and support to the older generation.

Click here to watch the event on YouTube>>

EUROPE – HOME FOR THE DIGITAL NOMANDS OF THE Y GENERATION

The young adults of Together for Europe, too, marked the May 9 Feast. In sharing the concrete actions they undertook in their respective Countries and Movements, they have shown their professional approach in various spheres of society: law (Germany), ecology (Italy, Austria), politics (Belgium, France), care of the aged (Belgium), help to refugees and social misfits (Netherlands, Greece, Germany). ‘Generation Y’ came about at the end of the last century; they consider Europe as their home, in which they can freely roam about with a computer under their arm – the so-called ‘digital nomads’. A young Dutch man said: “In Europe we have the possibility of knowing each other well and to be together, even if we are far from each other. This is important, because one can only love what one knows”.

The 2021 Feast of Europe found the support of the prayers of many. The young people met for an hour: “My Europe – We pray for Europe”. In the Czech Republic, the Schoenstatt Movement, the St Egidio Community and the Focolare Movement held a prayer novena in preparation for May 9. In Switzerland, too, where May 9 has no special significance, Christians belonging to various Movements have organized a prayer evening to ask God for strength and mercy in this difficult time of a global pandemic. Also, an ecumenical prayer service based on the ‘7 Yeses’ was held at the Gospel House in Klagenfurt (Austria).

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Ursula Haaf (©Together for Europe)

A strong sign of hope during the Pandemic

A strong sign of hope during the Pandemic

Toward Europe Day 2021

Together for Europe (TfE) will hold various events between May 7 and 9. Jurists, theologians and MEP’s, together with students and adults from various faculties will discuss the present situation of our Continent, while suggesting concrete solutions for the problems that the world is presently facing.

Between May 7 and 9, more than 50 Christian Communities and Movement will share their initiatives in favour of their brothers and sisters in need: by enhancing awareness through discussions, prayer links across Europe, as well as concrete actions such as those regarding the environment (for example, rubbish collection to protect the environment). Indeed, as a member of the preparatory group in Belgium put it: “We want to show the beauty of the Christian message in a concrete way!”

In short video clips young people and young adults of diverse Movements, Communities and from different countries, gif their vision of Europe: “My Europe”>> and on 9 May they will come together for prayer>>. Moreover, in a webinar young people explored the Christian roots of ‘taking care’>>

TfE in Italy>> will hold an interesting online symposium: “For the Earth and Humanity”.

The Austrian group, from Graz>>, will link up with Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy to favour a better acquaintance by holding a deep “conversation that unites us all”.

In the “Chapel for Europe”, Brussels>>, 13 Christian Movements of TfE will offer a common reflection regarding the political and ecclesial spheres.

The conference in France>> will be addressed by the President of the Robert Schuman Foundation.

Young people and adults will gather to discuss various topics: in the Netherlands >>,  Germany>>Czech Republic>> and Switzerland.

Collected by Beatriz Lauenroth

Who cares!

Who cares!

The response of European young people

A webinar during the United World Week will explore the Christian roots needed for one to “care”. Those taking part: Canon John McLuckie, of the Scottish Episcopalian Church and 14 young people belonging to 4 different Communities and coming from 7 different European countries.

On Facebook I read that a housewife, seeing the tragic situation in hospitals due to the pandemic, decided to make cakes for the doctors and nurses. Now, several thousand persons and associations have joined in and are covering more than 40 hospitals, thus creating a true network in various cities of the Country.  This is what happens when a person, responding to an appeal by a first aid department, started to do something! And this is then taken up by others who are willing to join in. At the end of the day, everyone is happy, those who received as well as those who donated!

Today our calendar is full of feast days that remind us of some event, or the common good of a Country or a Continent or of the entire planet. Theses have become a cultural legacy of whole populations thanks to the initiative of a person, or a group, a Church or an Association.

Even May 9, Feast of Europe is one of these, as well as the United World Week, which was started by the young people of the Focolare Movement to make many others aware of the need for peace and brotherhood among peoples.

This year, between May 1 and 9, various events can be followed on the website of “United World Project”>>. Among these there is an event in which even Together for Europe was involved in its preparation. In what way? We asked young people what they would like to say to other young people, what lived-out experiences they can offer as “care” of the others – since the slogan of the Week is #daretocareWhen one listens and sees these young people expressing their ideals, hope in the future is rekindled.

Am you still young – or, were you once a young person? Then you can ask yourself: what can I do, here and now, for the others? Those who understand English are invited to click on //bit.ly/whocares8may, and there they may find a  vaccine dose… not against Covic19, however.

Ilona Toth

 

The Czech Republic prays

The Czech Republic prays

On the occasion of Europe Day, the New Movements and Communities of the Czech Republic pray, together, for Europe

This is a novena that is being held

between April 29 and May 7

Persons are invited to join in at 9 p.m. via ZOOM and pray together for Europe.

This initiative is the fruit of the collaboration and communion between the Schoenstatt Movement, the St Egidio Community and the Focolare Movement present in the Czech Republic.

On Saturday May 8, from 9 till 11 a.m., the Czech Republic and six other nations – Croatia, Italy Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary- will link up with Graz (Austria) for a common feast of Europe.

The local group of Together for Europe

 

My Europe – 45 minutes for Europe

My Europe – 45 minutes for Europe

With music, reflections and prayer groups (all in English), young people across all borders will come together online to pray for our continent.

9 May 2021 at 6.30 p.m.

 

Register at: togetherforeurope@online.de

 

Europe: reasons to hope

Europe: reasons to hope

On the eve of the launching of the “Conference on the future of Europe”, the Christian Associations and Movements of the network Together for Europe, have organized an online conference with Jean-Dominique Giuliani, President of the Robert Schuman Foundation. The topic is:

Europe: what makes us hope?”

Thursday May 6, 2021, 7 p.m.  – 8.30 p.m.

 The Christians are conscious of the importance that the work started in 1950 with the “Schuman Declaration” ought to be continued; to this end they want to make their voice heard in this great debate that will continue till May 2022.

The conference of Mr Giuliani, together with Gérard Testard (French, and member of the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe), will allow us to discern the resources available to Europe in a rapidly changing world, where only a joint response may efficaciously tackle the economic, ecological and health crisis.

Information/Registration: Ensemble pour l’Europe France

Leaflet (in French): Affiche Europe 2021 conference online avec liens

Press release (in French):  6 mai 2021, J. D. Giuliani conference online

Together for Europe, France

 

An event in the Chapel for Europe

An event in the Chapel for Europe

To mark Europe Day, various Movements of Together for Europe are preparing an event that will be held in the Chapel for Europe, Brussels, on May 8, 2021, from 4 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Here you can watch the event again on youtube: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=01tvdG6uB7c

Here you can find the texts in French>>  and Dutch>> 

The theme will be “Unity and Reconciliation”.

The programme includes a contribution by Mgr Delville, Bishop of Liège, and another by Cindy Franssen, a Belgian MEP. They will take an in-depth look at some aspects of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Fratelli tutti.

Several Communities and Movements will present various initiatives, especially those in favour of our Belgian needy brothers and sisters. “We want to highlight the beauty of the Christian message!”: this is how a member of the preparatory put it.

The third part will be spent in prayer.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Wikipedia, author: ©Fabre

May 8 Graz – time to dialogue

Once again, Covid-19 is preventing the holding of the ‘Meeting in Graz’ on the occasion of the 2021 Europe Day. Nevertheless, a Zoom meeting will cater for the manifold friendships:

Saturday, May 8, 2021, from 9 till 11 a.m. from Graz

With participants and contributions from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia 

(with simultaneous translations in the national languages and English)

 

Topic: “A conversation that brings us all together” (Laudato si14). DIALOGUE

Guest speaker: Dr. Petra Steinmair-Pösel

Ecumenical prayer with Bishop Dr. Wilhelm Krautwaschl, the superintendent Mag. Wolfgang Rehner, and Pastor Bruno Gasper

This is being organised by the Styria Team of Together for Europe

Bookings at Elfriede Palt: elfi.palt@gmx.net  stating name and surname, language and respective Community/Movement

You can download the invitation and the programme:

Programme Zoom Meeting from Graz 2021 05 08

 

Italy in action

Italy in action

For the Earth and for Mankind

WE HAVE ORGANISED AGAIN THIS YEAR A ‘MEETING’ FOR THE WHOLE OF ITALY, WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM VARIOUS GROUPS – FROM ROME, TRENT, MILAN, PALERMO, AND OTHERS.

IT IS POSSIBLE TO REVIEW THE EVENT (VIDEOCONFERENCE) ON YOUTUBE: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5W0OfgJ0LY

  • Contributors: Jonut Radu (Romanian Orthodox), Mgr Marco Gnavi, Pastor Luca Maria Negro
  • Lived out experiences regarding “For the Earth and for Mankind’

Giuseppe Del Coiro on behalf of the Italian National Team

The leaflet (in Italian) with the details of how to join in can be downloaded from here:

Flyer Italy ED 2021

Flyer Giornata dell’Europa, 9 Maggio 2021 ITALIA

9th of May in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands on 9th of May we will attempt to answer the following questions during a video conference:

Why was Europe Day initiated?
Where is Europe’s heart?
What is Europe’s current need?

 

We will tackle these topics amongst others. We will be joined by Jeff Fountain professor from the Schuman Centre for European Studies in Amsterdam.

To register please write to beatriz.lauenroth@together4europe.org

Beatriz Lauenroth, Dutch MfE Team

Some French Initiatives

Some French Initiatives

During the annual Meeting of the Friends of TfE, which was held in November, 14 local groups shared experiences and initiatives in their Countries. The following is the contribution offered by the group of TfE in France.

Strasbourg

The Strasbourg group is very worried about the climatic emergency and thinks that a strengthened Europe may provide a valid contribution in this area. Presently it is preparing a conference/debate with the participation of Sven Giegold (MEP – Greens) and Jacques Muller (former mayor of Wattwiller, senator of the Haut-Rhin and a pro-climate activist). The date chosen is November 23 and the venue is the Catholic Students’ Centre, a place which Schumann visited regularly.

Being the city that hosts European entities, the citizens of Strasbourg have a special affinity with the issues linked to the European Union. The Movements and the ecclesial associations have a golden opportunity to work together in the context of Together for Europe.

Lyons

To mark Europe Day 2021, the TfE team in Lyons is proposing a performance loosely inspired by Laudato Sì’, and this will be held on May 9, 2021. This is about the closing down of the market: Ish and Isha sold very little! This leads to a humorous exchange between our two protagonists that come directly from the history of humanity. Through powerful scenes, with an extremely simply stage setting, the public will be invited to take sides with respect to some of today’s fundamental issues, and to discover that all things are linked to one another.

Paris

In Paris, the Deaconesses are organizing a formation course for young people at the Home of Unity. On April 13, 2021, TfE will enliven an ecumenical evening, which will include reflections and prayers, and which will form part of the ‘Prayer Journey’ for 2021.

We are still in contact with the Maison de l’Europe in Paris and the Municipality of Paris in view of the Europe Day. We plan to have a stand during the great event that is organized every year for this occasion.

We are also in contact with the young people of the Focolare who will conclude their project ‘dare to care’ with a joyful event in Brussels as part of the Festival of Europe, on 8-9 May 2021.

At national level

The national Committee had contacts with Lebanon to show its solidarity with that Country, often called Lebanon-message (according to an expression of Pope John Paul II): the Country of harmonious living and friendship among the religions.
As a result of the Beirut explosion, the economic and the political crises, many Lebanese have lost all hope. Their only option to live and survive is to leave the Country. The national Committee has encouraged initiatives aimed to help this Country, like the webinar, which various associations organized on October 15 to pray and to ask for financial aid to this Country.

The National Group of TfE in France

Charisms in the face of Coronavirus

Charisms in the face of Coronavirus

The pandemic forced upon us a certain ‘non-availability’; we ought to develop a new availability for the action of the Holy Spirit so that we may discover a new home for our charisms, and the interior spaces of our respective spiritualities. We ought to develop a new trust to be able to bear witness that in any desperate situation there is always a way that points to the future: the way of God with us.

This was the “quintessence’ of a group of Friends of Together for Europeduring the Zoom meeting on 14.11.2020.

 

Five of the many charisms represented in Together for Europe introduced themselves and shared how they are responding to today’s challenge, the pandemic.
The harmonious blend of the different charisms allows us to have a glimpse of the “score written in heaven”.

Here you can download the texts of the various contributions:

2020 11 14 1Corona encounters charisms, Introduction
2020 11 14 2Corona encounters charisms – contribution Community Sant’Egidio
2020 11 14 3Corona encounters charisms – contribution Schoenstatt movement
2020 11 14 4Corona encounters charisms – contribution Focolare Movement
2020 11 14 5Corona encounters charisms – contribution prayer network Germany
2020 11 14 6Corona encounters charisms – contribution Efesia
2020 11 14 7Corona encounters charisms, conclusion
2020 11 14 Prayer in the evening, Herbert Lauenroth

International Secretariat of TfE

Online, and yet, fully analogical

Online, and yet, fully analogical

“What is being highlighted here is the anti-virus of fraternity”. On November 14, 2020, about 300 Friends of Together for Europe (TfE) met on the World Wide Web for their annual meeting. Representatives of about 40 Movements that are highly involved in the network experienced a moment of intense communion and sharing, thus making up “a most beautify mosaic of faces and Communities” at the service of others in many various areas.  

 One of the messages received during the event read: “It is as if today we are re-writing the Acts of the Apostles”.

This year many more were involved in the preparations! 14 local groups of TfE in Eastern and Western Europe – ranging from Portugal to Ukraine, from Russia to Northern Ireland, and from Greece to Czech republic – presented a variegated mix of experiences by means of videos, photos and written contributions. After this, more than ever before, the “invisible network” that binds them all together seemed denser and more real. One of the participants affirmed: “We find ourselves in today’s Areopagus from where we can encourage people”.

All the Movements and Communities offer a visible contribution toward a more united humanity through “their praying together, their living together and by their common commitment in favour of the others”.

There was an active participation in the meeting through a myriad of chats

One session of the day focused upon the question: How are our charisms shining at this time of coronavirus? This entails listening to what God is telling us today. Through the pandemic He is sounding an alarm bell. Through prayer, the Movements put themselves at His service and, in a culture of alliance they deepen their relationship with God and between themselves, spiritually as well as materially. In a culture of the encounter they learn anew how to dialogue, without losing their own identity, and, among other things, through the solidarity with the poor, they bear visible witness to their love for God and for humanity.

The St Egidio Community, the Schönstatt Movement, the still young Movement Efisia that was born in France, a member of the YMCA Esslingen representing the Leadership Group and the Focolare Movement shared their experiences of how their charisms have responded in solidarity and in a creative way to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. Some of the participants have expressed what they have experienced with such phrases as: “Covid strengthened our unity”; and “The new form of Church is a lived-out friendship”.

At one point, the participants were divided into more than 40 groups, and this gave them the possibility of sharing even very personal experiences. Through this exercise, the participants became more aware of the importance, now more than ever, of the relationships between them and with all the others: “The Kingdom of God is made up of relationships. We ought to share even the difficulties so that the other may experience the love of God. Let us look toward the future together, and see us all part of this network. When we are together, we are stronger and can see even further”.

At the end of the afternoon session Julio from Portugal affirmed: “Now is the time of the Christians in Europe”, and on behalf of the Movements in Portugal, invited the Friends for next year’s meeting, which is scheduled for 4-6 November 2021 in the city of Porto.

The 2020 meeting came to an end with a solemn prayer. Albeit online, the participants, who came practically from all over Europe, have experienced the presence of God, and together they prayed for strength and trust so as to be ever more signs of hope and help for humanity. One woman affirmed: “Today, humanity is experiencing fear, uncertainty and confusion. I’m sure that all the elements that emerged during this meeting constitute an efficacious antidote to all that is negative”.

International Secretariat of TfE

Graphic: ©Together4Europe

 

Virtual Meeting of the “Friends of TfE” in autumn 2020

The annual meeting of the “Friends” of Together for Europe will be held on 12-14 November 2020. This time round, however, it will have two parts: national and European.

This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the international Meeting, originally scheduled for Warsaw, Poland, cannot be held with people being physically together.

On a European level, there will be a ZOOM link-up on November 14, 2020. During the day there would be several inputs, sharing (in the four languages: French, English, German and Italian) and a common prayer. The focal point would be the question: How did the various charisms, which are linked together in Together for Europe, tackle the pandemic? Through our sharing we will come to know each other even deeper.

Preparatory national meetings

Prior to our European meeting, we invite you to meet in each Country. The invitation letter stated: “This could take place a few days, or weeks, just proceeding November 14; this meeting could be physical or virtual – depending on the restrictions imposed in each Country”. The aim of the national meetings is to prepare a contribution for the European meeting.

Looking ahead at 2021

Pandemic permitting, the usual Friends’ Meeting on a European level is scheduled for 4 – 7 November 2021, and hopefully we could greet each other physically. The Country and the exact venue have still to be decided.

International secretariat of TfE

 

Political projects need to be spiritually nurtured

Political projects need to be spiritually nurtured

Together for Europe has received a letter from David Maria Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament. He emphasized the great need of the common European values to tackle crises. He also added that he would be delighted to keep in contact with our network.

In a letter addressed to Together for Europe (TfE), David Maria Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, expressed his gratitude to the ecumenical network for its service toward the European Continent. Mr Sassoli observed that even Europe’s Founding Fathers were fully aware that the political project EUROPE could function properly only if nurtured also with a lived-out spirituality. He affirmed that: “European shared values, as agreed upon by Member States when signing the EU Treaties, are more needed than ever to overcome crises, including the current COVID-19 pandemic”.

Fighting selfish egoistic and nationalistic temptations

The president underlined how much he appreciates all the initiatives that “stimulate public discussions on civic matters”. In the European Parliament’s aims and in the commitment of the network Together for Europe, he sees “a shared approach based on solidarity and idealism”. Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis, the need for more ecology and the way the European Union deals with third-county nationals arriving on its territory “are all issues that cannot be tackled without fighting selfish and nationalistic temptations”.

Encouragement for future steps

The ecumenical network considers this letter of appreciation to be an encouragement for future steps. The letter from Brussels shows that prayer and action for Europe, like the initiatives linked to May 9, are an important contribution toward its unity.

Heinrich Brehm / Beatriz Lauenroth

Letter of the president of the European Parliament David-Maria Sassoli to Together for Europe, 7 july 2020

 

 

Crossing Europe in one day

Living May 9, 2020, online: Due to Covid-19, all the events planned for the Europe Day, which involved Together for Europe were held online. Together for Europe was in contact with persons from all over the Continent through discussions, conferences, prayers and singing.

Italy

In Italy, more than 900 Friends of Together from all over the Country joined in a Zoom conference. The theme was: “Integral ecology: a sustainable utopia for Europe”; two keynote speeches dealt with how to work for the planet’s better present and an even better future by respecting nature and persons. The meeting was concluded with an ecumenical prayer with representatives of numerous Churches and Communities, and with the renewal of the ‘pact’ of mutual love.

The Netherlands

Two conferences, one based in Utrecht and another in Amsterdam, were held in The Netherlands. “Utrecht in Dialogue” and “Pax” provided small online groups with food for thought during their lively discussions regarding ideas about Europe. Many young people took part.

The ‘Schuman Centre’ discussed the present situation of the Continent. 70 years ago, Robert Schuman announced his plan to start laying the foundations for a European Home embracing 500 million inhabitants. Jeff Fountain, the founder of the ‘Schuman Centre’, which was established ten years ago, concluded the discussion with an unusual form of prayer. He sang in English on the tune of “Ode of joy”, the Europahymnus, a rewritten interpretation: “With the vision now before us of a true community / Of all European peoples, rich in our diversiy / Let us pray and work together for our solidarity / Peace, equality and freedom, rooted in your charity.

Austria and Eastern Europe

The City of Graz was linked to six Countries for an exchange of lived out experiences. The Friends of Together in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary and Northern Italy shared how they were living the Covid-19 crisis in the spirit of mutual support. At the end, Bishop Wilhelm Krautwaschl thanked the participants for their witnessing as an international community, and concluded saying: “In spite of our differences and separations, through the cross we are all united one to the other”.

Germany

The YMCA of Esslingen-Stuttgart thought that at the planned prayer meeting, only locals would participate. However, when they moved the event online, the Friends of Together were linked to other Movements in diverse German, Italian and Dutch cities. Indeed, for all of them the evening turned out to be a true experience of Togetherness.

France

In France there were 34 link-ups scattered in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Tours that formed a national network that manifested the diversities between the groups, and, at the same time, a profound mutual esteem. Gérard Testard (Efesia) encouraged the participants to make the ‘French voice’ ever more present in Europe. One of the participants concluded: “It was a moment of fraternity and trust in Europe that filled us all with a new hope”.

Beatriz Lauenroth

The events will be available online in the next few days on:

Italy: facebook.com/Insiemepereuropa.roma>>
Amsterdam : facebook schuman centre>>

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

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

The preparation

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

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

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

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

Toward an integral ecology

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

Ecumenical prayer

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

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

An International Link-up on the Feast of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plans for May 8, 2021…

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

The Together for Europe Team, Austria.

 

A special event

A special event

Europe Day 2020 and Pope Francis 

We have been journeying together for the last six weeks. During this shared prayerful journey we allowed the Word of God and our reflection regarding Europe (2016) to inspire us, and we included all European Countries in our prayers. Our main objective was to strengthen our yearning to be all one and to mould Europe with the power of prayer.

May 9, Europe Day

Our journey will take us toward May 9, 2020, Europe Day. This Day ought to be a day of encounters between Communities, Movements and Countries. This year, however, due to Covid-19, we cannot gather physically in churches and squares, or hold social events, conferences and prayers.

This does not mean that the Day’s activities have been cancelled; on the contrary: a lot of creativity is being expressed in digital conferences and prayers, discussion groups and on-line dialogue between Communities, Movements and politicians that will be start, for example, from Utrecht, Graz, Rome, Lyon and Esslingen. Here all linguistic and National barriers will be overcome and thus we can reflect together about Europe and to keep the Continent in our prayers.

Letter from Pope Francis

All our events linked to May 9 have a papal blessing. Indeed, Pope Francis, on 22 April, sent a letter to the Secretariat of Together for Europe in Rome in which, after thanking us for our letter of April 12, he encouraged in the service to the common good, inspired by values of solidarity, peace and justice. He pray for us and he warmly sents his apostolic blessing to all of us.

Letter Secretariat of State, Pope Francis, 22 April 2020

Sr. Nicole Grochowina, Christusbruderschaft Selbitz

Photo Pope Francis: Pixabay/Manfred Kindlinger

 

“Online Dialogue Europe” 9 May 2020

“Online Dialogue Europe” 9 May 2020

On the 9th of May we will celebrate Europe Day and through this online dialogue we will discuss the EU project: after 75 years of peace within the EU, how do we move forward?

Date: Saturday, May 9, 2020,  Europe Day
Time: 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.

Once you register on  //www.utrechtindialoog.nl/bijeenkomsten/europa/

you will receive an email with the link and the password that will allow you to participate. Participation is free of charge.

Languages: Dutch and English

It’s been 70 years since the Schuman Declaration and we have enjoyed 75 years of peace in Europe. What about the future?

The European Union, which embraces 513 million inhabitants and a great diversity of Countries, cultures and identities, is a unique project in the history of humanity. It is the greatest peace project that followed the Second World War. Robert Schuman once said: “The European co-operation and integration could not, and must not, be limited to an economic and technical endeavour: it needs a soul, an awareness of its historical roots and its present and future responsibility, together with a political will to serve the common human ideal”. Thirty years ago, in 1989, we witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall: it was a promising event, one that took us all, Easterners and Westerners, by surprise. A wave of euphoria swept over all Europe: peace in Europe, peace for all!

In 2020, 70 years since the Schuman Declaration, we will discuss the development of this human project and, above all, how to keep on making it better. We will speak about culture and values in Europe: how do we deal with our differences and what do we have in common? Which are our historical roots? What kind of future do we desire for Europe? Which are the main challenges that Europe must face? How can we work together to promote a stable peace in Europe, and which values are indispensible for this objective? We will try to answer these questions during our small groups’ discussions.

Program
2.00 p.m. Interactive introduction of the theme
2.15 p.m. Video by PAX: ‘Four future scenarios for Europe in 2040’
2.20 p.m. Dialogue at the ‘tables’ (parallel session with groups’ discussion)
3:20 p.m. Plenary session to gather feedback from the dialogue sessions

Together for Europe in the Netherlands actively supports this initiative, organized by  Pax voor vrede en Comité Europadag Utrecht. Hope to see you!

Beatriz Lauenroth 

 

Photos of people: ©Canva

An epochal challenge for Europe

An epochal challenge for Europe

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

 

Photo Von der Leyen / Sassoli:  © European Union 2019 – Source: EP / CC BY  /
Photo Michel:  Belgian Federal Government //premier.fgov.be/nl/biografie
Photo Pope Francis: //www.korea.net/
Being Together Online – a virtual, yet real, network

Being Together Online – a virtual, yet real, network

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

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

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

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

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

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

The International Secretariat of Together for Europe

 

Graz – ‘Plan B’ for the Europe Day 2020

Graz – ‘Plan B’ for the Europe Day 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Team of TfE in Austria

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

Contagious creativity is stronger than the virus

Contagious creativity is stronger than the virus

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Graz, May 9 will be international

At Graz, May 9 will be international

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

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

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

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

The detailed program:

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

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

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

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

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

The team of Together for Europe in Styria

Download the invitation (in German):  2020 05 09 MfE Oesterreich Einladung Graz

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

A young Irishman’s impressions

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

Christian Churches and Movements unite to be Together for Europe

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

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

What does togetherness look like?

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

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

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

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

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

4what?

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

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

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

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

Seeds of a new season from Augsburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information about the conference click here>>

The International Secretariat of Together for Europe

“It was like Easter”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Beatriz Lauenroth

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

 

 

Anniversary celebration in Augsburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Conference day in Ottmaring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augsburg – City of Peace

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

Confessio Augustana

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

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

Religious peace of Augsburg

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

Feast of the Peace

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

Brigitte Pischner e Margarete Hovestadt

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The vocation of Ottmaring

VIDEO – INTERVIEW  

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ada Maria Guazzo, Ilona Toth

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

Europe Day 2019 Strasbourg

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

A keynote speech and a debate

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

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

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

An ecumenical prayer for Europe

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

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

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

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

Team of Together for Europe in Strasbourg

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

Europe Day 2019 Toulouse

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

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

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

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

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

The team of Together for Europe in Toulouse

Download Gérard Testard’s Prayer for Europe (French)  Prière pour l’Europe 2019 – Gérard Testard

Europe Day 2019 Roma

Rome, too, celebrated the Feast of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Europe Day 2019 Paris

The various initiatives of Together in Paris

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

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

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

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

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

Team of Together for Europe in Paris

 

 

 

Europe Day 2019 Palermo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Europe Day 2019 Trento

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foto: © Barbara Passalacqua / Nino Carella

Europe Day 2019 Castel Gandolfo

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Foto: ©Thomas Klann

Europe Day 2019 Padova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foto: © Giorgia Chiaro

Europe Day 2019 Carinthia

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Europe Day 2019 Milano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flyer Europe Day Milan, 9 may 2019>>

The organizing commission

Foto: ©Alberto Fornasari

Prague: What vision for the Europe of the future?

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

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

Stáhněte si plakát  –  Download the poster (in Czech)  Europe Day SPE Praha 8.5.20199>>

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): 

Affiche Journée de l’Europe, Lyon Mai 2019>>
Affiche Journée de l’Europe, Strasbourg Mai 2019>>
Invitation Prière pour l’Europe, Paris 2 avril 2019>>
Invitation Journée de l’Europe, Toulouse 11 mai 2019>>
Invitation Prière pour l’Europe, Longjumeau 14 Mai 2019>>

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 Giornata dell’Europa Roma 8 maggio 2019>>

 

Slovenia is getting ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Carinthia, a crossroads of nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the invitation here (available only in German) Flyer Europatag 2019 MfE Österreich Klagenfurt “Europa Einheit in Vielfalt”>>

Works in progress in Padua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Team of Together for Europe in Padua

Seeking together

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

Foto: © Maria Kny

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

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”

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