Vienna, a Bridge between East and West
Place of origin: countries of Europe. Shared objective: reconciled unity among different Churches and cultures, solidarity and European integration.
From 9th to 11th November 2017 in Vienna (Austria), the annual conference of ecumenical network Together for Europe (TfE) took place, with 130 participants from 44 Movements, Communities and Associations.
They met to reflect upon the past, present and future of their ‘togetherness’. “What we need is an action through dialogue,” said Ilona Tóth, member of the Steering Committee of TfE, on 29th October 2017 following the COMECE meeting in Rome entitled ‘(Re)thinking Europe’, “that is look at issues together and together seek solutions”. This is precisely what they did in Vienna.
Ecumenical Prayer for Europe
On 9th November, the conference participants met in the Stephansdom, the Catholic Cathedral of Vienna, for a prayer presided by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn who was also joined by a sizable group of ecclesial authorities and a few hundred faithful. The solemn prayer of Together for Europe for togetherness between cultures and generations and for peace was very well received. The date of the event carries a meaning in itself: following 9th November 1938 (Night of Broken Glass) and 9th November 1989 (fall of the Berlin Wall), the ecumenical prayer held on 9th November 2017 represents a significant moment on the path of Together for Europe and a sign of peace for Europe. See article, photos and video>
Exchange of views at the conference
In the following days, prayers and lectures as well as a lively exchange of views set the tone for the programme.
Fr. Heinrich Walter (Schoenstatt Movement) spoke of the eighteen-year history of Together for Europe. “On deep roots a fertile tree of unity for Europe is growing,” he said, as he reminded the conference of the year 1999, when Christian Communities, Movements and Association belonging to different Churches started working together in the context of the celebration of the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’ in Augsburg.
Gérard Testard (Efesia, France) clearly and succinctly spoke about the crises and hopes in Europe today.
Gerhard Pross (YMCA Esslingen) then spoke of a ‘Europe at stake’. “Our ‘togetherness’ is a prophetic message, which marks the culture of Together for Europe”. Pross recalled the seven Yes-statements proclaimed by the network… “We say Yes to a Europe to which God has entrusted a vocation in the course of history: the togetherness of heaven and earth, of faith and shaping of the world: for heaven and earth meet in the crucified one.”
Pál Tóth (Focolare Movement Hungary) looked at the future of Together for Europe in his contribution entitled “A culture of encounter and dialogue between East and West,” followed by a well-attended panel discussion with participants from the Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Russia. Communication scientist Tóth pointed out some differences between the Eastern/Central European countries and the West of Europe and put forward a daring proposal: “Together for Europe can increasingly become a platform for dialogue, or rather a school of inter-European dialogue.” “Under the headline of equality and mutual recognition a kind of wisdom discourse might emerge in which misery and shortcomings can be viewed from the view point of redemption and resurrection.”
Where do we go from here?
There were numerous reflections in plenary sessions and in language groups, in which each participant was asked to actively contribute in the course of the actions his/her own opinion and experience.
On the last day, Thomas Roemer (YMCA Munich) and Sr. Vernita Weiss (Schoenstatt Movement) asked: “Now, where do we go from here?” After having prayed together to the Holy Spirit, the assembly decided almost unanimously to intensify encounters and mutual visits among Movements and Countries, and to strengthen the spirit of living ‘togetherness’. Another idea came from Jeff Fountain (Robert Schuman Centre, the Netherlands) and the Together for Europe group from Rome, who suggested using the date of 9th May – which in many countries marks Europe Day – to spread the message of ‘togetherness’ in local actions.
At the end, the gathering renewed its pact – a solemn promise of mutual love. With it they pledged before God their shared commitment and asked for courage and confidence to go ahead.
The next meeting of ‘Friends’ of Together for Europe aimed at furthering dialogue between East and West of Europe will take place in Prague (Czech Republic) from 15th to 17th November 2018. Together we set out on a path to a promising future.
Download and read some of the contributions:
2017 11 10 Fr Heinrich Walter – Fruits of Together for Europe after 18 years
2017 11 10 Gérard Testard – The Political Situation of Europe
2017 11 10 Pal Toth – Culture of encounter and the dialogue between Eastern and Western Europe
2017 11 20 Gerhard Pross – Europe is challenged