Category Archives: Internationals 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

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

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

Europe in an “Era of Fear”

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

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being “for” Europe

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

THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS STILL AT WORK TODAY

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

Our Dream

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

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

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

Together in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download:  TfE Munich 2016 – Keys for prompts of dialogue on Cardinal W. Kasper’s speech on 30 June 2016, Sr. Nicole Grochowina

Does hope have a future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To download the full talk, go to: 2016 07 01 TfE Munich – M. Hochschild on Becoming reconciled with our future>>

Juntos por México

Network TOGETHER beyond the ocean

The name of the network – Together for Mexico – encompasses a lot. Whilst it may not be possible to grasp the full meaning of the “National Union of Catholic Movements” of Mexico, as the second National Meeting of Juntos por México (JXM), held in the city of Querétaro, from 6th to 8th October 2017 demonstrates, it can be experienced. 60 or more Ecclesial Movements, Associations of lay people, Catholic institutions, representatives of the Council from more than 90 dioceses of Mexico (a significant majority of dioceses in Mexico), approximately 4,700 people, young and old all “together for…” a brotherly Mexico, a society enlightened, healed and regenerated by the Gospel, that is, by Love. A space of dialogue and communion was created, to bring ahead an evangelisation within the Church to “go out together” and work in building a new society.

The concluding Manifesto launched at the end of the event and ratified by the signatures of the participants (and mounted on a 20m banner) read: “We aspire to be a new people. Wherever we come together and meet, called by the One who invites us to serve and work in love of neighbour, we will work to lay seeds and inspire others with a vision of a Mexico where there is more solidarity in its civic values, where there is more unity in its cultural diversity, a country that decisively promotes the human person.

As pinpointed by Carlos Valle e Esther Pérez, the national responsible for JXM on the occasion of the first official press conference, this is not just a vague aspiration but is already confirmed by the life and witness of many. The fundamental role of communion, unity, need for reflexion and the role of women were highlighted. The participants among whose numbers was also Mons. Faustino Armendáriz, Bishop of the diocese of Querétaro, stressed the role of the laity in any civil action that upholds family values and promotes social justice.

The theme of Family was also central to the message prepared for the meeting by Pope Francis, which was aimed at supporting and facilitating initiatives for the family, for unity and for life, and which expressed a wish for “an abundance of fruits so that Mexican society can become an authentic family in which no one feels excluded, where everyone can experience in their lives God’s tender closeness”.

Celebration, songs, reflections, workshops – a varied programme aimed at setting a course towards fulfilling the slogan: “Lay people, let us go out together to renew the world. The time is now!”

The earthquake which hit the country between 7th and 19th September and left a trail of destruction, also created a sense of solidarity which blossomed spontaneously and powerfully in the most affected areas. This solidarity showed the “real self” of the Mexican people and echoed a call that this sense of self shine out not only in situations of emergency, but also in the daily life of society.

The 12 workshops covered many important areas of social renewal including: economics, politics, education, migration, culture of legality (vs. social corruption), communication, ecology, social volunteering, youth, family, social fabric, rebuilding of peace and the social doctrine of the Church.

A new initiative was also launched, spearheaded by a network of volunteers who will work to connect various existing voluntary social programmes promoted by the Movements. The social areas where these programmes take place are many and different – hence the network’s task to open up new possibilities for mutual collaboration, thereby increasing the possibility for participation and ultimately increasing the positive impact in Mexican society.

Raffaele Massolin

60. Jahrestag Römische Verträge /Kroatien

Am 7. Juni haben wir endlich unser Miteinander – Gebet für Europa durchführen können, das von 5 Gemeinschaften vorbereitet wurde. Es waren etwa 150 Personen anwesend, die in einer tiefen Atmosphäre der Gemeinschaft für die Zukunft Europas gebetet haben.

Hanny Knüsel

60 ans du Traités de Rome /Castres (France)

Pour le présent et l’avenir de l’Europe, Castres le 24 mars 2017

Mgr Georges Pontier, le 28 mars 2017, dans son discours d’ouverture de l’Assemblée plénière des évêques de France à Lourdes, a encouragé à “regarder l’avenir de l’Europe avec confiance”: “Ce samedi 25 mars dernier, se fêtait à Rome le soixantième anniversaire de la signature des traités de Rome, acte fondateur de l’Union européenne. La veille, le Pape François en a reçu les 27 chefs d’État. Dans un discours apprécié, il les a encouragés dans leurs responsabilités en rappelant ce qui a guidé les pères fondateurs « les piliers sur lesquels ils ont voulu édifier la communauté économique européenne et que j’ai déjà rappelés : la centralité de l’homme, une solidarité effective, l’ouverture au monde, la poursuite de la paix et du développement, l’ouverture à l’avenir… L’Europe retrouve l’espérance dans la solidarité qui est aussi le plus efficace antidote contre les populismes modernes ». Beaucoup de voix s’expriment pour que l’Europe retrouve cet esprit solidaire qui a présidé à son histoire.

A l’heure où le Pape François s’adressait aux chefs d’Etat, les Tarnais étaient invités à prier pour l’Europe en l’église St-Jean/St-Louis de Castres ou à s’y unir par le cœur. Cette initiative était promue par le Service diocésain de la Mission universelle de l’Eglise, sous l’impulsion des Mouvements Focolari et Vivre et Aimer, membres du réseau Ensemble pour l’Europe (formé de quelque 300 communautés et mouvements chrétiens)“Ce soir, une Veillée de prière œcuménique et internationale aura lieu à Rome en la Basilique des Saints-Apôtres, à l’initiative du réseau Ensemble pour l’Europe. En écho à cette célébration, des soirées de prière auront lieu à Bruxelles, à Paris, et dans bien d’autres villes européennes… Au moment où l’Europe traverse une période difficile, entre peur de l’avenir et peur de l’étranger, nous vous invitons à prier, nous aussi à Castres, pour une Europe qui redécouvre sa véritable identité dans la rencontre avec l’autre. »

Des lectures bibliques ont conduit le recueillement, amenant chacun à un questionnement intérieur : « Écoutons la Parole de Dieu, puis laissons-La retentir en nous dans le silence de l’Adoration. D’abord dans le Livre d’Isaïe au chapitre 2 (v. 3-5). ‘Jean Monnet, Robert Schumann, Konrad Adenauer et Alcide de Gasperi, les pères fondateurs de l’Europe avaient tant souffert de la guerre… Méditons en silence. Je suis chrétien. Est-ce que je pose des actes de paix ?… dans ma famille ?… dans mes rapports de voisinage et de travail ?… Lors de rencontres (en paroisse, dans la vie sociale…)?

Ecoutons la Parole de Dieu dans l’Évangile selon Saint Matthieu au chapitre 5 (v. 12-16).‘ Je suis chrétien. Est-ce que j’essaie d’être sel dans le bout de terre européenne que j’habite ? Comment est-ce que je vis en témoin de lumière dans mon quartier, dans mes lieux d’engagement et de loisir ?’

Ecoutons la Parole de Dieu dans les Actes des Apôtres au chapitre 16 (9-10).‘ Je suis chrétien. Est-ce que j’accueille celui qui est différent ? Est-ce que je vois un frère à aider, en celui qui est étranger, qu’il soit d’un autre pays européen ou d’un autre continent ?’

Chacun a ensuite reçu le drapeau de l’un des pays européens et s’est engagé à prier avec persévérance pour cette nation.

R-L Coureau

60º Trattati di Roma /Flash da città italiane

Viterbo

A Viterbo, il 17 marzo 2017,  120 persone hanno realizzato la prima veglia internazionale ed ecumenica per l’Europa presso la chiesa di S. Murialdo, sostenuta dal  Consiglio Diocesano dei laici, con la partecipazione anche di una predicatrice valdese e del parroco romeno ortodosso, accompagnato da alcuni parrocchiani.

Un messaggio della Segreteria Internazionale di Insieme per l’Europa ha creato un legame con tutte le altre veglie.

Nel programma, di rilievo l’omelia del Vescovo, S.E. Mons. Lino Fumagalli sulle radici cristiane dell’Europa e l’esempio di un frutto attuale di quelle ‘radici’: la testimonianza presentata da un membro dell’Associazione Papa Giovanni XXIII, di accoglienza e accompagnamento nei campi profughi ai confini tra Libano e Siria, per la collaborazione di più organizzazioni.

Parma

Parma: organizzatori della veglia per l’Europa nuovi e antichi carismi (es. Associazione Teilhard de Chardin, Mov. dei Focolari e missionarie Saveriane, che hanno ospitato l’incontro, in una sala riunioni gremita), con coinvolgimento della Comunità Baha’i, del gruppo yoga Svarupananda e di membri dei ”Musulmani per il dialogo”. Si è riflettuto sull’unità e la pace fra gli Stati e sul dialogo fra le religioni. Ha parlato della veglia un articolo di Laura Caffagnini nel settimanale di Parma, del 30 marzo: Vita-Nuova_Parma.pdf

Siena

A Siena  già il  23.3.2017, si è realizzata una veglia ecumenica di preghiera per il 60° anniversario dei Trattati di Roma, col contributo di vari Movimenti e Comunità cattoliche, attive a Siena, che hanno coinvolto anche rappresentanti della Chiesa Anglicana e della Chiesa Ortodossa. L’incontro, con una buona partecipazione di gente, si è  svolto nella chiesa di San Cristoforo ed è stato guidato dall’Arcivescovo, Mons. Antonio Buoncristiani, presente anche il Professor Paolo Nardi, Priore generale dell’Associazione Internazionale dei Caterinati.

Foggia

Alla veglia ecumenica di Foggia, organizzata da alcuni Movimenti cattolici (fra cui Rinnovamento nello Spirito, Neocatecumenali e Focolari) hanno partecipato i Valdesi, alcuni Pentecostali, un Ortodosso. Espressivo il commento da parte del Consiglio Ecumenico di Foggia: “INSIEME PER L’EUROPA”: bellissima serata di preghiera e di riflessione, nella quale i rappresentanti delle confessioni cristiane hanno testimoniato, attraverso la loro riflessione spirituale su passi della Bibbia, che comunione, riconciliazione e unità sono possibili ancora oggi in Europa. “Insieme per l’Europa” è una forza di coesione e traduce i valori base del cristianesimo in risposta concreta alle sfide di un continente in crisi.

Varazze

Anche a Varazze (Savona) ci si è voluti associare alle veglie organizzate da Insieme per l’Europa, organizzando il 25 marzo una preghiera, con la celebrazione dei Vespri, ad iniziativa della Presidente dell’Associazione Internazionale dei Caterinati, Marina  Delfino. Erano presenti, insieme ad un buon numero di laici, la priora del terz’Ordine Domenicano e il priore, padre Daniele Mazzoleni, con alcuni frati.

a cura di Ada Maria Guazzo

Slovenia: Veglie in 17 località e servizio TV nazionale

Ora è un tempo giusto perché l’Europa si rinnovi

In Slovenia si sono svolte veglie di preghiera per l’Europa in 17 città e paesi. Diversi luoghi hanno visto la partecipazioni di Vescovi, come a Ljubljana, l’arcivescovo Stanislav Zore, a Strunjan, Il vescovo Jurij Bizjak, nella diocesi di Celje, il vescovo. Stanislav Lipovšek, a Novo Mesto il vescovo, Andrej Glavan.

L’iniziativa è stata accolta e seguita dai media. Nel giornale cattolico nazionale “Družina” (La famiglia), con tiratura di oltre 30.000 copie, è uscito un articolo con il titolo: “Per l ‘Europa dello Spirito, vieni ed aiutaci”.

La settimana prima delle varie iniziative, alla radio cattolica nazionale “Radio Ognjišče”, molto ascoltata in Slovenia, varie volte al giorno è stata data la notizia di questo avvenimento. Diverse le interviste, tra cui quella con il comitato nazionale di Insieme per l’Europa.

Nella città di Strunjan, la chiesa era piena dalle ore 18 della sera del 24 marzo fino alle ore 9 del giorno successivo. Il coro era composto da giovani di diversi Movimenti. Tutto molto solenne e partecipato, tanto che la TV nazionale slovena, canale 1, ha scelto di mandare in onda un servizio “Orizzonti dello Spirito”.

Link della trasmissione: //4d.rtvslo.si/arhiv/obzorja-duha/174463819

Veglia per l’Europa in Slovenia – Testo in italiano della Trasmissione “Obzorja Duha” 2.4.2017>>

60º Trattati di Roma /Matera (Italia)

Una tappa importante a Matera

Un’altra tappa importante del cammino ecumenico a Matera è stato l’aver aderito alla iniziativa internazionale di Insieme per l’Europa che – in occasione dei 60 anni dalla firma dei trattati di Roma, che hanno istituito l’Unione Europea – ha proposto a Roma e in molte città europee momenti di preghiera e riflessione.

L’idea è stata proposta al gruppo ecumenico di Matera, che l’ha accolta con entusiasmo, ravvisandovi una ulteriore occasione per poter innanzitutto crescere nel dialogo fra noi e poi per offrire insieme un importante momento di riflessione e testimonianza di esperienze positive alla città e alle istituzioni nel nostro territorio. Si è voluto dare un taglio laico all’iniziativa, permettendo anche a non cristiani e non credenti di potersi ritrovare in ciò che abbiamo proposto.

L’incontro, realizzato il 25 marzo, nella parrocchia Maria Madre della Chiesa, è iniziato con il video del Gen Verde “Io credo nel noi”, evidenziando che l’unità nella diversità – che sperimentiamo profondamente nel gruppo ecumenico – è ciò che sta alla base del cammino ‘insieme’ intrapreso da anni.

Con il primo intervento, è stata presentata la storia dell’Unione europea nei suoi tratti più salienti, evidenziando quali sono stati gli ideali e l’anelito che ha guidato i padri fondatori, cosa è rimasto oggi di quegli ideali, quali sono le prospettive attuali e le sfide che ci interpellano. Questo momento è stato affidato a Camilla Spada, docente di Storia e Filosofia  e ad Achille Spada, consigliere Regionale, che ha saputo – da amministratore – ben evidenziare problematiche politiche e culturali che oggi ci investono, ma anche porre l’accento sulla necessaria riscoperta e valorizzazione di quegli ideali umani di cui l’esperienza cristiana è stata portatrice in Europa.

E’ stata poi presentata l’esperienza di Insieme per l’Europa, come rete internazionale di circa 300 movimenti e comunità cristiane in Europa che liberamente vogliono costruire una “cultura di reciprocità”, basata su rapporti di comunione nel rispetto della diversità, e che da oltre 15 anni sperimentano che l’unità è possibile. E’ seguito il video di presentazione di Insieme per l’Europa.

Sono seguite alcune testimonianze di accoglienza e di integrazione realizzate in loco, per dare un segno di come singolarmente ed insieme si può essere costruttori della ‘nostra’ Europa. Giuseppe e Paola Montemurro, della comunità Battista, hanno raccontato come da mesi accolgono alcuni ragazzi africani migranti – minorenni senza più genitori –  giunti in un paese in provincia di Matera, andandoli a prendere nel fine settimana e ospitandoli nella loro casa, nella stanza dei loro figli oramai fuori per l’università. Li hanno inseriti nella scuola calcio di cui è responsabile Giuseppe, e stanno anche cercando loro un lavoro. Catia Caponero ha presentato l’esperienza dei “Corridoi umanitari” a cui collabora, insieme con esponenti della Comunità di Sant’Egidio,  di Comunione e Liberazione ed anche non credenti. Recentemente hanno accolto e seguono a Matera una famiglia proveniente dalla Siria.

L’incontro – durato circa 2 ore – si è concluso con un impegno per l’Europa, in cui, facendo proprie le parole del Card. Martini, si è voluto evidenziare la necessità di “lavorare per una Europa dello spirito, fondata non soltanto sugli accordi economici, ma anche su valori umani ed eterni”.

All’incontro hanno preso parte più di 80 persone; in tanti hanno detto di essere stati contenti per il taglio “laico” e universale dell’incontro, per le forti testimonianze ascoltate, per aver potuto conoscere la realtà di Insieme per l’Europa.

Negli organizzatori rimane la gioia di aver costruito un altro momento importante di condivisione e di unità non soltanto col gruppo ecumenico, ma anche con persone che hanno a cuore il “Bene comune”, certi che il don Gino Galante – pioniere del dialogo ecumenico a Matera e partito per il cielo pochi giorni prima dell’incontro – abbia contribuito…

Vedi anche articolo LOGOS_Matera_31.03.2017.pdf

 

Foto in alto della città di Matera di Luca Aless, CC BY-SA 4.0, //commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45529817

60º Trattati di Roma /Trento (Italia)

Veglia ecumenica per l’Europa, 24 marzo 2017, Chiesetta di Santa Chiara a Trento.

Erano presenti circa 100 persone, fra cui la teologa Milena Mariani, preside dell’ Istituto superiore di scienze religiose e, a nome del sindaco Andreatta, l’assessore Chiara Maule.

Nel programma, si sono alternati interventi, riflessioni, preghiere, canti e letture della Scrittura.

Molto apprezzato il contributo sugli ideali dei fondatori dell’Europa del Prof. Beppe Zorzi, (incaricato dal Presidente della Provincia Autonoma di Trento e del Trentino-Alto Adige, Ugo Rossi). Vedi in fondo il suo testo scaricabile.

Hanno collaborato alla preparazione 7 Movimenti ecclesiali di varie Chiese.

Il vicario generale della diocesi di Trento,  Mons. Marco Saiani, il padre ortodosso rumeno Joan Catalin e la signora Cornelia Steubing, della Comunità luterana di Bolzano (vedi in fondo il suo testo scaricabile), sono intervenuti con delle riflessioni appropriate sul momento storico attuale che vede venir meno i valori fondativi dell’Unione Europea. Particolarmente bello il contributo della comunità ortodossa rumena con un loro tipico canto.

Le impressioni dei partecipanti: un momento intenso di comunione, di unità, di riflessione, che “ha rimesso in cuore il desiderio per un’Europa unita”.

Da scaricare:

Libretto Veglia di preghiera a Trento, 24.3.2017>>
Intervento Prof. G. Zorzi – Veglia per l’Europa a Trento, 24.3.2017>>
Intervento C. Steubing – Veglia per l’Europa a Trento, 24.3.2017>>

Di Mario e Luisa Franzoia

60º Trattati di Roma /Trieste (Italia)

Un modo gioioso di essere cittadini europei segnati per sempre dall’ideale della fraternità.

Ieri l’incontro sull’Unione Europea ha visto confluire nella sala dell’oratorio di S. Giacomo 150 persone. Il programma ha visto gli interventi di d. Vatta e di Giampiero Viezzoli pieni di contenuti valoriali e informativi, a cui sono seguiti gli interventi di un gruppo di ragazzi delle scuole medie, che ci hanno contagiato con la loro freschezza giovanile, e l’intervento testimoniale dell’Iman Nader Akkad sull’Islam in Europa.

Hanno allietato la serata i ragazzi dell’orchestra di flauti del Liceo Musicale locale. Nella prima parte dell’incontro vi è stata la presenza del Sindaco Di Piazza, che ha fatto eco all’esigenza di riprendere il cammino forse al momento interrotto dell’unità europea. Erano presenti anche il Senatore Francesco Russo e la Consigliera comunale Fabiana Martini. Sono seguite le testimonianze fornite dalla lettera inviataci dalla Comunità ebraica, un testo bellissimo e commovente, in cui si palesa la sensazione di possibili ritorni all’indietro verso forme di intolleranza che già tanto hanno fatto soffrire e subito dopo dall’affettuoso saluto del Pastore Avventista Michele Gaudio. Hanno concluso i giovani del Servizio del Volontariato europeo col racconto delle loro esperienze in altre nazioni e con la presenza di un professore giapponese in visita in Europa, dove ha potuto godere di questo clima civile e politico comunque diverso, aperto e conciliativo.

La nota forse più rilevante di questa serata, che si è poi conclusa con una simpatica danza collettiva sulle note di una canzone di supporto all’insieme che l’Europa può e deve essere, è stata la presenza attiva e partecipe dei giovani delle varie associazioni a cominciare dai due presentatori, Ilaria e Andrea, per poi passare a dei giovanissimi studenti dichiaratisi convinti europeisti, ai musicisti flautisti, ai giovani volontari europei, ai giovani presenti in sala. E naturalmente il respiro di una festa comunitaria sentita e fraterna, dove ci si vede volentieri, perchè volentieri si è lavorato ottenendo il risultato del formarsi di un’apertura del cuore e della mente che vada oltre le solite chiusure, ma anche oltre le visioni ristrette o indifferenti.

Un impegno comune per una causa di notevole spessore come quella di relazionarsi nel rispetto tra persone di varie appartenenze. Un modo gioioso di essere cittadini europei segnati per sempre dall’ideale della fraternità.

di Elena e Silvano Magnelli

60. Jahrestag Römische Verträge /Aus 11 Städten Deutschlands

Gebet um die Einheit Europas und um den Frieden

Am Vorabend des 60. Jahrestages der Unterzeichnung der Römischen Verträge hatte das ökumenische Netzwerk Miteinander für Europa zu einem Gebet für Europa eingeladen. In Rom und in mehr als 50 europäischen Städten, davon 15 in Deutschland, beteten Hunderte von Menschen für die Einheit Europas und für den Frieden.

Esslingen, Winnenden und Breitenbrunn

Im CVJM-Haus in Esslingen, so berichtet Valerian Grupp, habe es mit neun Teilnehmern einen zahlenmäßig kleinen, aber dichten Gebetsabend mit Mitgliedern aus der kath. Kirche, der Baptistengemeinde und dem CVJM gegeben. Diana Fischer berichtet aus Winnenden, dass ihre Gebetsgruppe aus 12 Personen aus dem Asarja e.V. und aus der evangelische Allianz Winnenden bestanden habe. Am Ende der zwei Stunden intensiven Gebetes und des gemeinsamen Lobpreises sei für einzelne Nationen konkret gebetet und der Segen Gottes über diese Länder ausgesprochen worden. In der Missions- u. Begegnungsstätte Maria Baumgärtle in Breitenbrunn traf sich eine Gruppe von 20 Personen: Missionare vom Kostbaren Blut, ein Teil des Chors “Klangzauber” aus Breitenbrunn und weitere Einzelpersonen. An die Lektüre eines Infotextes über die Römischen Verträge schloss sich die gemeinsame Gebetszeit an, die sich ganz an der vom Netzwerk “Miteinander für Europa” zur Verfügung gestellten Gottesdienstvorlage orientierte. Besonders war das Bewusstsein, zeitgleich mit anderen Europäerinnen und Europäern in anderen Städten des Kontinentes zu beten und mit ihnen verbunden zu sein.

Ellwangen

Bei einer Gebetsveranstaltung in Ellwangen in der Franziskuskapelle betonte der CDU-Landtagsabgeordnete Winfried Mack, dass die Unterzeichnung der Römischen Verträge vor 60 Jahren den Menschen in Europa Frieden und Freiheit gebracht hätten. „Nach Jahrhunderten blutigster Kriege, Knechtschaft, staatlicher oder durch Banden organisierter Gewalt, nach Verirrungen im Nationalismus und gerade noch der gänzlichen Selbstzerstörung entgangen (Stichwort: Wunderwaffe), ist es diesem Kontinent gelungen, umzukehren!“ Ein einiges Europa sei der richtige Weg, den es weiterzugehen gelte. Mack forderte: „Wir müssen die Kraft finden, die großen Aufgaben in Europa gemeinsam zu lösen, ohne dass die Menschen dafür in ihrer heimatlichen Identität bedrängt werden.“ Angesichts der Tatsache, dass Ellwangen 700 Jahre lang ein Benediktinerkloster hatte, in dem der später heilig gesprochene Methodius drei Jahre lang Gefangener der fränkischen Herrscher gewesen sei, regte der Abgeordnete an, „die Patrone Europas, den heiligen Benedikt und die heiligen Brüder Cyrill und Methodius um deren Fürsprache für uns und alle Menschen in Europa zu bitten.”

Weinheim

Auf dem zentralen Marktplatz der Stadt Weinheim/Bergstraße (bei Heidelberg) waren zum „Gebet für Europa“ etwa 100 Personen verschiedener Generationen aus der Stadt und aus den umliegenden Gemeinden zusammengekommen. Eingeladen waren Mitglieder aller Kirchen und kirchlichen Gemeinschaften, die der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen (ACK) in Weinheim und Umgebung angehören. Gekommen war u.a. auch der Oberbürgermeister von Weinheim, Heiner Bernhard mit seiner Frau, der sich im Anschluss für die Initiative herzlich bedankt hat. Christian Pestel, Pastor der Baptistengemeinde, gestaltete den Gottesdienst aktiv mit. Bei der Kundgebung waren Teilnehmer von unterschiedlichen Konfessionen vertreten, etliche auch von der Baptistengemeinde.

Vallendar-Schönstatt

Mit einer international in fünf Sprachen gestalteten Gebetszeit, schaltete sich die Schönstatt-Bewegung in die Gebetsinitiative für Europa ein. Pater Ludwig Güthlein, Leiter der Schönstatt-Bewegung Deutschland, brachte zum Ausdruck, dass Europa gerade heute für seine Entwicklung „göttliche Kräfte“ brauche. „Deshalb beten wir heute Abend: Herr Jesus Christus, komm erneut mit deiner Gnade, um diesem Europa seine Seele zu erhalten.“ Eindrücklich für die knapp 50 Teilnehmer im und vor dem Urheiligtum und für die Mitbeter, die an ihren Monitoren die Feier im Live-Stream von www.schoenstatt-tv.de verfolgten, waren die „Traum“-Worte von Papst Franziskus über Europa, die er bei der Verleihung des Karlspreises am 6. Mai 2016 zum Ausdruck brachte und die in Deutsch, Französisch und Englisch vorgetragen wurden. (Siehe Bericht bei www.schoenstatt.de)

Landau/Pfalz

In der Kapelle des Katholischen Altenzentrums Landau/Pfalz kamen etwa 45 Personen aus verschiedenen christlichen Religionsgemeinschaften zusammen. Vertreten waren katholische, evangelische, baptistische und weitere freikirchliche Christen aus der Süd- und Südwestpfalz und aus dem Elsass, die Mitglieder in einer Vielzahl von Gemeinschaften und Bewegungen sind, so z.B. die Fokolarbewegung, Stadtmissionen Landau-Zeiskam und Annweiler, Hauskreisgemeinschaft Hassloch, Ökumenischer Hauskreis Annweiler, Ökumenischer Gebetskreis Südwestpfalz, Charismatische Erneuerung Landau, Evangelische Stiftskirchengemeinde, Katholiken aus verschiedenen Pfarreien. Neben dem Dank für 70 Jahre Frieden wurde vor allem darum gebetet, dass sich Blockierungen in Europa lösen. Dabei wurde nicht nur um den Erhalt der EU, sondern auch für notwendige Reformen und Umbauten gebetet.

Selbitz/Oberfranken

Die Communität der Christusbruderschaft Selbitz hat zum Gebet für Europa ihr Abendgebet für Gäste und Gemeinschaften geöffnet. Gut 35 Geschwistern wurde deutlich, „dass wir uns allesamt um ein friedliches und zugewandtes Miteinander in Europa bemühen, denn: Dieses ist keine Selbstverständlichkeit, sondern braucht unser Engagement, unsere Leidenschaft für Freundschaften über alle Grenzen hinweg und nicht zuletzt auch unser Gebet“, wie Sr. Nicole zum Ausdruck brachte. Zum Dank für alles, was in Europa in den letzten Jahren, Jahrzehnten und auch Jahrhunderten geworden ist kam auch die Bitte um Gottes Erbarmen für alles, woran Europa schuldig geworden ist – ob dies nun das massenhafte Morden in Kriegen oder die Rückbesinnung auf nationalistische Egoismen war, welche die Einheit Europas und seinen Traum von einem Miteinander über alle Grenzen hinweg zerstören können. Und das Gebet geht weiter: Alle beim Gebet anwesenden, haben ein europäisches Land gewählt, das sie bis Ende November im Gebet begleiten werden. Dann nämlich findet 2017 die letzte größere Wahl in Europa statt.

München

In der Münchner Heilig-Geist-Kirche war das Gebet für Europa Teil der regelmäßigen „Stay and Pray“ Initiative. Von den im Miteinander-Netzwerk vertretenen Gemeinschaften beteiligten sich der CVJM München, die Vineyard Gemeinde, die Agape Gemeinschaft, das Lobpreisteam, Jugend 2000 und die Fokolar Bewegung.  Ein besonders dichter Moment waren die frei gesprochenen Fürbitten: die Gegenwart des Heiligen Geistes war spürbar und offensichtlich anziehend, denn viele Fußgänger traten in die Kirche ein, um zusammen mit den Vertretern der Gemeinschaften in Gebet und Gesang zu verweilen. Ein schönes, lebendiges Bild von Jung und Alt vereint in gemeinsamer Fürbitte.

Borken

In Kloster Burlo bei Borken waren etwa 60 Mitglieder der Fokolar-Bewegung versammelt, zu denen überraschend 10 Marienschwestern der Schönstatt-Bewegung dazu kamen, obwohl deren Gemeinschaft ihre übliche Anbetungszeit hielt. So wurde nicht nur für das Miteinander in Europa gebetet, sondern auch das Miteinander der Gemeinschaften erlebt.

Rottenburg-Liebfrauenhöhe

Neben 50 Schönstätter Marienschwestern die auf der Liebfrauenhöhe wohnen, nahmen 150 weitere Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer beim Gebet für Europa teil, das in der Kröniungskirche des Schönstatt-Zentrums in der Nähe von Rottenburg stattfand. Vor allem Mitglieder der Fokolar-Bewegung waren neben den Mitgliedern der Schönstattbewegung und vielen Mitchristen aus den umliegenden Ortschaften zum Abendgebet gekommen, das von Sr. M. Monika März und Pfr. Klaus Rennemann, Schönstatt-Bewegung, Claudia Hofrichter, Mitglied bei Kolping und Mitglied im Kultur- und Integrationsausschuss Ergenzingen, sowie von P. Dr. Lothar Penners, Mitglied im Trägerkreis von „Miteinander für Europa“ Deutschland, gestaltet wurde. Ortsvorsteher Horst Schuh, Baisingen, sprach von seinen Erfahrungen mit „Europa frei und offen: Leben, Reisen, Arbeiten auf unserem Kontinent“. Er zeigte aus seinen Kinder- und Jugenderfahrungen auf, wie sich Europa von einem Kontinent der vielen Grenzen in ein Europa der Freiheit und des Friedens gewandelt hat. Landrat Roland Bernhard, der vor 25 Jahren Vertreter der Landesregierung in Brüssel war, schilderte die Aufgaben Europas für heute und der Zukunft. Er zeigte die politischen Schwierigkeiten und Herausforderungen, v.a. in der Flüchtlingsfrage und den wirtschaftlichen Herausforderungen und rief uns dazu auf, über die Grenzen Europas zu schauen. P. Dr. Lothar Penners, Rottenburg-Liebfrauenhöhe, wies anhand des Wortes aus dem Kolosserbrief „Lasst nicht nach im Beten; seid dabei wachsam und dankbar…, seid weise im Umgang mit den Außenstehenden, nutzt die Zeit! Eure Worte seien immer freundlich, doch mit Salz gewürzt.“ (Kol. 4,2-6), hin auf die christliche Verantwortung und zeigte über die kultur- und religionsgeschichtliche Entwicklung Europas, wie sehr Christen aufgrund ihres Glaubens eine große Sendung für Frieden und Solidarität haben. Pfr. Klaus Rennemann beschrieb den Einsatz für Europa als Auftrag Gottes: Denn Europa müsse – trotz der vielen Herausforderungen – für die Welt zu einem sichtbaren Zeichen und Garant des Friedens und des gelingenden Miteinanders werden. Abgeschlossen wurde die Veranstaltung durch das Gebet für Europa, das Vater unser, einen tiefen Friedensgruß und die Möglichkeit zur Anbetung im Bitten um ein gelingendes Miteinander.

Quelle: www.miteinander-wie-sonst.org

Titelbild: “Dank-Sterne” für Europa (Foto: Valerian Grupp)

60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties /Hungary

SZEGED

Rövid hír: „Örömmel közöljük, hogy a márc. 24.-e imaestet megtartottuk a tervek szerint a baptista imaházban.

Szépen sikerült.  A lelkész kört egy baptista és egy evangélikus lelkész képviselte.

A testvéri beszélgetések valóban kinyitották a szívünket és úgy éreztük szerves része vagyunk ennek a nagy ’álomnak’, ami az egység! Egy konkrét szikra is megszületett a lelkészekben, hogy az idei Tágas Tér fesztiválra meghívják az Együtt Európáért képviselőit.”

Address by Mons. Nunzio Galantino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Let us pray with Matthew 5:13-16

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

 

Address by Andrea Riccardi

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Address by Gerhard Pross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europe needs our prayer.

 

 

 

 

Interview with David-Maria Sassoli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Luca Maria Negro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Donato Falmi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Claudia Di Lorenzi

Interview with Fr. Heinrich Walter

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Di Lorenzi

Rome 2017

Rome 2017

The 25th March 2017 marked the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. The voice of Together of Europe is heard loud and clear

The eve of this anniversary affording an opportunity for politicians, ecclesial leaders and lay people representing the network Together for Europe to meet in the Church of Twelve Holy Apostles (Basilica dei XII apostolic) in Rome for an Ecumenical and International Vigil. The challenges: How to give shape to an authentic European/Christian humanism? How to achieve the opening up of faith to the wider culture?

At the Vigil, presided by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, 750 participants of 23 Movements and Communities were present. Present also, were Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the Secretary-General of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Mons. Siluan, Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Italy, Heiner Bludau, Dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy, Andrea Riccardi, historian and founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio and Gerhard Pross, moderator of Together for Europe.

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

A few voices heard during the evening: “Europe need to come more to the fore”; “God, throughout history, has entrusted this Continent with the mission to connect and bring closer heaven and earth, faith and its impact on the world!”; “Christian values are European values and vice-versa. A culture of dialogue, tolerance, openness and brotherhood that can be lived beyond denominations, religions or creeds. This Vigil will serve to re-awaken such great values.”

In 56 European cities, parallel events of solemn prayer were held, and were well attended.

Click here to see the video clip of the event>>
See the video of the event (full version in Italian)>>
Click here to see also interviews during the event (playlist)>>

by the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

This is the Europe we want to build

Ecumenical and International Prayer Vigil – Faith opens up to culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

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

 

My Vision of Europe: Young People in Their Own Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

by Federico Castiglioni (Rome, 17/11/88). Holds a Degree in Political Science and is currently pursuing a PhD in European and International studies at the University of Rome III. Federico has published a number of academic and lay articles on the theme of European topicality and the role of the European Union in a globalised world. He is also responsible for External Relations in the Italian section of JEF (Young European Federalists) and acts as Italian delegate for the European Youth Forum.

Baumann “Thirst for Peace”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Mattarella on Europe and Young People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Horizons after Lund (Sweden)

An Anniversary in Communion

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

(Summary of Beatriz Lauenroth)

 

 

Pope Francis’ Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Message from Munich 2016

Together for Europe. Encounter. Reconciliation. Future. 
Munich – Bavaria, 2nd July 2016

There is no alternative to being together     

“United in diversity”. This European hope is more than ever relevant.  Europe must not become a fortress and build new frontiers.  There is no alternative to being together. Being together in reconciled diversity is possible.

The Gospel – a source of hope    

Jesus Christ prayed for unity and gave his life for it.  This is stated in the Gospel, which for almost 2,000 years has played a key role in the culture of Europe. Jesus Christ teaches us boundless love for all people.  He shows us the path of mercy and reconciliation. We can ask forgiveness and forgive one another.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a powerful source from which we can draw hope for the future.

Europe – a culture of respect and esteem  

The terrible experiences of two World Wars have taught us that peace is a precious gift that we must preserve.  Our future must be characterised by a culture of respect and esteem for others, even for strangers.

Unity is possible – Overcoming divisions  

We ask all Christians, especially Church leaders, to overcome the divisions.  These have caused suffering, violence and injustice, and have undermined the credibility of the Gospel.  As Christians we want to live together as people who are reconciled and in full communion.

Our commitment     

  • We live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bear witness to it with our words and deeds.
  • We are pursuing the path of reconciliation and working to enable our communities, Churches, peoples and cultures to live “unity in diversity”.
  • We meet people of different beliefs and faiths with respect, seeking dialogue with them.
  • We are committed to building up humanity and peace in the world.
  • We have a vision for Europe being together in a way that is stronger than fear or selfishness.
  • We place our trust in the Holy Spirit who continually renews and gives life to the world.

A glance from France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

A glance from Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

A glance from Italy

TREATIES OF ROME AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

“In summary…”

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

Here are some impressions from participants (in the original language):
  • München zeigte ein tiefes echtes Gesicht eines Europa, das sich auf Gott und die Welt öffnet. Es wurde verständlich und erfahrbar: Miteinander geht es, Miteinander aller Charismen und Gaben. Der Glaube, die Liebe und die Offenheit führen zur Entängstigung…
  • Magnifique rassemblement avec le souffle des origines et qui ouvre un nouvel avenir pour Ensemble pour l’Europe. Une lumière et une espérance dans une Europe qui en a bien besoin! Remarquable organisation de nos amis allemands.
  • I am British and have always had a very strong sense of being European, and part of a positive process of unification. It was a challenge coming to Munich a week after Brexit, knowing that everyone would ask my opinion about it. I was initially very sad, but I know that being European and being Christian is a bigger idea than any particular political process or institution, and that unity will go ahead anyway. The positive attitude and support of a very impressive list of Christian leaders was very important and can only further this process. The young people present were a great witness to things already happening , and a hope for a better future.
  • Ho colto la profondità, il desiderio di continuare sempre più insieme per una nuova Europa nel cammino della pace costruita sui valori comuni del dialogo e dell’amore. Non abbiamo paura, andiamo avanti, nella certezza che Dio Amore ci precede sempre, a noi tutti gli sforzi, a Lui la gloria del Suo Amore passato dalle nostre azioni positive.
  • Das Podium „Zukunft der Gesellschaft – Auftrag und Verantwortung der jungen Generation“ erfüllte aber voll und ganz meine Erwartungen: Junge Leute, die von ihrem Glauben und ihrer Jugendarbeit innerhalb ihrer Gemeinschaft berichteten. Mir gefiel es sehr gut, mich endlich mit anderen Jugendlichen, die sowohl ähnliche als auch komplett verschiedene Ansichten als ich hatten, auszutauschen und zu diskutieren.
  • Ho capito che anche i piccoli come me possono fare qualcosa per l’Europa, nella stessa strada dei grandi, per iniziare questa unione spirituale dell’Europa, gli uni per gli altri.
  • Hi everyone, I did watch this wonderful event which was a wonderful way to involve people like me around the world in Unity with all ‘People of Good Will’. God’s choicest blessings on everyone who organised this and those who took part. We are meant to be together and not live selfish lives in isolation from our neighbour.
  • Il fatto che ci siamo trovati in un circo mi suggerisce che è importante mettersi in gioco come fanno i protagonisti del circo, giocarsi la vita  per essere di aiuto agli altri.
  • J’ai beaucoup apprécié ce moment à Munich. Maintenant avec toute l’équipe de Lyon nous nous engageons à diffuser ce que nous avons vécu. Bien avec chacun.
  • Insgesamt bin ich sehr dankbar für die Erfahrung der Veranstaltung in München und trage die Erlebnisse und Begegnungen noch lebendig in mir. Vor allem verbinde ich mich im Gebet Tag für Tag weiterhin mit allen, die dort waren, und habe die Hoffnung, dass das Wunder der Einheit der Kirchen eines Tages von Gott geschenkt wird. (…) Für alles, was bei der Kundgebung am Stachus auf der Bühne geboten wurde, kann ich nur meine Anerkennung aussprechen.
  • Anche l’aprire e chiudere l’ombrello (…) non ha distolto da un clima di unità, di gioia, di profondità che ho avvertito. Mi è sembrata la manifestazione della speranza.
Munich 2016

Munich 2016

ENCOUNTER. RECONCILIATION. FUTURE.

This is the title of the fourth International Event of Together for Europe which took place in Munich, Bavaria.

The journey began with a Congress from 30th June to 1st July, 2016, for members of the over 300 Movements and Communities which are involved – two hundred of these were represented at the Congress which was held in the Circus Krone Building. There were plenary sessions in the morning and in the afternoon, 17 Forums and 19 Round Tables on various topics related to current critical situations such as refugees and their integration, ecumenism, the environment, dialogue with Islam, the economic crisis and the search for the common good, the difficult relationship between European countries … 1,700 participants from 32 countries of Europe and beyond.

In the afternoon of 2nd July in the popular “Karlsplatz (Stachus)” square, over 5,000 people including many young people gathered for a Outdoor Rally. The testimonies of reconciliation during the journey of 15 years as part of Together for Europe were powerful; the brotherly embrace between leading representatives of the Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox Churches was poignant and full of hope. “Unity is possible” – this is what the audience in the square and people in various parts of the world who, in over 7000 listening points, were connected with live-streaming, were able to see and experience.

The video messages of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I were compelling and visionary.
The stage was vibrant with the bands and choirs of young people of different nationalities.
The centre piece of the stage was a door which “opened up to the future” as a symbol of the journey so far and the future towards which we wish to travel, to reach a full sharing of the values that are rooted in the Gospel.

Click here to see the video of the Outdoor Rally TfE Munich July 2, 2016 (EN)

Click here for more videos about the event (playlist) in several languages

by the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

Live from Munich – 3nd Day

“Yes to bridges of mercy. Yes to discovering others and their rich heritage. Yes to understanding that we are truly “one thing only”, that there is a unity and a fraternity to be worked for and that we must find the ways to “break down” the many “dividing walls” “. These were the words of Andrea Riccardi, founder of  the Sant’Egidio Community, red by Marco Impagliazzo (president), expressing the spirit and the commitment of the 5000 participants, present in Karlsplatz (Stachus) in Munich, on july 2, for the final Outdoor Rally of Together for Europe 2016.

Unity is possible; reconciliation opens up the future; a culture of relationship and mercy; mission and future; were the four main guidelines of the afternoon. Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement invited everyone to “sign” a solemn commitment for unity: “We commit ourselves here, today, to be catalysts of this change, catalysts for a new vision for Europe, so as to speed up the journey towards unity by starting a profound dialogue with and for all the men and women on earth”.

Among the messages of greetings, Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church Bartolomew I send their support.

Testimonies of reconciliation between churches and communities followed: “Reconciliation opens to the future”, stated Gerhard Pross from the Streering Committee of Together for Europe: “Although we are and will be different, we want to live in unity, to be enriched by our diversities and spread it to our cities and allover Europe.”

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Rome) explained that a universal network of friendship exists from 15 years, and Bishop Frank Otfried July, vice-president of the Lutheran World Federation: “There are many experiences that we are living together as churches: we work for refugees, we pray together; we want Christ to be the center of Europe”.

The Metropolitan of the Orthodox Romanian Church of Germany, Central and Northern Europe Seraphim Joanta (Nuremberg) shared joys and sorrows of his mission: “We suffer for the fundamentalist forces that threaten to destroy the efforts of unity among Christians. Moreover young people are missing  in our churches. But we trust in Christ and in this network of brothers”. Then a poignant and prophetic moment followed: several representatives of Christian Churches and movements have pronounced the “Our Father”: “It is a prophetic sign of reconciliation and forgiveness” – explained Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, Secretary General of the WCC – a sign that we don’t want to forget ever again”.

The voice of youth was powerful and full of hope: “I dream a Europe more friendly and less individualistic, said Mary of Czech Republic -“Europe begins with me, because I am Europe”.

“Together” is another keyword of Together for Europe: “In 2017, there will be the Jubilee of the Reformation – told the Evangelical Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, president of the Lutheran Confederation in Germany – and we want to live it together: Evangelical and Catholics”.

And Card. Reinhard Marx of Munich, president of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference: “We have to recognize the signs of unity we are already living: we are not separated, we want to witness Christ together.”

The final message, read by the leaders of Christian Churches and communities expressed the fruits of the common path and the next steps to be taken: “Europe must not become a fortress and build new frontiers. There is no alternative to being together. We ask all Christians (…) to overcome the divisions. Our commitment: we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bear witness to it with our words and deeds. We are committed to building up humanity and peace in the world.”

Live from Munich – 2nd Day

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

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

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

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

Live from Munich – 1st Day

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

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

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

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

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

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

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

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

 

Endorsement from key EU Institutions

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

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

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

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

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

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Foto: Ulz

Europe through the eyes of young people

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team of the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

 

Video Messages and EU Patronage

Church leaders will support the network Together for Europe on 2nd July 2016, by sending personal messages; the Council of Europe and the EU Commission confirmed their patronage.

In the course of the last weeks both the Vatican, and the Patriarchate in Istanbul officially confirmed, that Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will send a personal video message to the large-scale Ecumenical Rally of the network Together for Europe held on 2nd July in Munich>. 

As early as the beginning of last September, Fr. Heinrich Walter of the Schoenstatt Movement, as the representative of the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe, presented an information brochure to the Pope about the event in Munich during a personal audience, and asked him for a video message. “Shall we record it now?” the head of the Catholic Church asked tongue-in-cheek. Now an official confirmation has arrived by phone from the Vatican that the message is being worked on.

Last November, Maria Voce, Diego Goller and Gerhard Pross of the International Steering Committee used the opportunity of a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, to invite him to come to Munich. Since he was not able to attend personally, he promised to send a message, and confirmed this again a few days ago when he met the Focolare of Istanbul.

Both Church leaders value and support the work of the spiritual Communities and Movements, and support the initiative of Together for Europe. 

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland have pledged their support to the event by granting their patronage for it.

For more informations download the Press Release II: Video Messages from Pope and Patriarch

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An important step together in Trastevere

85 days to Munich – the Steering Committee busy with the preparations

Trastevere in Rome (Italy) is full of people… tourists, families, children, the elderly, people busy with their daily routines… Stepping away from the crowd, a small group turns towards a humble door, entrance to the seat of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome. An ancient Carmelite convent – like a bridge between old and new charisms – welcomes the members of the Steering Committee for their two-day work meeting. They have come together to advance the preparations for the next big-scale event of the Together for Europe project, held in Munich (Germany) from 30th June to 2nd July 2016.

Maria Voce (Emmaus), the President of the Focolare Movement, is among the first to arrive. She is welcomed with affection and respect by the members of the community hosting the meeting among whom Marco Impagliazzo, the President of the Community of Saint’Egidio. The joy of being together again only increases as friends from Germany, France and Belgium arrive, all of whom are ready to leave their preoccupations aside and to prove once again what they have experienced many times before: that unity in diversity is possible. Attentiveness, listening, sharing and integrity are all required in the demanding work on the programme, made possible also by the crucial support of the Secretariat and interpreters.

All attend the evening prayers of the hosting community in the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, accompanied by the melodic strains of vocal harmony that seem to echo the words of Maria Voce: whatever one Community or Movement do, they all do.

The last few hours are intense, the calendar is full, the challenges of the Munich event have not decreased and soon it is back to the airport again… Everyone leaves even more convinced than before that the lively network of Communities and Movements in Europe will gradually be able to make a greater and greater contribution to the future of our continent.

by Ilona Toth

 

Miteinander für Europa: Ein Kongress für christliche Werte

Der internationale ökumenische Kongress von “Miteinander für Europa”, verbunden mit einer öffentlichen Kundgebung, findet vom 30. Juni bis 2. Juli in München statt. Bischof i.R. Herwig Sturm (Evangelische Kirche A.B.) und Chiarina Marent (Fokolar-Gemeinschaft) gehören der österrichischen Koordinationsgruppe dieser europaweiten Initiative an. Sie geben einen Ausblick auf die kommende Großveranstaltung in München und vermitteln einen Einblick in die Anliegen von “Miteinander für Europa” auf geistlicher und politischer Ebene.

27. April 2016

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvOUYsS4lU8&feature=em-upload_owner

Patriarch Bartholomew meets “Together for Europe”

Patriarch Bartholomew meets “Together for Europe”

On 25 November, at the monastery of Ayatrìada on the island of Halki, Patriarch Bartholomew met members of the “Together for Europe” Steering Committee. Their meeting took place during an ecumenical gathering of Bishops organized by the Focolare Movement.
The Patriarch, accompanied by Metropolitan Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, met Maria Voce, Gerhard Pross and Diego Goller. During the half hour he asked about preparations for the Munich event in 2016, and expressed his appreciation for both the event and its theme. He is unable to be present, because of the Holy Pan-Orthodox Synod in Constantinople at Pentecost 2016. He will however, send a personal representative to Munich with a video message for the event.

The brochure of Together for Europe 2016 in the hands of Pope Francis

The brochure of Together for Europe 2016 in the hands of Pope Francis

“In recent months we have been looking for ways to tell Pope Francis more about our network called “Together for Europe “. We wanted to invite him to contribute via video to the public rally on 02/07/2016 at the Karlsplatz in Munich.

Then, when it became clear that on 3 September I would be presented with the opportunity to briefly speak to him during a private audience in occasion of the General Chapter of the Schoenstatt Community, I gladly accepted. The day before I had received the freshly printed brochure in Italian from the International Secretariat of “Together for Europe” in Rocca di Papa.

I knew that an audience should not be used for advertising purposes, but I took courage and explained our plans to Pope Francis in Spanish. I shared with him how our ‘Together’ had begun 15 years ago and had proceeded under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I explained which movements take part and mentioned its ecumenical character and that we wondered if he would record a video to be shown at the rally. He listened very attentively, and as though he wanted to acknowledge what he heard, then said with a grin: “Shall we do it straight away ?!” Immediately afterwards I got a chance to speak to his secretary, Archbishop Gänswein, and learned that they know about our network and that we should formally present our request again in writing in few months time. “

by P. Heinrich Walter, Schönstatt

Brussels 2012

Brussels 2012

Together for Europe – Brussels, 12th May 2012.

“A Wave of Hope” was the title of proceedings of the third large-scale event held by Together for Europe – a pan-European event with a central point in Brussels.

More than a thousand participants from all over Europe gathered in the Gold Hall: public figures from political, cultural and ecclesial walks of life, representatives of Christian Movements and Communities. Many others expressed their support through their messages or Patronage of the event.

A unique characteristic was the extensive network linking 152 simultaneous events in 22 European countries with the main event held in Brussels. Through these small and large-scale events, new collaborations between the 300 Movements and Communities present aimed at benefiting the local areas sprang into existence while existing collaborations were stepped up.

Some of these collaborations of the last few years consisted in initiatives themed around the “The 7 Yeses” launched in Stuttgart in 2007, for example a variety of projects focused on equal and respectful integration of different peoples were carried out at different levels. Initiatives of the 12th May which brought people of all ages and persuasions together include: creating a human chain around an island perimeter, hot air balloon spectacles, European flag displays, concerts, round tables, parades and rallies on European streets and squares.

In a number of cities children from various Movements supported the initiative through a parallel event involving great commitment and creativity entitled ‘Run4Unity’. Young people also took part in the central event in Brussels through songs, testimonials and an initiative called “Face2faith in Europe”.

The event concluded with a message of hope, unity and peace addressed by thousands of people throughout Europe linked together by satellite connection with Brussels.

See the video “A current of Hope” 

by the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

Flash main event Brussels

 

Flash local events

Stuttgart 2007

Stuttgart 2007

“Together for Europe 2007” – Stuttgart, 12th May. Not just an event – a way of looking to the future.

A dream of a Continent where Christians engage together with conviction to realise their vision of a “Europe of the Spirit”; signs of an emerging culture of communion; 8,000 people from 250 Movements and Communities meeting together in the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart.

Encouragement from Heads of States, the presence of European political leaders and leaders from different Churches. An array of personal stories and initiatives born from lives inspired by the Gospel. The courage to go beyond suffering and difficulties. A conclusive solemn declaration of commitment and plea summed up as “The 7 Yeses” in support of life, peace, creation, family, just economy, solidarity, responsibility towards society.

Many artistic performances witnessing to the beauty and richness of different European cultures.

Parallel events taking place all over the Continent with follow up meetings reflecting the same spirit held in other parts of the world.

Just as in 2004 the event is preceded by a two-day Congress with a total of 2,000 participants.

See the video “Together for Europe 2007”

by the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

Stuttgart 2004

Stuttgart 2004

Event “Together for Europe 2004” – Stuttgart, 8th May 2004

Giving Europe a soul: 9,000 participants gathered in Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle, a further 100,000 people connected via satellite broadcast in 163 European cities and in 35 other cities throughout the world. For the first time in history more than 180 Christian Movements and Communities belonging to different Churches – Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Anglican – coming together.

A vision of Europe in the light of the charisms: “In order to contribute to the advancement of our Continent there is a need for a Europe of the Spirit”. A composed and jubilant audience. A meeting of men and women, European citizens, entrepreneurs, young people, priests and pastors. The aim: a continental unity respecting diversity and allowing for greater openness beyond the borders of the European Union and of Europe. Innumerable greetings from public figures both ecclesiastic and political.

A message from young people: “The continent we want”.

Statements by politicians, charismatic leaders, Bishops of different Churches amongst others. Many testimonies of life. Music, dancing, art performances. A pact of reconciliation and brotherhood. A concluding message proclaimed together to continue the journey. A united Europe for a united world.

See the video “A Heart for Europe”

by the International Secretariat of Together for Europe