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Europe in an “Era of Fear”

Europe in an “Era of Fear”

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

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being “for” Europe

Being “for” Europe

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

THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS STILL AT WORK TODAY

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

Our Dream

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

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

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

Together in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keys For Interpreting And Prompts For Dialogue Sr Nicole Grochowina (176.4 KB)
Does hope have a future?

Does hope have a future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To download the full talk, go to: 

2016 07 01 TfE M Hochschild Becoming Reconciled With Our Future (25.6 KB, 44 downloads)
Message from Munich 2016

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.
Slovenia: New steps for Together for Europe

Slovenia: New steps for Together for Europe

As with previous years, following the international meeting of »Friends of Together for Europe« – this time in Castel Gandolfo – the responsible for the Movements and Communities of Slovenia met together.

24 participants represented the following 8 Movements: Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Neocatechumenal Way, Prayer and Life Workshops, Emmanuel Community, Couples for Christ, Christian Life Community, Molitva i Riječ [Prayer and Word] and Focolare Movement. For the first time two bishops were present at the meeting – Mons. Stanislav Zore OFM (Archbishop of Ljubljana) and Geza Filo (Lutheran Bishop of Slovenia).

After the initial welcome, prayer and introductions, we recapped 17 years of our journey Together. A video presentation which included contributions on the theme of reconciliation from leaders of the Churches present at the Munich event of the 2nd July 2016 was greatly appreciated by all, generating an atmosphere of joy, peace, and communion which grew and touched all those who were present.

The Lutheran Bishop gave an enthusiastic account from his own experience of the ecumenical meeting which took place on 31st October 2016 in Lund (Sweden). On 6th November, a similar meeting took place in Murska Sobota (city in the northeast of Slovenia), home town of the evangelical community. Most catholic bishops of Slovenia were present to the great joy of the Lutheran Bishop and community.

Bishop Filo expressed repeatedly his gratitude and Archbishop Zore said that events such as those in Munich and Lund are exceptional moments that need to translate into every-day experience.

In this context, an updating was given on the recent meeting in Castel Gandolfo and our proposals for the future were presented:

  • a prayer vigil to be held on 24th March 2017 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the ‘Treaty of Rome’, which marked the beginning of European integration;
  • work together to further the reconciliation of the peoples of Slovenia who still feel the heavy burden of their past (after WW2 in Slovenia 200,000 people were killed without trial, more than in the rest of Europe altogether);
  • furthermore all Movements agreed to work for the family, which brought great joy to the two bishops.

In conclusion, after having read together greetings sent to us by the International Secretariat, each participant received a copy of the document entitled the »7 YESES« and we solemnly renewed the Pact of Mutual Love.

Pavel and Marjana Snoj

“In summary…”

“In summary…”

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

Here are some impressions from participants (in the original language):
  • München zeigte ein tiefes echtes Gesicht eines Europa, das sich auf Gott und die Welt öffnet. Es wurde verständlich und erfahrbar: Miteinander geht es, Miteinander aller Charismen und Gaben. Der Glaube, die Liebe und die Offenheit führen zur Entängstigung…
  • Magnifique rassemblement avec le souffle des origines et qui ouvre un nouvel avenir pour Ensemble pour l’Europe. Une lumière et une espérance dans une Europe qui en a bien besoin! Remarquable organisation de nos amis allemands.
  • I am British and have always had a very strong sense of being European, and part of a positive process of unification. It was a challenge coming to Munich a week after Brexit, knowing that everyone would ask my opinion about it. I was initially very sad, but I know that being European and being Christian is a bigger idea than any particular political process or institution, and that unity will go ahead anyway. The positive attitude and support of a very impressive list of Christian leaders was very important and can only further this process. The young people present were a great witness to things already happening , and a hope for a better future.
  • Ho colto la profondità, il desiderio di continuare sempre più insieme per una nuova Europa nel cammino della pace costruita sui valori comuni del dialogo e dell’amore. Non abbiamo paura, andiamo avanti, nella certezza che Dio Amore ci precede sempre, a noi tutti gli sforzi, a Lui la gloria del Suo Amore passato dalle nostre azioni positive.
  • Das Podium „Zukunft der Gesellschaft – Auftrag und Verantwortung der jungen Generation“ erfüllte aber voll und ganz meine Erwartungen: Junge Leute, die von ihrem Glauben und ihrer Jugendarbeit innerhalb ihrer Gemeinschaft berichteten. Mir gefiel es sehr gut, mich endlich mit anderen Jugendlichen, die sowohl ähnliche als auch komplett verschiedene Ansichten als ich hatten, auszutauschen und zu diskutieren.
  • Ho capito che anche i piccoli come me possono fare qualcosa per l’Europa, nella stessa strada dei grandi, per iniziare questa unione spirituale dell’Europa, gli uni per gli altri.
  • Hi everyone, I did watch this wonderful event which was a wonderful way to involve people like me around the world in Unity with all ‘People of Good Will’. God’s choicest blessings on everyone who organised this and those who took part. We are meant to be together and not live selfish lives in isolation from our neighbour.
  • Il fatto che ci siamo trovati in un circo mi suggerisce che è importante mettersi in gioco come fanno i protagonisti del circo, giocarsi la vita  per essere di aiuto agli altri.
  • J’ai beaucoup apprécié ce moment à Munich. Maintenant avec toute l’équipe de Lyon nous nous engageons à diffuser ce que nous avons vécu. Bien avec chacun.
  • Insgesamt bin ich sehr dankbar für die Erfahrung der Veranstaltung in München und trage die Erlebnisse und Begegnungen noch lebendig in mir. Vor allem verbinde ich mich im Gebet Tag für Tag weiterhin mit allen, die dort waren, und habe die Hoffnung, dass das Wunder der Einheit der Kirchen eines Tages von Gott geschenkt wird. (…) Für alles, was bei der Kundgebung am Stachus auf der Bühne geboten wurde, kann ich nur meine Anerkennung aussprechen.
  • Anche l’aprire e chiudere l’ombrello (…) non ha distolto da un clima di unità, di gioia, di profondità che ho avvertito. Mi è sembrata la manifestazione della speranza.
Live from Munich – 3nd Day

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

Live from Munich – 2nd Day

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

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

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

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

Live from Munich – 1st Day

Live from Munich – 1st Day

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

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

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

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

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

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

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

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

 

Endorsement from key EU Institutions

Endorsement from key EU Institutions

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

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

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

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

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

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Foto: Ulz

Charlemagne Prize for Europe

Charlemagne Prize for Europe

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

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

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

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

ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS

Foto: Andreas Herrmann

Europe through the eyes of young people

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“) > https://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

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

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

 

European identity and values: an exploration

European identity and values: an exploration

“We shall attempt to draw, out of the historical experience of Europe, values and ideals that could enable us to surmount the present crisis and find a way forward into the future.”

This is the subject matter of a panel discussion on Thursday 21 April 2016, 5–7pm –
Ecumenical Centre Geneva (Switzerland).

A panel discussion, with audience participation, with:

  • Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches
  • Mr Eric Ackermann, a member of the Jewish community in Geneva
  • Ms Gaelle Courtens, a journalist associated with the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy and the ‘nev-notizie evangeliche’ Press Agency
  • Mr Pasquale Ferrara, a diplomat, and professor at the LUISS University, Rome, and the Sophia University Institute, Loppiano
  • Mr Andreas Gross, a former Swiss parliamentarian, and a former member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
  • In the chair: Ms Marguerite Contat, former head of delegations at the International Committee of the Red Cross, and joint president of the Genevan Constituent Assembly, 2008-12

The event  will be live streamed: http://www.oikoumene.org/live

For more informations: https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/events/all-events?set_language=en

The meeting takes place in sight of the international Event in Munich, 30 June – 2 July 2016:  “Together for Europe. Encounter. Reconciliation. Future”.

Why are you afraid?

Why are you afraid?

“Christians’ hope for Europe” is the subtitle for the evening gathering at the YMCA’s Hall of Fame, Vienna, February 11th, 2016

Introducing the evening’s welcoming address, the piano and saxophone performance conveyed an immediate sense of enthusiasm and professionalism. In her address, the host Sascha Becker (YMCA), transmitted the spirit underlying the Together for Europe events in Stuttgart in 2004 and 2007 and invited the audience to the upcoming event “Munich 2016”.

The theme of the evening was modeled on the question Jesus asked of his wavering disciples: Why are you afraid? (Matthew 8:26) Whilst the “boat of Europe” rocks amidst a storm of discouragement and resignation, the contribution offered by Together for Europe to help face the current challenges of our continent was summed up by the subtitle of the evening “Christians’ hope for Europe”. Pastor Eduard Griesfelder’s illustrated the point further in his talk entitled “Ways of Reconciliation – Round Table – Austria” which spoke of a meeting among free Churches and Communities of diverse traditions and the acknowledgment they received from the Austrian State.

The picture of a recurring failure of politics in the face of the inevitable influx of refugees was painted with openness and sincerity by Heinz K. Becker, MEP. As spokesman for matters of Security for his fraction of the European Parliament Mr. Becker acknowledged the concerns of many, whilst observing how: “Christian values such as availability and solidarity are becoming increasingly valued”.

Examples were offered of how this can translate into practice helping politics and civil society work together, by the deputy mayor as well as by an active citizen with whom she collaborates and by a refugee from Eichgraben.

At the end of the event, the stage resounded with the hopeful feedback of participants. The meeting concluded with a moment of prayer expressing the hopes and concerns of the participants as well as their gratitude for the experience of being Together.

Herwig Sturm – Coordination team of Together for Europe for Vienna and Austria

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Miteinander für Europa: Ein Kongress für christliche Werte

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

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

TOGETHER in Rome

TOGETHER in Rome

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

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

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

 

Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” 2015

Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” 2015

The annual meeting of “Friends” was held at the Mariapolis Centre of Mariënkroon at Nieuwkuijk (Olanda), from 12 to 14 November.

The 101 participants (from 39 movements and communities and 12 European countries) worked together on various aspects of Munich 2016”: the Congress at the Circus Krone Bau (30 June to 1 July) and the public manifestation at Karlsplaz – Stachus (2 July)

You can find a general presentation of the event in the Brochure on this site. More detailed information about the Congress for representatives of movements and communities can be found in the flyer, also on this site. More details about the manifestation on 2 July will be added as they become available.

The photos in the gallery show the atmosphere and the level of commitment and collaboration during our days at Mariënkroon, and the deep sharing with our “Friends” from France, who were with us at the time of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

edited by international secretariat

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