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The Town Hall of Augsburg – a historical place

The Town Hall of Augsburg – a historical place

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

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

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

The ‘Golden Hall’

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

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

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

Oberer Fletz

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

Together for Europe turns 20!

Together for Europe turns 20!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The vocation of Ottmaring

The vocation of Ottmaring

VIDEO – INTERVIEW  

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

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

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

 

Enjoying the beauty of truth

Enjoying the beauty of truth

Maria Voce, familiarly also known as Emmaus, is a member of the Steering Committe of Together for Europe. She is also the President of the Focolare Movement, and this summer said Movement is organizing an event on a European level.

She gave interviews regarding this event. From these we chose two questions and answers which are of special interest for us since they underline the spirit and the soul of our network.

Photo: Diego Goller

Facing the great global challenge

Facing the great global challenge

David Maria Sassoli is the newly-elected President of the European Parliament. On this occasion we would like to propose excerpts from the interview he gave on March 24, 2017 – the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – when he took part in an International Ecumenical Prayer Vigil organized by Together for Europe.

The report is by journalist Claudia Di Lorenzi

“To show the world that, in spite of the cultural and confessional differences, fraternity and unity are possible”.  This was the idea behind the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Europe>> which was held in the Basilica of the XII Apostles, in Rome. This event brought together members of the international network TfE as well as representatives of Italian and European Institutions. Such Vigils were held in other 56 cities all over Europe.

Among those present for this event there was the Hon. David Sassoli, and Italian MEP of the  Partito Democratico. We interviewed him:

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

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

Read the full interview>>

Photo: ©Thomas Klann

Europe Day, People’s Day

Europe Day, People’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ada Maria Guazzo, Ilona Toth

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

Europe Day 2019 Strasbourg

Europe Day 2019 Strasbourg

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

A keynote speech and a debate

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

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

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

An ecumenical prayer for Europe

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

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

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

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

Team of Together for Europe in Strasbourg

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

Europe Day 2019 Roma

Europe Day 2019 Roma

Rome, too, celebrated the Feast of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Europe Day 2019 Padova

Europe Day 2019 Padova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foto: © Giorgia Chiaro

Europe Day 2019 Carinthia

Europe Day 2019 Carinthia

Sorry, but the text is only available in German

Europe Day 2019 Milano

Europe Day 2019 Milano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The organizing commission

Foto: ©Alberto Fornasari

Seeking together

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

Vienna: Citizens of Europe are getting ready ‘together’

Vienna: Citizens of Europe are getting ready ‘together’

Different important events are taking place from 19 March to 5 May at various locations in the Austrian capital.  The aim is to give citizens and parliamentarians the opportunity to discuss politics together in a constructive way in view of the forthcoming European elections.

What do our friends in Vienna have in their hearts?

“The current problems regarding the politics, economics and structure of the European Union concern all of us.  As members of Together for Europe we feel compelled to add our voices to the debate on the continent’s future by putting in practice “our vocation for unity and our Culture of Togetherness”.  We are convinced that the gift of “unity in diversity” we received in the moving process of reconciliation is God’s response to the needs of our time.  With this confidence we wish to invite citizens, experts and Members of the European Parliament to dialogue together and bear positive witness to the politics of reconciliation and solidarity.”

The topics selected for discussion are very stimulating:

  • Erasmus – shaping Europe
  • Judaism in Europe today – old and new anti-Semitism
  • Migrants and the homeland
  • “Word and bread” – the social dimension

The conclusive evening will be celebrated on 11 April in the “House of the European Union” where amongst other things we will collect and present messages from the various political and ecclesiastical representatives who were present at the different meetings.

An ecumenical service of prayers for Europe will be held on 5 May in a church in the city centre.

Each meeting will have a different format and be held at a different location.  There will be different movements and experts, different topics for discussion and different ways to get involved but beneath it all is a shared desire not to miss the opportunity to say: TOGETHER we can!

Let us pray that many others will be inspired by Vienna’s example.

Taken from the invitation: A Prayer for Europe (Carlo Maria Martini) 

Father of mankind,  Lord of History,
Look upon this continent to which you sent
philosophers, lawgivers and people endowed with wisdom,
precursors of that faith in your Son, fallen and risen.

Look at these people evangelized by Peter and Paul,
by prophets, monks and saints.
Look at these regions drenched in the blood of martyrs,
moved by the voice of reformers.
Look at these people linked by so many bonds and ties,
yet divided by hatred and war.

Assist us in committing ourselves to a Europe of the Spirit
founded not just on economic treaties,
but also on values which are human and eternal;
a Europe capable of ethnic and ecumenical reconciliations,
quick to welcome the stranger, respectful of human dignity.

Give us confidence to see it as our duty
to encourage and promote understanding between peoples,
which provides for all continents justice and bread,
liberty and peace.

 

Download the invitation here (available only in German)

Miteinander Für Europa - Einladung Wien (2.1 MB)
Bearers of hope

Bearers of hope

Clarita and Edgardo Fandino, International Directors of the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement live in Bogotá in Colombia. They recently took part in the meeting for “Friends of Together for Europe” in Prague.  We wanted to hear more about their experience.

1) What was your experience of the meeting in Prague for “Friends of Together for Europe”?

It was very moving to actually participate in this initiative which seeks to bring hope to a world that has become secularized, by building on the unity that already exists between several movements and inviting everyone to accept their responsibilities in society and the world – not by becoming isolated but by sharing their particular evangelical gifts.  Personally, we would have liked to get to know more about the particular charisms of the different movements that were present, but we assume that this had already been done at previous meetings and that time restrictions on the programme meant it wasn’t possible this time.  Over the course of the two-day meeting, during breaktimes and in the group discussions, we were able to share experiences with many of those present.  There was a strong atmosphere of respect, fraternity and openness that needs to spread to different areas of life so that we can become real agents of change like the yeast in the dough.

2) As Columbians, how do you see Europe at the moment?

We didn’t take part in the reunion of Together for Europe as Columbians but as the International Directors of the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement which started in France and is currently present in 92 countries across all five continents.  As Columbians we noticed big differences between today’s Europe and today’s America and our native Columbia, of course.  Europe is currently going through a period of secularisation which is much more pronounced than in America and is influenced by waves of crisis and disintegration which together with separatist trends are undermining the institutions and systems currently in place.  Populism with agitators who polarize society and stir up discontent is a problem that has already reached universal dimensions.  Today more than ever it is critical that those of us who profess values of faith become more active in promoting initiatives of change that bring about transcendent values. In the words of Ernesto Sabato, the marvellous writer and critical observer of the world’s realities: “One thing for sure is the conviction that only spiritual values will be able to save humanity from imminent disaster.”

3)  You are the International Directors of the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement and have just concluded an important meeting in Paris.  What future plans and visions emerged from your meeting?

We accepted responsibility for the “Teams of Our Lady” Movement worldwide last July in Fatima, Portugal.  With approximately 9,000 people present from over 70 countries, including 400 priests and bishops, 4,000 couples and 200 widows and widowers, we spent a week together which had the parable of the prodigal son as its theme and the motto: “Reconciliation, a sign of love”. At the end of the meeting we established orientations in the form of a mandate for members of the Movement over the next six years.  Our guiding motto is: “Don’t be afraid.  Let’s go forth…”; it is an invitation to act, to put our vocation and our mission into action, beginning with the specific aspect of our charism: married spirituality.

The meeting that we recently held in Paris with the group of people responsible for the movement internationally was the first of 3 annual meetings and its aim was to understand how the motto of Fatima could be brought to every member of the Movement so that they too could make it a reality in their lives. This is why we established a number of action points to help up face the challenges within and outside the Movement, in conformity with the Church’s and in particular Pope Francis’ invitation to go to the peripheries as agents of mercy.  This appeal is well expressed by the Pope in his recent Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et exultate” (GE 26) It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission.”

Themes we are developing include the art of accompanying widows and widowers, preparing and accompanying young people for matrimony and the first few years of married life, working on other realities of married life such as accompanying adults, listening to young people…etc.

4) Could you tell us something about yourselves, your family, your lives, your work…? “

We are both Columbian and have been married for 32 years.  We have 2 children – a boy of 26 years who recently got married and a daughter of 24 years who still lives with us.  We live in Bogota which is a cosmopolitan city with a population of about 8 million.  Clarita teaches music and catechesis and Edgardo still works as a civil engineer.  We have been members of the “Teams of Our Lady” movement for 22 years which has nourished our married spirituality; we have carried out duties of service in various fields.  We will now be responsible for the Movement all over the world for the next six years.  Our life is divided between Edgardo’s professional work, the work of our “Teams of Our Lady” and the frequent trips required by this role. We are convinced that each one of us has a mission and responsibility in this world to be bearers of hope and to reflect Christ’s love for humanity, making him present in our own environment and the peripheries we have to reach.

Clarita and Edgardo Fandino, Bogotá/Columbia

 

Voices from Prague – part 2

Voices from Prague – part 2

Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” at Prague – Short interviews with some of the participants – part 2

“Identity is something what we desperately need!” Pavel Fischer, Senator in the Czech Parliament

“Abbiamo un grande fondamento che ci lega.” Matthias Leineweber, Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Germania

“Pour leur communiquer la beauté”. François Delooz, Communauté de Sant’Egidio, Belgique

“I realised the strength of the Movements.” Pavel Černý, Pastor, Czech Republic

“Europa ist sehr bewegt”. Valerian Grupp, CVJM Esslingen, Deutschland

2° Day TfE at Prague

2° Day TfE at Prague

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heinrich Brehm

Europe – it is our business

Europe – it is our business

Little examples of synergy between Movements and “pro Europe” initiatives

‘Together for’ in Dresden

We are a little group of the Focolare Movement in Dresden.  A few months ago, in the city’s main square, we were able to speak to 200 people about universal fraternity, presenting the thoughts of Chiara Lubich that she had addressed to 700  mayors from Europe gathered together in Innsbruck in 2001.  We were with other organisers including “Pulse of Europe”, an initiative which is open to all whose aim is to live together for a united democratic Europe. Each month this organisation puts together a programme to make people aware of their aims, emphasizing peace and all the values on which Europe is based.  That ‘spiritual fraternity’ which also connects us through the person of Chiara who has spread the values of universal fraternity in people all over the world was very evident, also in view of the great project of building a united Europe.

One of those responsible for the young people of the dioceses, a Jesuit, hearing about our collaboration, strongly encouraged us: “Go ahead! You can make your contribution without complication.  I really ask this for you: go ahead with courage, others are too afraid!” Yes, we are few but we must and can take the new path that He shows us!  We are very happy to have known the people of “Pulse of Europe”, and they know that we support them.  We can say this sincerely: their business, their great challenge is also ours.

Monika Scheidler, Ilse Fehr

The Neocatecumenal Way celebrates its 40th anniversary in Slovenia. It’s the opportunity to celebrate within the big family of the Movements. 

On first of September, the Neocatecumenal Way in Slovenia celebrated the 40th anniversary of its presence in the country.  Representatives from other movements, like Couples for Christ, Movimento Cammino (Pot), Focolare Movement, Renewal in the Holy Spirit and the Emmanuel Community celebrated with them.  The celebration was really well prepared with a solemn mass, concelebrated with 5 bishops and at the end an agape which gave time and space for fraternal relationships and sharing.  The visit for this anniversary of the first Neocatecumenal itinerants of Italy who had brought this spirit to Slovenia 40 years ago, was a particular gift. It was an opportunity to build real and deep relationships.  We were welcomed very warmly in the hall and the present Movements were named as some of the special guests.

The network of different Movements in Slovenia has been strengthened over all these years also thanks to the reciprocal help and hospitality that, for example, the Focolare Movement has been able to offer in its Mariapolis Centre in Planina for 200 Ukrainians of the Neocatecumenal Way that travelling to Rome and back were able to stop and take rest there. With joy next week 80 Ukrainians will be hosted again on their way to the Eternal City. For those who are travelling towards Italy we are at a strategic point and we are also happy to offer the centre for sharing between the Movements.

Pavel and Marjana Snoj, Slovenia

Photos: private

The enduring legacy of the “Velvet Revolution”

The enduring legacy of the “Velvet Revolution”

Together for Europe 2018 – Prague

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

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

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

The enduring legacy of the “Velvet Revolution”

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

Foto: Canva

 

Truth prevails

Truth prevails

Europe lives from the ideas it was born from.

In preparation for the upcoming meeting of Friends of Together for Europe, we asked Jiři Kratochvil from Prague and expert in intercultural dialogue the following three questions.

The next appointment of Friends of Together for Europe will take place in Prague, the land of the ‘Hussites’, ‘Prague Spring’ and the ‘Velvet Revolution’. The great history of the Czech nation will become a backdrop to the ensuing dialogue at this meeting. How can we best approach this great history with an aim to understand it better?

It is a troubled history, characterised by great idealistic and spiritual awakenings, by a search for justice and truth which often ended with disappointment and disillusion. This applies to all three historical moments referenced in your question. Firstly, the Hussite movement born from the ashes of Jan Hus who was burned at the stake in 1415, and who was considered by his followers as a martyr for the Truth. Unfortunately, the ensuing wars which bore witness more to power than truth laid waste to the country. Several centuries later, in 1968, in a similar fashion, the main actors of the “Prague Spring”, with what seemed like the whole nation behind them, sought to establish a form of socialism with “a human face”. This new regime strove to shed the lies and cruelty of the previous era. Sadly, this new hope was dashed in the tracks left by the tanks and stagnated into a general collective resignation, which not even the heroically sacrificial gesture of Jan Palach, a student who burned himself alive in protest, was capable of ending.

Finally, the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 which many of us remember clearly, was carried ahead by the slogan of its main protagonist Vaclav Havel “Love and Truth will overcome lies and hatred”. No one however expected the hard battle that followed. The spiritual values of the first months which were so strongly felt in the mass demonstrations in the squares slowly receded and were replaced by the pragmatism of the “technology of power”.

The flag of the president of the Czech Republic reads “Truth Prevails” however, two words have been left out from the original version of this quotation which was “Truth of God Prevails”. We are certain that His Truth will win at the end of History. However, before that happens, it must be dealt many blows as history, not only Czech history, shows. This does not relieve us of our obligation to always align ourselves to His side, the side of Truth.

“Together for Europe” wishes to contribute to building unity between Eastern and Western Europe, what role does the Czech Republic play in this commitment?

Due to its troubled history, the Czech Republic is a highly secularised country. The majority of the population do not identify with any Church. This does not mean all are atheists however, surprisingly the number of self-declared atheists has been diminishing. There is a strong sensitivity to spiritual and cultural values among young people and the intelligencia. This was demonstrated in 2009, by the warm welcome received by Pope Benedict XVI at the Accademia in Prague. It may have been that very welcome that inspired Benedict to establish the “The Court of the Gentiles”, an initiative aimed at dialogue with the laity.

Christians of different denominations united among themselves and engaging in such a dialogue in its various forms, show one of the ways of building the project of Together for Europe. Secular lay people in the Czech Republic are already leading the way in this dialogue.

Looking ahead, what further challenges await us in reaching our objective – unity?

An extremely difficult question, the answer to which, while not simple, seems logical. People say that every nation lives from the ideas it was born from. This can also hold true for a continent. Let us recall the roots of the Europe in which we all live. In Jerusalem (faith), Athens (reason) and Rome (law). On these strong foundations grew Europe’s cultural, spiritual and material greatness and wealth. Today we face situations of migrations of people similar to those of medieval times. The greatest challenge lies in knowing how to live with the diversity of the new arrivals, of which there will be many. Migratory currents will continue to flow not only for political and economic reasons but also due to the impacts of climate change.

Let us not delude ourselves: Europe as we know it, will sooner or later disappear, also due to decreasing birth rates. As Christians, we need to be that creative minority, returning to the solid foundations of our tradition and to the values it generated, whilst maintaining a sense of openness to new inspirations. Based on these spiritual foundations, asking continuously for the grace of God, we can seek a new unity for this new Europe.

Jiři Kratochvil, born in 1953. Degree in economics obtained in Prague. For many years worked in state owned bodies under the auspices of the Department of Finance. After the fall of communism, he was instrumental in the renewal of the Czech Caritas. He has lived in Canada, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Currently he lives in Prague and works as a translator for the Czech Episcopal Conference.

Photo: Prague: ©Canva; Jiři Kratochvil: private

Looking ahead

Looking ahead

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

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

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

9 May – Europe Day

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

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

Europe needs our prayer.

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

Gerhard Proß, Diego Goller, P. Heinrich Walter

See also: Involve your city>  

Foto: ©Ursel Haaf – www.urselhaaf.de

Europe in an “Era of Fear”

Europe in an “Era of Fear”

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

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small prophetic steps for Europe

Small prophetic steps for Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fragments from Europe Day 2018

Fragments from Europe Day 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Ada Guazzo

Young people love to be practical

Young people love to be practical

Is there a future for Europe? What do you think is the contribution that Churches and Ecclesial Movements can offer in this respect?

There is indeed a future for Europe. Communities and Churches do have a role to play individually as well as together and as part of civic life which has been growing stronger. In time it will generate its own new political leaders and until then it will continue reinforcing its civic commitment. The greatest damage to society comes from the apathy of millions who do not attempt to make a positive contribution. So these communities have a precise role. They develop and exercise certain aspects that are important for the functioning of society (for example order, freedom, obedience, responsibility, equality, hierarchy, respect, correction, individual and collective ownership, truth and so on).

9th May is Europe Day. What does this date mean to you?

The choice of date to celebrate is at once understandable, good and also necessary. The question is how to celebrate. We would like to see a big scientific interdisciplinary conference taking place as well as other forms of celebration that would appeal to society at large. Rather than an official celebration, we were thinking that perhaps an event like that of the European Capital of Culture might be interesting. We know from experience that official celebrations tend to be political and that the exploitation of such occasions for political purposes has the effect of distancing people from the event.

If you were President of the European Union with their responsibilities and decision-making powers, what would be your priorities aimed at increasing the unity of peoples in Europe?

I would avoid uniformity, and aim at pursuing, reinforcing and accelerating integration, based on a mutual recognition of identities and on solidarity. The United States is an example of such an approach, where only one language is spoken, and a looser integration bonds were replaced by centralization. We would be for increasing the extent of international projects such as Erasmus for researchers and third level staff and gradually opening up to involvement of secondary education teachers; making a six-month period of studies abroad obligatory for university students independent of their field of studies, as well as running continuous inter-institutional courses between bordering countries.

How do you see Europe in today’s international political context?

I think it is facing two main challenges: Firstly, unity: if Europe does not succeed in becoming more unanimous in personifying unity, it will lose its position on the international scene; and secondly, corruption: any type of abuse, even the slightest one, be it political, moral, or sexual, damages greatly the international community independently of whether it is carried out by an authority or an individual. This can only be prevented through a continuous examination of conscience or reflection performed together.

It appears as if young people were not interested in politics. Do you think it is true?

Young people love to be practical. Abstract things do not appeal to them. The key is to increase numbers and invest money in international study programmes, so that young Europeans can have a chance to get to know Europe and its young people. Europe should also strive to define its main objectives in more concrete terms so that the young people can believe in them and become enthusiastic about them.

What do you think about populist tendencies? Are there better ways of going ahead Together?

Populism is a consequence of the latest economic crises as well as of military conflicts (for example foreign interference’s). It is also caused by nationalism. The European Union does not deal with nationalism efficiently which puts populists at an advantage. Furthermore, European citizens do not tend to have a direct relationship with European politicians. They often know only their own national political representatives who are the ones ‘listened to by the crowds’ and therefore directly responsible for how information from Brussels is transmitted in individual member states. In any case we need to learn to advance together. In what way? In the context of what was discussed so far, the first step might be to act on a personal level and gradually assume a collective responsibility, acknowledging the effectiveness and the role of acting together.

Zsófia Bárány PhD and Szabolcs Somorjai PhD, Hungary, researches in the field of modern sociology and economy, and politics and history of the Church

The joy of being European

The joy of being European

Young people don’t seem to be very interested in the future of Europe. What do you think?

I don’t think this is true. Many of them are interested but they are not visible.  Only the ones who don’t want Europe to be united are visible.  They want to divide us, and they want each country just to look after its own interests.  They are the ones who are more active than those who see Europe as united.  This has to be the big change for all of us, that we become pro-Europe, for a united Europe.

How do you see Europe in the context of world politics today?

Europe has to show a good example of democracy, unity and mutual cooperation.  It needs to show that democracy provides a better way of living.

It’s “Europe Day” on the 9th of May. What does this date mean to you?  How would you like Europeans to celebrate it?

It’s an important date for me.  It’s a day when everyone should celebrate fact that we live in peace, at least in most of Europe.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will be out celebrating in the squares.  Everyone will celebrate in their own way but we should all experience the joy of being a citizen of Europe.

If you were President of the European Commission (that is, if you had a position of influence and responsibility), what would be the main items on your agenda for safeguarding and even promoting unity among the people of Europe?

Firstly, I would tell everyone that, as members of the European Union, we are all equal before the law and have the same rights.  Yet in recent years people from certain countries belonging to the European Union have only been able to see the differences – the West as developed and the East as lagging behind.  On my agenda I would write: tell the citizens of the EU that we are all equally important and that we all matter.

Does Europe have a future? What contribution do you see churches, movements and the Christian community making, for example, to the future of Europe?

Europe has a great future!  Europe is really important for the world and should be an example.  It should show that we are united (this is the more difficult part), and it should show that it is capable of welcoming everyone.  It’s up to the Churches and Movements to show everyone we are not “hypocrites”, people who say one thing and do another.  We have to be open to others and welcome them.  This applies not only to immigrants from countries outside the EU, but also to those within the EU.  We shouldn’t distinguish between people from Eastern and Western EU.

What do you think of current populist tendencies? It would surely be better to travel together but how … ?

This is one of the most difficult questions at the moment.  In the last few years we have seen political parties being elected in almost every European Union country (and further afield) who have succeeded in spreading populist propoganda.  This is what happened in Slovakia and it wasn’t just a political party.  At the end of February 2018 a journalist and his fiancee were assassinated.  He was only 27 years old and had been writing an article exposing a link between the government (various populist parties) and the mafia.  As a result, many Slovakians decided to march together, to protest and show that they no longer want these populists.  They marched together, peacefully, without violence.  They were afraid but without hatred.  This is an example of “how” to walk together, being united not only as members of the European Union but as European citizens.

Tomas Angelovic, Slovakia, 27 years old; studies political science; also completed a course of study at Sophia University in Loppiano (Italy).

Slovenia: dialogue among Movements

Slovenia: dialogue among Movements

The 1st February was a special occasion for all involved in Together for Europe in Slovenia. For the very first time, representatives of various Movements presented Together for Europe in the Slovenian Parliament.

The delegation received a warm welcome from Jožef Horvat, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and his colleagues. Hungarian born Pal Toth who is professor of communication and a specialist in Western-Eastern relationships spoke about tensions between Eastern and Western Europe, and the role of Together for Europe in helping to resolve them. The Chair asked all present including former Minister for Culture to uphold our ideas. Mr Horvat and his colleagues expressed their gratitude for our visit and their appreciation for many of our ideas. To mark Europe Day the Committee undertook to propose to the Slovenian Parliament a new national holiday – Day of Europe –on May 9th, in place of another existing national holiday.

Later that day, representatives of the Movements met with Mons. Stanislav Zore Archbishop of Ljubljana and with Pal Toth to share impressions from a meeting of Friends of Together for Europe held last November. The ecumenical prayer in St. Stephen’s Cathedral which opened the Friends’ meeting stood out as an experience which encouraged one and all to making tangible steps towards greater reconciliation throughout Slovenia. Pal Toth presented a talk entitled “Culture of encounter between Eastern and Western Europe”; a contribution by Prof. Igor Bahovec highlighted the importance of finding spaces for dialogue and encounter, as well as that of rediscovering European roots in the work of our Movements’ founders and how Movements, along with other people of good will, can offer solutions to a ‘Europe of the Spirit’.

A 5-step programme proposed to be rolled out over the next few years received very positive feedback. Members of different Movements and Communities not only have one but two “vocations”: besides working for our own Movements we are also called to share a journey together. Archbishop Zore encouraged us to meet together regularly, because only as one community can we bear fruit, only together can we witness to Christianity according to Jesus’s invocation that ‘all may be one’ (John 17:21).

It was natural to solemnly renew the Pact of mutual love. The evening continued with questions, answers and proposals; an interview was recorded for the radio. Our relationships and resolutions were strengthened through fraternal dialogue. As someone remarked, a spark of enthusiasm was lit. Jesus truly guided our steps bringing us ever closer to a full communion and a more fruitful collaboration for Europe.

Pavel and Marjana Snoj

 

Vienna Cathedral at the Centre of Europe

Vienna Cathedral at the Centre of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Ecumenical Prayer Vienna (German)>

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth;  Photo: Annemarie Baumgarten

 

 

555th year anniversary

555th year anniversary

“Hidden treasures” in Vienna

555th anniversary on 31st October 2017! What am I talking about? Let me explain: 500 years since Luther’s Reformation, 50 years since I was born and 5 years since I have moved to Austria.

When I realised this coincidence, I wondered how to celebrate the big round anniversary uniting my personal history with the ecumenical one.

I am a Swiss citizen; my mother is reformed and my father Catholic. My siblings and I were baptised into the Reformed Church, but after we went our separate ways. As a child I joined the Catholic Church, hence my strong passion for the unity of Churches. I now live in a Focolare community in Vienna.

Some time ago, in a meeting of consecrated people in the Ecumenical Centre in Ottmaring, attended by the Lutheran Bishop Emeritus Herwig Sturm, I presented a performance on Luther, based on images, spoken word and dance (I am a ballet dancer by profession). It occurred to me, why not celebrate my birthday by offering the same performance to the public?

 

On 29th October, more than 60 people gathered in Am Spiegeln, in the Meeting Centre of the Focolare Movement in Vienna, for my ‘ecumenical birthday show’. Instead of bringing birthday gifts, I asked my guests to offer a contribution towards translations of the meeting of Friends of the ecumenical network Together for Europe which was to take place in the Meeting Centre a few days after my birthday.

What a joyful occasion it has been to bring the money raised through the show to the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe!

Roswitha Oberfeld, Vienna (Austria)

Europe, a promise of peace

Europe, a promise of peace

A meeting at the Vatican to rethink about Europe. Together for Europe was there.

«In our time, Christians are called to revitalize Europe and to revive its conscience, not by occupying spaces, but by generating processes capable of awakening new energies in society”. Pope Francis said these words at the end of his address to the 350 participants, present at the Vatican for a meeting sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (Comece) in collaboration with the Secretary of State. The title was “(Re) thinking Europe – a Christian contribution to the Future of the European Project” (27 -29 October 2017). This conference was meant to create an opportunity where one could discuss the contribution Christians can give to the European project, with the hope that dialogue put into practice can be of help to Europe and its institutions at this very critical stage.

During meetings held in previous days, Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and President of Comece, gave a picture of the continent’s realities, perspectives, challenges and hopes. He spoke of issues, such as environment, work, refugee crisis, that have to be faced “with a very clear vision of our present, and above all of the future

Msgr Jorge Ortiga, Archbishop of Braga and delegate for the Portugese Bishops’ Conference said, “the European Union needs a soul, it needs something new. This is not the case of just considering the territory or the economy; but it is the responsibility of building one society, one body that expresses diversity, respect for every culture, every country with its different characteristics

András Fejerdy, professor at the Catholic University of Budapest said: “Even if the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, divisions in our minds still exist. Maybe, we who live in the eastern part of Europe know the history, culture and thought of the Westerners better. On the other hand, we face many misunderstandings because of lack of knowledge. I participated in a workshop with representatives from the East and South of Europe, and it was interesting to see that we all share the same hopes and fears about the future of Europe”.

Katrien Verhegge, director general of Kind en Gezin, in Belgium, said: «It is in this context that we promote our message of unity and diversity. For me this means going back to what is essential: love and the golden rule. We can unite ourselves in living the golden rule, “in not doing unto others what we would not have others do unto us”. If we start to live this in our rethinking about Europe, we will already be making a step foward”.

For Pedro Vaz Patto, president of the Portugese Peace and Justice Commission, this is actually a moment “of crisis of confidence in Europe. As Christians, we have tried to contribute towards a Europe in search of a soul. The EU motto is “unity in diversity”. We Christians believe in God, who is one and who is Trinity. So our faith helps to live this unity in diversity, first of all through our witness. Among Christian Movements, Churches, individuals”.

Ilona Toth, Focolare Movement’s delegate for Togther for Europe was among the participants. Together for Europe brings together more than 300 Christian Communities and Movements spread across the Continent. While preserving their independence, these collectively form a network to pursue shared goals, each contributing through its own specific charism. Toth said that: ”The Together for Europe Project is very much in line with what was discussed during this conference and many showed interest in it. We have been invited to Brussels to start work of collaboration, while envisaging the importance of empowering Europe’s peoples to build their history”.

Significant the presence of leaders of different Churches, including Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and representatives of the Conference of European Churches (CEC): General Secretary Rev. Fr Heikki Huttunen and Vice-President Rev. Karin Burstrand.

At the end of his address, Pope Francis said that the commitment of Christians in Europe “must represent a promise of peace” and that “it is not the time to dig trenches, but to work courageously to realize the founding father’s dream of a united and harmonious Europe, a community of peoples who wish to share a future of development and peace”.

Source: SIF  

Address of Pope Francis >

Video: https://vimeo.com/240377109

Friends of Together for Europe meet in Vienna

Friends of Together for Europe meet in Vienna

From 9th to 11th November 2017, the Friends of Together for Europe will come together in Vienna, a bridge between Easter and Western Europe, for their annual congress.

A total of 120 participants from around 20 Eastern and Western European countries and 40 Movements are expected to attend. Their main aim will be to pool ideas on three topics:

  1. What culture is generated by the history of Together for Europe?
  2. What is our specific contribution to Europe?
  3. Dialogue between East and West: a mutual enrichment

This network of people embraces all of Europe from England to Russia, from Portugal to Greece. Their shared mission: through the upcoming meeting, to strengthen communion among their individual charisms and build united and multifaceted Europe, with strong social cohesion and cultural diversity.

The meeting will open, on 9th November 2017, in the Stephansdom Cathedral of Vienna, with an Ecumenical prayer for Europe. All those who wish for peace in Europe and in the world, are invited to take part in this moment of prayer.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Helmuth Kraetzl, Catholic Church, Archpriest Vicar Ivan Petkin, Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Austria, Chorbishop Emanuel Aydin, Syrian Orthodox Church in Austria, Patriarchal Delegate Tiran Petrosyan, Armenian Apostolic Church, Patrick Curran, Archdeacon of the Eastern Archdeaconry of the Anglican Church in Europe, together with all the present will bring before God needs and opportunities of our continent. The intention of the prayer is extremely timely: unity in diversity, peace in justice.

Following personalities will address the gathering: Thomas Hennefeld, Superintendent of the Reformed Church of Austria and President of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria, and Joerg Wojahn, Head of the European Commission Representation in Austria.

Download the invitation>>

Decades of surprise

Decades of surprise

‘Behind the iron curtain’ was a metaphorical attribution given to those countries that from the end of the Second World War until 1989 were part of the communist bloc. The ‘iron’ curtain in question represented the ideological split which divided Europe in two halves, an ideological split physically represented by the Berlin Wall.

When for research purposes I visited Prague, in former Czechoslovakia, the memory of Jan Palach was very much alive with many university students considering him a hero: on 16th January 1969 Jan Palach set himself on fire to draw the attention of the world to the exasperation in which his nation lived. My impression was that in the capital city of Czechoslovakia two parallel worlds coexisted: one official and visible, and another hidden but ever so present.

I had a similar experience living in Hungary in the 1980s. At that time, only a censored and sanitized version of news from Eastern European countries reached the West… Not much was known about Hungary outside the events of 1956. Initially I travelled to Budapest on a research scholarship into children’s literature, but my stay developed into a chain of surprising events and considering the political and historical context – small miracles.

Thanks to the translations I became known for, I received an award which allowed me to remain in Hungary as a lecturer at the Janus Pannonius University of Pecs. In a context of politics manipulated by interests and ideology, the ability to incorporate any kind of positive message into teaching required a sense of personal responsibility and freedom.

On one of my train journeys, while waiting at one of the endless border custom checks, I spotted a bird jumping on the barbed wire fence dividing the two countries. This sight prompted me to ponder how long those barriers would remain and I drew some hope from Giambattista Vico, a philosopher from Naples, Italy, who spoke about the fact that things which are outside their natural order do not remain so.[1]

In 1989, immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall I happened to conduct a sociological study on the change of toponyms of the streets and squares of Budapest and on destiny of statues left in that country by communist realism. These were eventually to be transferred to a specially designated garden which served as a sort of a ‘historical ZOO’ where parents would bring their children on Sundays… Some of the Soviet red star sculptures would have to wait for years to be taken down owing of their sheer size and weight.

After 16 years in Hungary, and after visiting other former Warsaw pact countries such as Slovakia or Poland, and places such as Auschwitz I understood better the reason of my being and I have become more and more grateful to God for the possibility to help make Europe and the entire world a family.

I also feel how right Victor Hugo was in in his famous [mis]quote : Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.[2]

by Tanino Minuta

[1] Giambattista Vico, Opere Vol. I, Tipografia della Sibilla, Naples, 1834, p. 12. [free translation]

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

 

 

Studying, living, and teaching history

Studying, living, and teaching history

9 November 1989: an unforgettable date in recent history marking the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the evening of that same day I was too transfixed in my chair in front of the TV to notice an unexpected event the import of which my own young generation at the time could not possibly grasp.

I had studied (and held a degree in) modern history. I studied all about the Cold War and the building of the Berlin Wall, which in those November days was being reversed to rubble. A few months later we were to learn from the press the stories of the peoples of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania who, by means of more or less peaceful revolutions, were freeing themselves from seven decades of Soviet burden.

I could never have dreamt on that November day, that the stories and images from the media would have become incarnated for me, in real people whom I was about to meet, as only a short month later I descended in Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, brought by train from Rome crossing Slovenia and Croatia. I was offered the post of Italian language and history teacher in a secondary school in the Hungarian capital. A small group of people with big smiles and a bunch of flowers welcomed me in the smoky atmosphere of the station. This was my first encounter with a country in Eastern Europe: the cordial encounter with these normal people who soon became a family to me, in distinct contrast to the atmosphere of sadness and distrust that still prevailed, with unambiguous signs of ‘control’ (groups of Soviet soldiers discharged onto footpaths by imposing military trucks). This despite the fact that a Hungarian Republic had been proclaimed in October 1989. It would take more than two years for the last soldier donning the red Soviet star to leave the country for good.

The first months of ‘freedom’ were a transition phase both politically and socially: whilst the democratic government was making its first steps and had to cope with many unknowns (and strikes!), a variety of products, some from abroad slowly filtered into the shops. Daily life was still complicated, at least for me, coming from the West. I was used to a certain style of cooking, but it was impossible to find the same ingredients on the market. One day in 1990, the taxi and the public transport drivers blocked all bridges over the Danube in protest against the increase in the price of petrol. In a flash there were endless queues outside shops selling bread and soon all shops were empty. «it’s like in ‘56» – people would say, meaning: there was nothing left to eat. People were unable to reconcile these conditions with a belief that the worst had already passed never to return.

Only when I began to teach did I fully appreciate the different social history in which I was now living, where all historical references were seen from the perspective of Moscow and revolved around the concept of class struggle. I found myself having to explain to my ingenuous students, things which until then I had taken for granted. Among the most obvious was an episode just prior to Christmas in 1990. In order to practice Italian conversation, we spoke about Italian Christmas traditions. I described enthusiastically images of the Nativity and the crib present in those days in every Italian family. After I spoke for about half an hour, a girl with dark hair put up her hand at the back of the class and asked: «Professor, but who is this Jesus?».

by Maria Bruna Romito

 

The Swiss Coordination team and “the brother” Nicolas of Flue

The Swiss Coordination team and “the brother” Nicolas of Flue

The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, and the 600th of Nicolas of Flue – what do these two commemorations mean to us today? 260 followers of the Swiss network of Together for Europe, belonging to many different Churches, met on 9th of September to reflect together on this topic in the Flueli-Ranft Hall, where “brother Nicola” lived.

“What is the significance of the life and work of Nicola of Flue for us personally, for our Churches, our Communities, and for our network of Together for Europe?” – this was the central question of our convention.

The participants hailed from all parts of Switzerland, representing 30 Christian Movements and Communities. The meeting was planned and organised together by the members of the Swiss TfE Coordination Team (from 10 Movements and Communities).  Since the very beginning of the meeting it became clear that the encounter and mutual exchange of ideas was what everyone came for. The hall soon filled with many enthusiastic groups engrossed in dialogue.

The programme of the meeting varied from four short talks (representing different approaches to the life and work of Nicola of Flue), to a choir specially assembled for the event, a theatrical representation of “brother” Nicola’s prayer, a round table discussion which was profound and well attended.

Pastor Geri Keller and Roland Groebli, both experts on Nicola of Flue, Fr. Raffael Rieger of Schoenstatt, representative of the Swiss TfE Coordination Team, and Alisha Furer, historian and a representative of the youth held the round table which lasted for an hour. Selomie Zuercher of the “Jahu” Community of Bienne, a student of history, chaired this moment of dialogue. Through quotations from brother Nicola, the participants were invited to express their own experiences and limitations: “What stops me from opening up towards people of different denominations or religions? What helps me to do so? Do I have experiences of such “togetherness” to share? These and other inputs were an invitation to fight prejudice and to make the first steps, even in the simple day-to-day gestures, such as, for example in a shared bus journey to work.”

The fascination with brother Nicola is due among other things to his many identities: Nicola the mystic, the mediator, the peasant, the politician, the husband, the father and the spiritual director. In brief: Nicola the man, or brother Nicola, as one who is very close to people, and very close to God.

A variety of participants, drawn in in the first place by their interest for Nicola of Flue, expressed their enthusiasm for having met the network of Together for Europe. As one person said: “Thank you for your commitment to building TOGETHERNESS in Europe! I am also part of it now!”

Written by Elisabeth Reusser

For further information please visit the Swiss web site of Together for Europe: http://miteinander-wie-sonst.ch/miteinander/aktuelles

A view of the Balkans by a man from Naples

A view of the Balkans by a man from Naples

It is not easy to sum up more than ten years in Slovenia, Croatia and Romania.

I can say that I felt immediately at ease. My early times in Slovenia were demanding, because it was so completely different to where I had come from. I did not speak the language; the weather was very cold with the typical smell of coal burning in stoves inside seemingly every house. One of my first enduring impressions was the sense of order and discipline. I can recall going to buy fruit with one of my friends from the community. While he joined the queue outside the shop, I stood slightly to the side. Then I noticed that there was another queue forming behind me… I soon realised that the same was happening at bus stops too. I was very impressed by it.

After 5 years in Slovenia I then moved to Croatia which accompanied an immediate sense of freedom: I was starting to study the language at university, I was meeting many people, exploring and discovering the city I was living in and doing many interesting things which I could not do before. I found the Croats similar to my own people: warm, welcoming and appreciators of good food.

Fall of the Wall
This was an unforgettable experience lived with my friends moment by moment, aware that what we were seeing on the TV was the world in the process of changing!

The war
The war in the Balkans was one of my strongest experiences of that period. It was a strange one in that Zagabria, where I lived at the time, was not involved in the conflict directly. The first few days, however, were terrifying because of the presence of snipers shooting randomly at civilians. My strongest memory however is not so much of destruction but of solidarity among people. It was very moving to witness the arrival of humanitarian aid in the form of food and clothes. Around that time my parents both passed away in Naples. I went back to Italy, emptied my family home in Naples and brought everything back with me to Croatia to help those in need.
I recall how in 1993, still in the midst of war, we managed to organise a youth festival for approximately 3.000 young Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as well as Muslims from former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova. One of the most emotional moments was a chant by a Muslim choir! The event was broadcasted by TV and radio and was on the front pages of all newspapers in the capital.

Dacia (Romania)
My experience in this country was one of coming from a life of prosperity and wellbeing to a situation of relative poverty. There was a sense in which the communist regime had managed to destroy all cultural, civic and folk tradition of that country. I was shocked! I recall a youngster whom I knew from having seen him around and who asked me for money. At the time, I could not help him because I did not have the amount he required. The episode made me think a lot: why did he asked me of all people? Because he knew I was Italian and thought I can return at any point where I came from. Real poverty is a feeling of not having anything and no one “able to help”.
As in Zagabria, also in Romania I experienced a deep communion among brothers and sisters who were looking for something that would finally give meaning to their life: Love! And with many of them, just like with those in Slovenia and Croatia to this day I have strong brotherly relationships.

by Gennaro Lamagna

Further and further East

Further and further East

Rossiya mon Amour  

Winter 1991, Moscow. In the early afternoon, my plane touched down in Sheremetyevo Airport.

The arrivals hall was poorly lit, the queue outside the passport controls and visas, long. I had gotten a job at the famous Lomonosov University and with all my possessions was moving to Russia. It was already dark outside and I had the impression that this was the end of the world. Then I heard an announcement: Connections for Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk which made me realise that this was where everything started.

Magical beginnings

In Moscow, I lived in a small ecumenical community. Our apartment on Volochaevskaya street was in a working-class quarter, which did not feel particularly safe. When I asked why we didn’t move, like all the foreigners, on the secure embassy grounds, I was told: “Not to worry because where we were, we were protected by the proletariat.”

Contact with our neighbours was indeed spontaneous and easy: elderly women, sitting in the courtyard day and night knew exactly of all the comings and goings; the spontaneity of the children made me forget the awful smell of the dirty staircase. Our new friends – colleagues, students, old and young – all came gladly to Volochaevskaya. They don’t mind that the sofa in our apartment was half eaten by mice and that there was a water leak from a tube in the corridor. The beginnings of our deepening friendship helped us see everything in a different light and forget all the rest.

“Spiritual children” of Alexander Men

In the early 1990s production in Russia decreased rapidly. Shops were empty, everything was scarce. Religious life appeared to be extinct. Within the walls of former churches there were vodka making factories, offices, shops …

We had a long-standing acquaintance with the Russian Orthodox priest Alexander Men. Since the 1960s he had clandestinely baptised thousands of people and had shown a level of ecumenical openness that was dangerous for his time. A lively Orthodox Christian community formed around him. When he was violently killed, he left behind his “spiritual children” as traumatised orphans.

Where two or three are gathered together in my name” (Mt 18:20)

Soon many people joined us. We lived together the word of the Scripture, for example, ” Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). As they said, they found a new homeland with us. “You don’t proselytise, instead you help us to become yeast for a self-renewal of the Russian Orthodox Church.” After years of spiritual drought, we experienced with them and many others a new Spring. I had never been so happy. The thirst for spiritual life united us despite our cultural differences, diverse upbringing or mentality.

My discovery

In the 1990s – with perestroika and glasnost – many organisations, among them sects, as well as genuine charities from a variety of Churches (Renovabis, Kirche in Not, Bonifatiuswerk, …) and religious Movements (Communion and Liberation, Neocatechumenal Way, Focolare, Community of Sant’Egidio, …) succeeded in entering countries behind the so-called “Iron Curtin”. Some stayed on and some have since left.

What is my personal experience as a citizen of Western Germany after nearly two decades in Russia? I have received much more from this country than I could ever give: among which the gift of deep contemplation which during the Russian Orthodox Liturgy allowed my relationship with God to grow deeper; solid friendships which continue in spite of distance and which reminds me of how much I am loved. In short, I have rediscovered my vocation as a Christian and as a woman: I am called to love.

I believe that during these years we have, in our own way, re-written the Acts of the Apostles. The reality of “having love for one another and having everything in common” (see Acts 4:32) both marked and moulded us. In this light, everything appeared as new: the Gospel goes much further … well beyond Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk!

by Beatriz Lauenroth

Welcome to Vienna!

Welcome to Vienna!

WILLKOMMEN, BENVENUTI, WELCOME, VITAJTE, BIENVENUE…

The group „Friends of Together for Europe” will meet in Vienna.

We are looking forward to this being a great, profound, visible, inviting, serene and European event held Together.

The TfE Coordination Team in Vienna has reflected and consulted at length with the International Steering Committee in preparation for this meeting. Our focus recently has been preparations for the opening of the meeting on 9th November in St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) which will take the format of an ecumenical prayer. We have picked a location in the centre of Vienna and have invited public figures to attend. The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Schönborn has confirmed his participation while the mayor of Vienna issued an invitation to an “Agape” to follow after the liturgy.

“9th November, Stephansdom – you are coming, aren’t you?” – everyone we speak to is eagerly looking forward to the event.

Will we succeed in filling the Stephansdom Cathedral? We entrust this aspiration in the spirit of what Chiara Lubich used call: “The music sheet already written in heaven”.

Coordination Team of TfE, Vienna 


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Proposals that arrived

Proposals that arrived

After requesting suggestions in our May Newsletter for a short subtitle to “Together for Europe”, here are some proposals that arrived (in their original language).

Our thanks to each one who contributed, a clear sign of being part of TOGETHER! 

  • ’Europa – la nostra casa comune
  • ’Europa – la Casa della famiglia dei popoli
  • In the Name of Jesus
  • Cristiani per l’Europa – popoli dal labbro puro, rivestiti delle armi della luce
  • Ein geschwisterliches Europa der Werte
  • Wir bauen auf ein Europa der Geschwisterlichkeit / auf ein Europa der Werte
  • Insieme per l’Europa – pista cristiana verso un mondo migliore di sussidiarietà e solidarietà
  • „Diese Christen bekommen wir nicht mehr auseinander. Sie gehören zusammen“  (Zitat von Reinhard Kardinal Marx)
  • Miteinander für Europa – Christen aus verschiedenen Konfessionen tun sich zusammen
  • Aus Unkenntnis wird ein Staunen über den Reichtum der anderen
  • Ein Synergie-Effekt entsteht. Kräfte werden frei.
  • Europa bekommt ein anderes Gesicht! Das Gesicht Jesu!
  • Innestati nelle radici comuni
  • L’Europa si desta!
  • Europa: casa delle nazioni – Famiglia di popoli
  • Europa delle nazioni – Famiglia di popoli
In Assisi among “peers”

In Assisi among “peers”

Together for Europe invited by Italian Association “Cities for Fraternity”

Some say that in order to unite Europe, you need to unite European cities. Is there, however, any universal “glue” that is capable of tying together and bringing alive such network?

Together for Europe is a group of Christians who t o g e t h e r, through their social and political commitment for Europe in the broadest sense, strive for brotherhood among all. The Association Cities for Fraternity is a body whose objective is to make a contribution, in Italy and beyond, to promoting brotherhood in political life. The aims of the two organisations have a lot in common, to the point that these organisations consider themselves as peers.

On 22nd June 2017, in Assisi, the city of St. Francis, the management of Cities for Fraternity met with representatives from different Italian cities. Together for Europe was also invited to the meeting, following a first contact between the two peer organisations last February in Rome, on the occasion of the conferral of the “Chiara Lubich Prize for Fraternity” to the municipality of Assisi (see article in section ‘International News’ of the website). The desire behind this invitation was to develop synergies between the peer organisations to better position of each to be at a service of the common good.

“Brotherhood needs to become our way of life” – Donatella Tesei, the Vice-President of the association emphasised, quoting examples of practical collaboration between different cities of Central Italy. Her words were echoed by the facts and testimonials showing the work of Together for Europe in different European countries.

So, brotherhood is the “glue” which makes such synergies between different groups working within Cities for Fraternity and Together for Europe possible; together they can offer a spiritual and cultural contribution in response to challenges emerging in our cities.

Ilona Tóth and Ada Maria Guazzo

9th May: Europe Day

9th May: Europe Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ilona Toth

Slovenia: Veglie in 17 località e servizio TV nazionale

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).

http://4d.rtvslo.si/arhiv/obzorja-duha/174463819

Testo Trasmissione TV dallo Sloveno (13.9 KB, 244 downloads)
This is the Europe we want to build

This is the Europe we want to build

Ecumenical and International Prayer Vigil – Faith opens up to culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

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

 

Christian Charisms and Europe

Christian Charisms and Europe

The contribution of Religious Orders and Institutes towards unity in Europe

During the times of the Roman Empire, Europe experienced a period characterised by a certain type of unification. This was a fragile unity forcefully imposed by “Roman legions”. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe found itself once again fragmented, with ethnic and cultural differences reasserting themselves as each of its peoples sought to restate their own sense of identity. By the 5th century, Europe was full of different rival groups.

During this period and in centuries to follow, the presence of certain men and women guided by the Spirit, inspired in the peoples of Europe new ideals and universals values, mostly rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage. They were values and ideals that brought European peoples into dialogue, sharing their respective riches and in this way generating a new, unitary social and cultural fabric for the Continent.

In a conference, a few years ago, Cardinal Walter Kasper said: “Saints like Martin, Benedict, Boniface, brothers Cyril and Methodius, Adalbert, Bernard, Francis, Dominic and many others, moulded the history of Europe. Through these saintly men and countless saintly women, the Church made a precious contribution to the unity and the sense of identity of Europe”.

These individuals gave rise to new spiritualities, spiritual movements, religious orders and centres of cultural and social works, that helped the peoples of Europe to gradually develop an identity based on shared values.

The first big charismatic order originated from Benedict of Nursia (Italy, 480-547). Benedictine Monasticism, brought about by Benedict both in Africa and in the East as well as in the West, was in its many historical expressions a determining factor for the evangelisation of the Continent whilst contributing to the formation of European medieval culture. In short, it played a crucial part in establishing the dialogue between values of the Roman civilisation, Judeo-Christian values and those of the so-called “barbarian” cultures that were introduced to the Continent by the peoples of the North and East in the centuries to follow.

The religious brothers of the order of Saint Benedict with their widely disseminated and sizable abbeys, established centres of spirituality, which also served as centres of culture, human empowerment and social and economic progress, putting themselves mostly at the service of the poor and marginalised.

In the 11th century in Eastern Europe, Cyril and Methodius, two monks of Greek origin, having evangelised peoples of Eastern Europe, started a process which, it can be argued, led to the foundation of the Slavic culture. The breakthrough of these brothers from Salonica (Greece) consisted in the creation of a new alphabet, whilst they were in contact with Western Greco-Roman culture; in this way, they made a decisive contribution to what would become the literature and culture of Slavic nations.

Between the 11th and the first half of the 12th century, other charismatic individuals and great cultural figures emerged. One of these, Bernard of Clairvaux, hailing from the tradition of Benedictine Monasticism founded a new movement, the Cistercian order.

In the 13th century the Mendicant Friars emerged giving rise to many other charismatic movements. These originated from charismatic figures in individual nations, fast developing into supra-national movements spreading all over the Continent and in turn to the rest of the world.

Among these the Dominican movement stands out, founded in Spain by Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) and the Franciscan movement, which itself originated in Italy with Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). Religious movements whilst rooted in deep spirituality were able to inspire and promote many aspects of human culture and knowledge. They developed theology, philosophy, literature, sciences, arts. At the time and in the centuries to follow, every European university, would number among its lecturers and pupils, friars from the Mendicant orders.

With the arrival of Humanism and the Renaissance, powerful nations were established. This process was contributed to in a decisive way both by established charismatic movements as well as new charisms which grew and spread.

Many new religious orders were established in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuit order; Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and the Carmelites in Spain; the Brothers of Mercy of John of God who cared for the sick; in France, Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of Charity; Francis de Sales, John Baptist de La Salle known for the formation of young people and for the setting up of schools accessible to all; Philip Neri with the Oratory, in Italy, Girolamo Emiliani, Cajetan of Thiene, Camillo de Lellis who operated in the hospitals, and so on. At around the same time the Capuchin reform emerged from the Franciscan tradition and in Germany the great reform of Martin Luther took place.

Many other new spiritualities made a key contribution to the cultural, social and economic identity of modern Europe. Each charism was born with a strong spiritual identity, while sensitive and open to issues, challenges, social and human needs of peoples and individuals. This allowed access to culture, health care, housing, human rights, economy and dignified human life to an ever-growing number of European citizens.

The same phenomenon can be seen in the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite the abolition of religious orders imposed first by Napoleon and later by several European States, countless religious institutes and orders were established. In the 19th century we cannot go without mentioning Don John Bosco and the Salesians (Turin, Italy), John Benedict Cottolengo and Joseph Cafasso, who looked after the sick and the marginalised; in England, the contribution of bishop John Henry Newman, and so on.

In the 20th century Europe, besides the establishment of new religious orders such as those set up by Don James Alberione, Don Luigi Orione, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe and others, saw the beginnings of many other expressions of charismatic life which manifested themselves as vast lay ecclesial movements. Each with its own strong spiritual identity, but also with a great sensitivity to the dramatic challenges brought to our Continent by modernity.

Europe would be poorer and more fragile were it not for the contribution offered in the past by orders and religious institutes and today by the wealth of ecclesial movements which have emerged within different Churches and Christian Communities.

These spiritual and charismatic forces, whilst born in precise geographical locations, have spread beyond national borders, offering in this way a powerful and decisive contribution to the constituting of a united, strong, free, sympathetic and brotherly Europe.

Fr Egidio Canil, Sacro Convento of the Franciscans in Assisi, Italy

Europe: inconceivable without fraternity

Europe: inconceivable without fraternity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer for Carinthia in the Provincial Government building

Prayer for Carinthia in the Provincial Government building

On Friday 27th January 2017, in the “Green Room” of the Provincial Government building of Carinthia (South Austria) an unusual event was held: a gathering to pray for the province.

The initiative came from the group Together for Europe, which has as its aim to give expression to Europe’s Christian identity. Representatives of different Churches and from different social, political and cultural spheres came together in prayer. The Outi & Lee duo provided musical accompaniment at the event.

“We hope this initiative will benefit this House”, commented Mr Reinhart Roth, President of the Provincial Government of Carinthia, while thanking organisers of the event. Local Councillor Ms Ruth Feistritzer, representing the Mayor, was also in attendance.

Together for Europe numbers more than 300 Christian Movements, Communities and Missionary Works around Europe. “We seek that which unites – among Christians and in society in general; we say Yes to Life, Family, Creation, Fair Economy, Solidarity, Peace and Responsibility”, said Manfred and Fini Wieser, Coordinators of the Together for Europe group of Carinthia.

The joy of working TOGETHER

The joy of working TOGETHER

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Courage, Europe!

Courage, Europe!

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

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

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

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

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

Below is some feedback gathered during and after the meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

“In summary…”

“In summary…”

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

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

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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.

Ecumenical network “Together for Europe“calls for Prayer and Commitment for Peace and Love of Neighbour.

Ecumenical network “Together for Europe“calls for Prayer and Commitment for Peace and Love of Neighbour.

100 leading delegates of the network “Together for Europe” were gathering from 12th to 14th November. Together they publish the following statement in answer to the terror attacks in Paris.

“With dismay we heard of the dramatic attacks in Paris. We were together in Marienkroon in the Netherlands, more than 100 delegates from different Christian movements and communities coming from 13 European countries and different confessions and churches.

For us Europe is the continent in which people from all different cultures and religious varieties are welcome and should live united in freedom and peace.
We interrupted our work in order to be silent and to pray together. The events compel us to commit ourselves ever more intensely for Europe’s values. Our Christian faith too calls and obliges us to this.
We feel with the families of the victims and are united in solidarity with the politicians who have to take grave decisions in these days.
We live as friends in Europe and experience a deep closeness with the French people. We pledge to pray for peace more than ever and to live for it, to spread it wherever we are.
We want to live in mutual love and strengthen the powers of trust even more. With a humane face and faithfulness to its values Europe will have a common future.

Visit to Evangelical Bishop Dr. Frank O. July

Visit to Evangelical Bishop Dr. Frank O. July

In mid October some of the leaders responsible for Together for Europe visited Bishop Dr. Frank O. July, Vice-president of the Lutheran World Federation. The meeting was characterised by an extremely cordial atmosphere.

Fr. Heinrich Walter (Schoenstatt), Diego Goller (Focolare Movement), Pastor Thomas Römer (YMCA Munich), Sr. Anna-Maria aus der Wiesche (Christusbruderschaft Selbitz) and Gerhard Pross (YMCA Esslingen) were very pleased with the open dialogue that took place. Gerhard Pross sums up: “We were able to discuss issues related to the reconciliation between Churches and steps on the journey to unity. Encounters such as this are moments of light and are instrumental and effective in the preparation of our upcoming Event in June and July in Munich”.

Together for Europe – an information evening in Montevideo

Together for Europe – an information evening in Montevideo

On September 7, 2015, at the invitation of the YMCA Montevideo (Uruguay) an open information evening was held about Together for Europe . Representatives from 10 different churches and members of the Focolare Movement and the YMCA accepted the invitation. Gerhard Pross, who happened to be in South America, gave a lively report with many inspiring examples on how the ‘Together ‘ is lived. The “Five Keys to Unity” received special attention and were picked up upon in subsequent discussion. The reception which followed the talks provided participants with an excellent opportunity to share their experiences. Some of them were tossing the idea if it might be possible to start this ‘Together’ also in South America. The encounter with Gerhard Pross encouraged those present to take steps in this direction.

In Loppiano: “TOWARDS AN ECONOMY FOR THE COMMON GOOD”

In Loppiano: “TOWARDS AN ECONOMY FOR THE COMMON GOOD”

From March 6 to 8, Christian Movements of “Together for Europe” held a congress In Loppiano – Incisa Val d’Arno (near Florence), aimed at giving a soul to the Europe of markets and economy. For the approximately 100 participants from various countries of Europe, it was an opportunity to share experiences and ideas, and to offer a prophetic voice of hope.

Among entrepreneurs, students and scholars, from 12 different communities, the main supporters of the initiative were members of the Focolare Movement, the YMCA in Munich, the Vineyard Community in Brussels, the Schoenstatt Movement in Switzerland, the Pope John XXIII Community, and the Nomadelfia Community in Tuscany

Europe continues to struggle with economic uncertainty that poses severe challenges for businesses, policy- makers and citizens. “In Europe, only the voice of the institutions has been heard so far “- said Prof. Luigino Bruni -. “our dream is that Franciscans, members of the Focolare, people who have chosen “the least” in society, take their place in the Economic ministries … We need the voice of gratuity. In recent decades, these voices were completely silenced. An economy with neither a soul nor charisms capable of including the poor has no future. What do Christian Movements have to say, today, about Economic policy? »

During the congress an effort was made to offer a contribution from the bottom, on the basis of solidarity, to give a voice to everyone, to the poor and the excluded. The objective was to present a perspective of Europe based on an economy of reciprocity and generosity, rather than interest and profit only. An economy derived from cooperatives, from social and civic commitment.

The program had theoretical parts, (such as the causes of the economic crisis in Europe, various experiences and talks on “charismatic economics”, including Father Kentenich’s “pedagogy of ideality” for entrepreneurs of the Schönstatt Movement), and also testimonies derived from practice (concrete experiences of the “Economy of Communion” and the economics of sharing, offered by various Movements). The evenings were devoted to prayer and praise to God, with a concert on the second evening by the international group Gen Verde.

One afternoon, about 100 young people (attending a much larger youth congress in Loppiano) joined in, offering their experiences. Despite their disappointment with the current employment situation for young people, they are striving to uphold their ideals with personal commitment, going ”against the current” of consumerism and by giving life to small scale sustainable models.

It became clear to everyone that in order to renew contemporary economy and avoid its “perverse effects” on people’s lives and the environment, it is necessary to transform Christian values into economic activities and structures.

Everybody, especially the entrepreneurs, felt a great desire to create networks and ways of sharing, and to join forces to give a stronger and more incisive witness to the world.
On leaving, all felt a renewed commitment to deepen what they had received in those days within their own Communities, and to share initiatives with other Movements. A participant concluded: “If we succeed in opening our minds and hearts, tearing down some walls, welcoming each other and creating spaces of encounter and exchange, then it will be possible to give a more effective witness of our Christian roots in the world.”

All videos of the interventions of the conference can be viewed on: http://www.pololionellobonfanti.it/insieme-per-il-bene-comune/

St. Ulrich Foundation Award

St. Ulrich Foundation Award

“They build bridges in Europe with steps of reconciliation and weaving friendship across borders. The result is a current of hope inspired by the Gospel …”

This is the motivation of the European Prize of St. Ulrich, awarded to the Steering Committee of Together for Europe on 3rd May in Dillingen, an historic city in Bavaria (Germany). On hearing it, a long applause praised the culture of Communion.

The presentation was made to seven members of the Committee. Some of those who were there from the very beginning were also present1 . It took place before an audience of about 600 people.

The winners and representatives of 50 movements and communities were welcomed by civil and religious authorities in the square: Mayor Kunz, the Catholic Bishop of Augsburg, Zdarsa, and the regional Evangelical Bishop Grabow. A youth music group gave the welcome and the ceremony included songs and music of a very high standard.

For the first time the award ceremony took place in the Basilica during an ecumenical service.

It was the tenth occasion; previous winners include: Lec Walesa, Helmuth Kohl, Andrea Riccardi and other prominent names. In the presence of personalities from politics, economy, culture and the public life of the region, the laudation was given by the Brazilian Card. Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, who came from Rome: “I note with gratitude the ecumenical witness of the journey of Together for Europe. It always opens new places where you can meet fraternally, generating mutual love between the Churches and thus opening up new approaches to what still divides us.”
The President of the Foundation, Landrat Leo Schrell said: “The impressive variety of movements involved makes it clear that the intuition of Together for Europe is supported by people from different churches and different backgrounds who have one purpose: to contribute to the unity of the Europe”.

According to Schrell this way “is capable of indicating a path for the future.”

See also the website of the administrative district: Photogallery and Downloads

 Gerhard Pross expressed the gratitude of the Steering Committee and said: “European unity and spiritual unity are alive in the Christian movements: it could be a model for the European Union as a home for the one Church of Christ.” He pointed out that the ten thousand euro Prize would be used for young people and movements of Eastern Europe, for their journey in the programme of Together.

He also expressed gratitude to the pioneers of the Together for Europe, in particular Chiara Lubich and Helmut Nicklas .

After the group photo on the steps of the ‘Home of the city’, the event ended with signatures in the guestbook and cordial and well-prepared refreshments. The media were updated through interviews given to regional newspapers, radio and TV.
Various publications underlined the commitment to safeguarding and promoting the treasure of the Christian heritage in Europe, as St. Ulrich expressed.

The Steering Committee. On 2nd May, the Steering Committee met in the Ecumenical Centre of Ottmaring in view of upcoming events. The year 2016 is a focal point with the idea of organizing a conference, followed by a rally in a city in Germany between April and June 2016 (date to be determined). This event is of importance in view of 2017, the year that marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation in Germany. Several cities have given proposals and ideas for initiatives, which were considered carefully. There was an atmosphere of collaboration and joy which led to a unanimous consensus to start the preparations.

Gabri Fallacara and Severin Schmid

1 Friedrich Aschoff, an evangelical from Renewal of the Spirit, Fr. Michael Marmann, a Catholic from Schönstatt and Sr.Anna-Maria aus der Wiesche, Prioress of the Evangelical Community of Christ in Selbitz.

Würzburg and Ischia, 7/12/2013

Würzburg and Ischia, 7/12/2013

From Germany (Würzburg)

“A very special day in our ‘Together’” – so the leaders of movements and communities of various Churches in Germany summarized the meeting of 7th December 2013 in Würzburg. 120 people involved in Together for Europe gathered to reflect on the past year and on the next steps to take.

Here is what Gerhard Pross, ‘Treffen von Verantwortlichen’, wrote: “The day began with a reflection on a thought from Chiara Lubich in which we are called to ‘Together’.

This was followed by a rich exchange of experiences of collaboration between movements and communities in various cities in Germany, such as the ‘Oasis of Peace and Prayer’, formed in Stuttgart.

The President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch wished to visit the conference. In ‘Together’, he sees an initiative which unites the Churches, gives an important witness and is a sign of encouragement. He spoke particularly in view of 2017, the year which marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation.

He hopes that this anniversary will become an opportunity of encounter and of new understanding. In the ensuing dialogue, several aspects emerged.

The ‘pact of mutual love’ came into relief, with which the network of Together for Europe was born. It is not enough to know one another; a real, fraternal collaboration is needed, which gives an example to the peoples of Europe.

‘For me it was an historic moment, there is someone who opens wide his arms’, said one of the Leaders. And another exhorted Archbishop Zollitsch to continue on this way with courage: ‘The people are on your side!”

During the conference, reference was made to the meeting of the ‘Friends of Together for Europe’ which took place last November in Paris. ‘Together’ welcomes not only movements of various Churches, but also belonging to almost all the peoples of Europe. This gives rise to a responsibility for a cultural, social and political contribution.

Gerhard continues: “With the German Committee we prepared the day of 7th December with a prayer of ‘listening’. When we were able to put aside all our considerations and we tried to listen to Him, then we felt encouraged. Someone said: ‘The Risen Lord is among us and says, ‘don’t be afraid!’’.

This meeting had a special grace and left in our hearts the certainty that ‘Together’ will go ahead and that we have been able to intuit something of the ‘score written in heaven’”.

From Ischia (Italy) 7th September 2013: Procession for Peace.

“On 7th September, 2013 – write Rita and Giulio Seller – on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, the ‘Ischia for Europe’ Committee organized a major event for peace with a procession with songs and candles. As a sign of support, shops switched off lights and turned down sound. The march ended in the pine forest with speeches, poems and prayers about peace, contributed by Lutherans and Catholics, interspersed by musical pieces from some of the island’s artists. The Catholic bishop recorded a video message for the occasion.

Many left comments and reflections, expressing gratitude for the event”.

Gabriella Fallacara e Severin Schmid

Acer Movement: a rich encounter

Acer Movement: a rich encounter

During the annual meeting of the “Friends of Together for Europe” in Paris, on 6th November 2013 representatives of the Focolare Movement visited the headquarters of the Orthodox Movement, Acer-Mjo.

Spiritual trust, depth of sharing, discovery of a real friendship in Christ as a seed of a Christian European conscience; these are just a few of the fruits of the visit of representatives of the Focolare Movement to the headquarters of the Acer-MJO Movement (Russian Students’ Christian Action – Orthodox Youth Movement) in Paris. During the annual meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” which took place on 7th-9th November in the French capital, Gabri Fallacara, Severin Schmid and Maria Wienken from Focolare, were received by Cyrille Sollogoub, President of the Orthodox association.

The Acer Movement was started in 1923 by some Russians who had been expelled from their country during the troubled years of the Revolution. The founders include such important personalities as Fr. Sergio Boulgakov, Fr. Giorgio Florovsky and Nicolas Berdiaev. The President, accompanied by his brother Igor who is responsible for the youth section, took us to the Church – Chapel , housed in a former garage in the courtyard, covered with glass. The Divine Liturgy has been celebrated here by famous Orthodox priests and theologians like Florovsky , Bulgakov and Alexander Men. Cyrille explained that “The icon that best expresses the charism of the Acer Movement is the presentation of Mary in the Temple: she contains Jesus and therefore she contains the Church. While in Russia, the churches were being destroyed and the Russian emigrants did not have the means to build others, a new understanding of what the Church is was born: not built from bricks but by living people, bearers of Christ and of his Church.” The aim of raising awareness, especially among the laity, of “being Church” is therefore at the origin of the Acer Movement which was approved by the Patriarch of Russia, Tikon, who was then assassinated; it depends juridically on the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The President recalled, “During the regime one of the main tasks of Acer was to print the Bible, spiritual and cultural literature and get it to Russia. It also supported thefamilies of dissidents and others in need.” Printing is still an important activity for Acer. The youth section is very active and involves over 200 young people. Despite the challenge of distance, summer camps are organized for them in the mountains, as an opportunity for re-evangelization; in this way the sense of faith and of belonging to the Church grows. Once trained, the young people get involved in their own parishes. This beautiful opportunity to meet and get to know one another left us with a sense of gratitude to God who brings us together in the world today with eyes of hope, open to a future of communion.

Gabri Fallacara

Friends of “Together for Europe” in Paris

Friends of “Together for Europe” in Paris

From 7th-9th November the “Friends” of “Together for Europe” gathered in Paris for their annual meeting. One hundred and twenty five leaders of 46 movements and communities of different Churches and 13 European countries – from Russia to Portugal , Denmark to Slovenia, were present at the meeting which took place in the historic setting of Montmartre.

The theme that had been chosen was: “Yes” to the poor and marginalized, as was expressed in the message of Stuttgart 2007.

The many contributions revealed how much the Communities and Movements are linked to the commitment to and with the most needy. It is not just acts of solidarity, but of friendship and brotherhood.

An intense moment was spent with Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche Community. He opened the gift of his experience with these words: “Jesus says: “The kingdom of God is like a wedding feast” – but everyone is too busy – and the king who had issued the invitations sends his servants to seek the crippled and the lame in the hedgerows and at the crossroads – this is what I have tried to live in my life.” Jean Vanier is dedicated in particular to the mentally handicapped “the people most oppressed.” “They have changed me, I have seen that the Kingdom of God is theirs.” There are now 140 communities, ecumenical and interreligious, in which “fragile and strong” live together.

The prayers of Catholics and Evangelicals, which introduced the work of the first two days, were followed by that of the Russian Orthodox with its choir .

In the days of lively exchange on the path taken so far by Together for Europe, with the big events in Stuttgart 2004 and 2007 and in Brussels in 2012, thought was given to what could be the next step to take. Recalling the expression of Chiara Lubich, “the score is written in heaven” you could sense in the reciprocal listening to one another that the most valuable experience of this journey together is the deep communion that has developed between Movements of different churches. And it is precisely this “common witness of Christians” which has led to initiatives that Europe needs today, in the political and social fields, “so that the world may believe.”

At the same time, a further contribution is foreseen for 2016, in the form of a congress, which will probably take place in a city in Germany, in order to make visible the path of communion so far.

There was an solemn atmosphere when the new stage was entrusted to God in prayer and the commitment of mutual love renewed.

In May 2014, the Steering Committee will meet again in Dillingen in Germany to receive the prestigious “St. Ulrich European Award” which is 2014 has been awarded to “Together for Europe”.

In Paris there was also a chance to live the “culture of visiting each other”: we went to the Chapel of the metro station in Montparnasse, which is entrusted to the Community of Sant’Egidio , to pray together and learn about their work in the heart of Paris.

And even before the beginning of the meeting, there were those who went to meet the Emmanuel Community, founded by Pierre Goursat e Martine Laffitte-Catta, and those who visited the headquarters of Acer-Mjo (Russian Students’ Christian Action – Orthodox Youth Movement).

Gabri Fallacara

The culture of encounter creates communion

The culture of encounter creates communion

The Steering Committee of Together for Europe meets to reflect on future plans after the third international event: Together for Europe in May 2012.

The Committee made up of eight members including the Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical-Lutheran Churches met at the Saint Egidio Community headquarters in Rome on 4thJune, 2013. The main purpose of this meeting was to discuss the fruits of the past year and try to understand together the next step to take. As Chiara Lubich liked to say, trying to see “the score written in heaven.”

In many of the 152 cities linked up on 12th May, 2012 a dynamic collaboration among local movements and communities of various Churches took place. In several countries, there is a national Together for Europe committee which acts as a network that continually encourages dialogue. Andrea Riccardi (founder of the Community of Saint Egidio), quoting Pope Francis, emphasized the responsibility to continue to go out and avoid being self-referential. It is the “culture of encounter” – emphasized Maria Voce, President of the Focolare Movement also quoting Pope Francis – “the culture of friendship and openness to others that we experience on this journey of communion that gives hope to our continent and beyond.” Returning from a trip to Germany, Maria Voce tells of meetings with important personalities who see Together for Europe as a way of uniting hearts.

Gerhard Pross, YMCA, told, how at the Catholic Academy of Stuttgart-Hohenheim, representatives of the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Catholic Church and other churches met, on the 23rd May, 2013 thanks to the invitation of some movements and communities connected with Together for Europe.

Nikolaus Schneider, Chair of EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany), Archbishop Robert Zollitsch (President of the German Bishops’ Conference), Bishop Gerhard Feige, the regional evangelical bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm and the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan, Serafim, in their speeches, encouraged an open and intense exchange on ecumenical issues particularly timely for the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and in view of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Some topics emerged:
the return to Christ as the centre point of what unites us, the re-elaboration of our common history at a local and national level that show signs of reconciliation and the importance of raising awareness to the sensitivity of the other Churches.

Rev. Christophe D’Aloisio (SYNDESMOS) presented an interesting vision of some of the Orthodox communities in Europe.
The meeting had a full agenda.
Look at the “existential suburbs/outskirts”: this is one of the priorities.

On the morning of June 5th, cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity met the Steering Committee of Together for Europe: he encouraged their projects.