Category Archives: News

Immersion in the Spirit

Immersion in the Spirit

Empowering Europe

On the weekend of 10-12 June 2022, Empowering Europe (//empoweringeurope.org) organized a long-awaited in presence meeting for its members after the Corona pandemic.

For this meeting, the young Movement (founded in 2018) chose the Conference Centre of the Focolare Movement in the Netherlands (//www.focolare.org/nederland/).

The days were marked by a deep encounter with God and with each other. The friendship of the two Movements, which are both involved in together4europe, also left its mark on the meeting.

“We were able to look into the heart of Jesus”, said one of the participants at the end. And another one: “It was an immersion in the Spirit of God. We go back to our everyday lives strengthened and refreshed.”

Beatriz Lauenroth

7 May in Brussels

7 May in Brussels

An unforgettable experience

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

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

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

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

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

Some feedbacks:

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

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

Anne Plancke, for the Belgian Committee of Together for Europe

Photo: pixabay.com

How to overcome divisions

How to overcome divisions

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

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

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

The various inputs included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Murg, TfE Graz

Photo: privat

Education, our only possibility

Education, our only possibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carla Cotignoli and Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Trento Archive

2022 05 08 Education, Our Only Possibility Italy EN DEF (137.5 KB, 5 downloads)
Glimpses

Glimpses

May 9, 2022: a European expression

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

 

 

A fresh breeze sweeps over ‘Together for Europe’

A fresh breeze sweeps over ‘Together for Europe’

The Steering Committee of Together for Europe (TfE) met in Munich  

The Munich YMCA hosted the annual gathering of the TfE Steering Committee which was attended by 20 members and several invited guests, from 27 to 29 April 2022.

The participants experienced a wave of fresh air that was brought about by the young adults belonging to the European Network of Communities (ENC), the YMCA, the Focolare and the Schönstatt Movements: they wanted to reflect with the first generation of the network upon the future of ‘Together’. The guests carried out their task with delicacy and respect. Mária Špesová (ENC) from Slovakia said: “In TfE I see something sacred that grew in these 20 plus years. I feel invited to enter this rich experience on my tiptoes”. Also, Georges El Hage (Syndesmos): “Here I feel free to express my thoughts and people listen attentively. We are welcomed with great trust”.

Program

The program of these days included numerous spiritual inputs, prayers and a lively exchange of ideas. The recurrent topic was the war in Ukraine. During the first evening, several persons from Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia were linked via zoom to share their experiences of practical help.  An Italian participant affirmed: “We are seeing the birth of a new Europe based on solidarity”. And Zsuzsanna Klemencz (Sant’Egidio/Hungary) stated: “We ought to disarm ourselves and let others disarm us. How? By putting aside our arrogance and our hatred”. According to this Hungarian, this is what true disarmament means; this will give rise to a “peaceful people”, disarmed to win the war. Franꞔois Deloors (Sant’Egidio/Belgium) added: “This is the attitude that we strive to constantly put in practice between us, and thus, as TfE, we can offer it to Europe and the entire world”.

Porto 2022 and Timisoara 2023

“Here I feel at home” was the comment offered by Clotilde Pestana of the Schönstatt Movement. She travelled to Munich with another member of the National Committee of Portugal to help out in the preparation for the “Meeting of the Friends” scheduled for November 2022 in Porto. “Portugal has a lot to offer to Europe: openness, hospitality and a rich culture”. These are but a few of the reasons to hold the 2022 ‘Meeting of the Friends” in the Country on the far western side of Europe.

In 2023, the ‘Meeting of the Friends’ will be held in Romania, in  Timisoara. Ilona Toth of the Steering Committee updated us regarding the many conversations and meetings she had in Romania. The encounter with the Orthodox world and the multicultural reality of Eastern Europe, among others, require a detailed and in-depth preparation.

Witnesses for humanity

During the meeting it became ever more clear that TfE, faced with the great sufferings in Europe and in the world, is called to support the “incomplete” and to go down the rifts of humanity, which are injustice, hatred and war.

Thomas Römer (YMCA Munich) underlined: “Indeed, most probably we are living through a change of epoch, an epochal upheaval, so to speak. Let’s not allow evil to win, but let’s defeat it with good”.

As Römer noted, death and resurrection are entwined in the history of humanity. He was introducing the participants to the renewal of the Pact of Mutual Love, based on Jn 13, 34. With fraternal encounters with the Risen Lord in the midst, TfE continually witnesses hope for humanity.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Diego Goller / Group photo: Thomas Barthel, YMCA Munich

Belgium – Italy – Germany

Belgium – Italy – Germany

Activities to mark the 2022 Europe Day

BELGIUM: “Europe: Artisans of Peace…”

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

ITALY: “Education: our only possibility”

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

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

GERMANY: “Meeting and praying in Europe on Zoom”

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

 

 

Fundamentally changed

Fundamentally changed

The character of the Church 3.0  

 “The character of the Church 3.0, and thus even the character of our 200-strong meeting, has completely changed once Ukraine was attacked. All nice thoughts were swept away; at Baar we became aware that this is not a time for nice and important words. Rather, it is a time in which the people of God, and therefore even the Church, ought to gather in prayer. Reunited once again. Existentially reunited. And the prayers need to go beyond all boundaries.

Some days ago, during the prayer session that involved more than a thousand persons, we promised to “keep on praying”. And this is what we are doing: last week Austria continued to pray, and now it is us in Switzerland that came together to pray. Whenever Communities and Movements come together, there is a lot of power…

Undauntedly, all political meetings are important and necessary. However, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters recently prayed, also beseeching the transformation of hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, go hand in hand. It moves side by side and it helps.

A praying and communitarian Church

We became aware that the Church 3.0 is a Church that prays. It is a communitarian Church because it prays of behalf of others, and its vitality comes from the charisms and not from numbers and structure. It is a wounded Church, and for this reason she relies upon God’s compassion – and not only for herself.

Therefore we prayed, and we experienced something of the new form of the Church. There was a feeling of a new beginning. We were conscious that in our prayer, words and actions, we were journeying with and Ukrainian brothers and sisters. In our prayers we included our confusion, fear and lack of words. Something will grow out of the ashes.

Right now, let there be peace: just peace and the possibility to protect persons. It’s quite sad to see persons being used as power pawns. And it is even sadder when their life is taken away for this reason. We hope that the power that we felt here during our meeting may bring about peace and life in the world”.

See in the document archive: “Being Christians in a post-Church society” (official report of the Swiss working group)

Source: miteinander-wie-sonst.ch

Photo: Fokolar-Bewegung Schweiz; Dialoghotel Eckstein

 

Prayer for Peace

Prayer for Peace

Journeying with young people toward May 9

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

Bearing witness to reconciled diversity 

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

Young people, builders of a better future

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

Prayer journey towards 9th May

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

All prepared prayers can be found in the document archive.

Ilona Tóth

1 Prayer For Peace TfE 27 March - 2 April 2022 Ukraine21 March 2022
1 Prayer For Peace TfE 27 March - 2 April 2022 Ukraine Original Language21 March 2022
2 Prayer For Peace TfE 3 - 9 April 2022 Ireland21 March 2022
3 Prayer For Peace TfE 10 - 16 April 2022 Czech Republic21 March 2022
4 Prayer For Peace TfE 17 - 23 April 2022 Croatia21 March 2022
5 Prayer For Peace TfE 24 - 30 April 2022 Romania21 March 2022
6 Prayer For Peace TfE 1 - 8 May 2022 Slovenia21 March 2022
My peace I give to you

My peace I give to you

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (John 14:27)

“Let’s keep on praying!” “Let’s remain united in prayer!” “Shalom Ukraine!” These were some of the moving salutations that many persons shared following the prayers held on 2nd March for peace in Ukraine.

People from more than 1,000 places joined the brothers and sisters of Ukraine in prayer through a digital communication link. They connected from Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, France, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy and Israel.

The relationship was mutual: the latter shared their experiences and fears, but also the courage of the brothers and sisters in Kiev, Lviv and other regions of Ukraine – and, at the same time, their European brothers and sisters joined them in prayer to show them and clearly state: You are not alone, and may God grant us peace!

The invitation for this virtual prayer ‘meeting’ was issued by the network Together for Europe. However, it was immediately clear that these prayers had to be held on a wider base. In fact, many other networks joined in and took an active part; one such network was the Evangelische Allianz Deutschland that made available the digital platform.

During the prayer ‘meeting’, there were various inputs from Ukraine and Russia; once again, it was important to listen and to beseech God’s mercy, because only this can make up for our lack of words.

The words spoken were essential and the shared experiences quite impressive. Miroslav e Viktor strongly pointed out that what their Country needed was the wisdom of Nehemiah (See Book of Nehemiah Ch. 1-6). In one hand he held the defence weapon, while in the other he rebuilt the city. They both sustained that the war in Ukraine has awakened the body of God from its sleep – it was awakened to the reality of God in a battle that is concrete as well as spiritual.

These phrases were saturated with experience. They were illustrated with stories of the families that they both had to take to a safe place, and, while worrying about them, they opted to remain in Ukraine. They spoke about their experiences of responding to attack warnings; indeed, such warnings sounded while they were praying, and this meant that several brothers and sisters had to leave the prayer meeting and find some shelter. They made us aware that other brothers and sisters were at the moment fleeing or crowded in bunkers – or that they did not dare anymore use internet; or simply, words fail them when it comes to describe what they are going through.

Aware of this reality, a lot of persons joined in prayer in the name of Jesus; they prayed a moving bidding prayer together with the brothers and sisters in Ukraine and shared their worries also with the chat. It was a wave of powerful prayer. Together for Europe became a concrete and powerful reality.

At the end, the appeal was a clear one: let’s keep on praying! And: in keeping on praying we are all strengthened, because, after all, prayer benefits all of us.

The friends from Austria immediately accepted this invitation:

On Wednesday 9 March from 19-20.30 (CET).

we will continue to pray in a digital meeting (in German and English).

Sr. Nicole Grochowina

Photo: unsplash.com

Step by Step – Encounter by Encounter

Step by Step – Encounter by Encounter

The coming together of groups and charisms stimulates a new form of Church

Something great, beautiful, undiscovered lies in every charismatic break-up. The initiative group of German-speaking Schoenstatters of Together for Europe became aware of this during the weekend of February 19-20, 2022, in Augsburg and Munich. They dared to knock on doors and entered into encounters with generations and charisms.

On Friday afternoon we met in the Prayer-House in Augsburg. The prayer room on the second floor is flooded with light and bright, centered towards a small wooden cross hanging from the ceiling in front of a white background. In the front, the band with well-chosen voices is singing antiphons of the first two verses of Psalm 50 and their alternate singing moves into a deepening conversation about these Bible verses – enlightening and leading to inner worship.

On Saturday afternoon we were at the Schoenstatt Centre in Munich. 4 young adults from YMCA Munich and the Focolare Movement came along with experienced people from the same movements, who discovered their life’s theme in Together for Europe.

Our goals: We pay attention to the intuition of the young adults present / We meet different generations and charisms / We share faithful interpretations of our encounter. Our finding: Together for Europe is a promise that allows us to discover a new design of Church. Each of these movements is a light inflamed by the Holy Spirit. If they step up to each other, an undiscovered land becomes visible, a Church that builds itself from churches, step by step, encounter by encounter.

On Sunday, in the rooms and during the church service of the Christian church “Vineyard Munich”, we witnessed people telling their stories of how God is acting concretely in their lives. How beautiful to know that every Sunday Christians are getting in contact with the God of life.

The pact of mutual love can be concretized in reaching out to groups and charisms that are strange to us, who are searching for God in their lives. The pact can be of central help in jointly grasping a new form of Church.

P. Hans-Martin Samietz

Photo: Gebetshaus.org / schoenstatt-muenchen.de

Hopeful Initiatives

Hopeful Initiatives

Great preoccupations for peace: Europe prays and keeps on hoping

Many initiatives of prayer imploring peace are multiplying all over the Continent, starting from the Countries that are directly involved.

Our network Together for Europe, too, has rallied in this sense and has adhered to this great current of prayer for peace.

We would like to point out this initiative: an evening during which we can meet, understand better and pray. We will be linked to some Ukrainian brothers and sisters, to listen to them and pray together for peace (in German and English)

Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 7 p.m. – 8.30 p.m. (CET) via Zoom

(One needs to register at this address: mfe2021@web.de)

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Ilona Toth 

Cultivating the culture of the encounter

Cultivating the culture of the encounter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porto will surely be a step forward.

Beatriz Lauenroth

 

 

David M. Sassoli

David M. Sassoli

A great friend of Together for Europe passes away

As an MEP, David M. Sassoli took part in the prayer Vigil, which was held at the Basilica dei SS Apostoli (Rome) on March 24, 2017, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty (read the interview >>). In July 2020, as President of the European Parliament, he sent his appreciation for our initiative for May 9. Here we want to make known his meaningful and encouraging letter.

We are deeply grateful to him for his strong political commitment, characterised by deeply Christian values, and express our great appreciation. We sincerely hope that his example and the legacy of his determined commitment to politics and society will live on in the future.

2020 07 09 Letter Of David Maria Sassoli To TfE (3.0 MB, 24 downloads)
The invisible green pass

The invisible green pass

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

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

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

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

The much-awaited 6th November ZOOM Meeting based in Castel Gandolfo was open on the whole of Europe. After a few minutes of meditation and prayers, we set upon a journey that took us from East to West, and from North to South of our Continent. We listened to persons with the ‘green pass’ of Togetherness sharing how they helped others in their material and spiritual needs, thus sowing hope around them. These contributions provided a framework for two keynote speeches: by Gerhard Pross >>, Moderator of Together for Europe, and by Margaret Karram >>. The evening prayers, which were prepared by several persons, were conducted in four languages and reached a climax with the ‘pact of mutual love’, according to John 13, 34, which was renewed in many languages.

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

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

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

Ilona Tóth

Polarization and reconciled diversity

Polarization and reconciled diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cornelia K. Brand

Photo: Pixabay / Canva

 

 

Co-founders of a modern Europe

Co-founders of a modern Europe

The European Conference on the future of the Continent

How can one bring together 446 million persons for an exchange of ideas? The European Commission and the European Parliament have launched a digital platform to allow communication between those living in Europe. The aim of the Conference is to formulate by 2022 new responses for the future of Europe and to trace the next steps toward European integration.

This Conference is a sign of the times. The future of Europe does not depend solely on politicians; indeed, more than ever before, it depends upon the responsibility of each person.

The dialogue between European citizens started on 19 April 2021 on the online platform futureu.europa.eu. All inputs are being collected, evaluated and published in 24 official languages. This applies also for discussions regarding reform proposals.

The topics are divided into 10 categories:

  • Climate change and the environment
  • Health
  • A stronger economy, social justice and employment
  • The EU in the world
  • Values and rights, rule of law, security
  • Digital transformation
  • European democracy
  • Migration
  • Education, culture, youth and sport
  • Other ideas

The Conference will go on till Spring of 2022, when a commission will synthesize the final results in a report and examines how they can be put into practice in a concrete manner.

Together for Europe invites you to participate in the Conference either as a private person, or as a group in a city or as a national Committee. In this way we can put forward ideas, desires and concrete proposals for the future of Europe based on the experience of Together, which is rich in Christian values.

For further information: futureu.europa.eu

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Pixabay.com

Dreams and visions

Dreams and visions

This is what the students of a Roman college had to say regarding the future of the Continent: active citizenship in Europe starts with education!

That’s quite true, and easily shown through facts! “Your elders shall have dreams, and your young people shall have visions” (Joel 3,1). When teachers offer stimuli, present ideals and reveal prospectives, young people are able to respond with enthusiasm, perspicacity and creativity. This is the case of the students of the Augusto College in Rome and their teacher Maria Paola Aloi (who supports Together for Europe).

While involved in a project regarding active citizenship in the European Union, they have identified and carefully analyzed several hot issues with the aim of putting forward solutions. Listening to a piece of classical music, the young people saw in it the metaphor of harmony in diversity in a European context, which is a shared symphony. Through a play about a girl on a boat moving toward the unknown, they censured the on-going terrible tragedies on our seas.

While delving into the myth of Europe, they recognized the roots of a culture that, in its DNA, has hospitality and the welcoming of those travelling or migrating. Using an imaginary videogame entitled ‘The Game’, they facilitated a reflection about the migrants moving along the Baltic Route. They have shown great clearness of mind when they wrote a fictitious letter to David M. Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, in which they outlined a strategic plan regarding the ‘humanitarian corridor’ based on: Prevention, Rescue, and Welcome.

These initiatives were among those held in other colleges on May 10 to celebrate the Feast of Europe. Then they were shared on June 3 during a meeting on the platform Meet; taking part were members of the Italian network of Together for Europe (8 Italian cities; 6 Movements that adhere to Together for Europe). Irene Loffredo (Focolare), a young woman from Pozzuoli (Naples), spoke on behalf of a group that provides voluntary service at a local prison. The group is made up of members of diverse Movements and Churches. Their endeavour brought about enhanced humanization and changes. Aldo Bernabei (Followers of St Catherine) expounded the plans of the EU regarding the Erasmus project and the European Corps of Solidarity: the latter will see about 270,000 young people involved in activities of solidarity in the next few years.

We now hope to be able to propose this initiative to schools in other cities; we intend to contact teachers and to propose twinning of classes. Moreover, we will offer the help of those involved in this experience.

The European Offices in Milan and Rome were informed about this initiative. They jointly expressed their congratulations for the great commitment and care shown in the various projects that were carried out.

Dolores Librale and Ada Maria Guazzo

Photo: Pixabay

Knowing each other to enhance mutual love

Knowing each other to enhance mutual love

Europe Day 2021 – an online journey

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

EUROPE NEEDS COHESION, HOPE AND INSPIRATION

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

Click here to watch the event>>

DIALOGUE – THE READINESS TO WELCOME THE OTHER

About 200 European citizens from Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Austria were connected to Graz for a ZOOM meeting. Dr. Petra Steinmair-Pösel, Professor at the Innsbruck (Austria) University, spoke about the importance of dialogue for Europe. She insisted that dialogue is neither a discussion nor a debate, but the readiness to welcome the other. “Dialogue brings us together. From us [Christians] humanity expects compassion and solutions for the problems linked to migration, the ecology and the crisis of meaning”. From where do we start? “From each one of us: by listening and respecting the others who are different from me and, above all, to learn from them”. Click here to download the complete text>> 20210507 TfE Graz_Text Steinmair-Pösl

EUROPEANS OUGHT TO SHOW MORE SELF-ESTEEM

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

Click here for the complete recording>>

A DIALOGUE BASED ON THE ENCYCLICAL ‘FRATELLI TUTTI’

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

Click here to watch the event>>

EUROPE – HOME FOR THE DIGITAL NOMANDS OF THE Y GENERATION

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Ursula Haaf (©Together for Europe)

A strong sign of hope during the Pandemic

A strong sign of hope during the Pandemic

Toward Europe Day 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collected by Beatriz Lauenroth

Who cares!

Who cares!

The response of European young people

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ilona Toth

Download the flyer

Who Cares 8 May Invite Link (199.8 KB, 95 downloads)
The Czech Republic prays

The Czech Republic prays

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

This is a novena that is being held

between April 29 and May 7

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

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

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

The local group of Together for Europe

 

Europe: reasons to hope

Europe: reasons to hope

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

Europe: what makes us hope?”

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

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

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

Information/Registration: Ensemble pour l’Europe France

Leaflet (in French) can be downloaded from here:

Affiche Europe 2021 - Conférence Online - Avec Liens (521.1 KB, 78 downloads)

Press release (in French) can be downloaded from here:

6 Mai 2021 J D Giuliani Conférence Online Communiqué (627.7 KB, 80 downloads)

Together for Europe, France

 

An event in the Chapel for Europe

An event in the Chapel for Europe

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

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

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

The theme will be “Unity and Reconciliation”.

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

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

The third part will be spent in prayer.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: Wikipedia, author: ©Fabre

Italy in action

Italy in action

For the Earth and for Mankind

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

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

  • Key note speech by Luigino Bruni, Professor of political economy at LUMSA, Rome: “From an integral ecology toward an economy of solidarity”
  • Contributors: Jonut Radu (Romanian Orthodox), Mgr Marco Gnavi, Pastor Luca Maria Negro
  • Lived out experiences regarding “For the Earth and for Mankind’

Giuseppe Del Coiro on behalf of the Italian National Team

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

Flyer Italy ED 2021

Festa Europa 9 Maggio 2021 ITALIA (187.6 KB, 70 downloads)

Being at the service of persons through law

TOGETHER IN THE REGION OF STUTTGARD

Meetings for the region – getting to know each other – prayers for Europe

Online: Friday May 7, 2021, at 7.30 p.m.

 

Flyer Stuttgart ED 2021

You can download the leaflet (in German) which carries further details and where to apply here:

2021-03-15 Flyer MfE Stuttgart (3.4 MB, 92 downloads)

9th of May in the Netherlands

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

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

 

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth, Dutch MfE Team

Faithfulness to the future

Faithfulness to the future

Christmas is round the corner. This year’s will be extraordinary under many aspects, because humanity is still dealing with COVID-19. On March 27, 2020, in an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has prayed in St Pater’s Square for the end of this pandemic. The words of the Bishop of Rome seem to be relevant as never before.  

Herbert Lauenroth, a member of the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe, wrote an empathetic introduction to the Pope’s words for the prayer session during the meeting of the ‘Friends of TfE which was held on November 14, 2020. His perspective leads us to “consolidate our own interiority […] without, however, closing ourselves inside our own home or our own identity”.  (The complete text of the prayer, with the intercessions, can be downloaded from the bottom of the page).

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The Lord is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made (Ps 145, 8-9). The words of the psalmist lead us into this space of God; a God who wants to be recognized and implored in all his passion, his com-passion, patience and mercy, in the fidelity of his love – a Creator of all his creatures and of all creation – , which is always a ‘faithful creativity”, a “faithfulness in the future”.

Let us stand around that frail man, clothed in white, who looks somewhat lost in that immense St Peter’s Square, which was completely empty, under an insistent rain that came down on that Friday evening of March 27. Together with him let us look at the “Eternal City”, which, albeit marvellous, seems empty, abandoned, and closed in its historical sites, in its monuments, mausoleums, museums, homes, palaces, places of worship, streets and squares. All empty. Let’s stand around that one man clothed in white, whom we recognize as to be the Bishop of Rome, and therefore, our brother; that evening, however, he was also: a shepherd without his flock, “a last man standing”. Together with him, let’s give visibility to communion in Christ; together with him, let’s beseech the Real Presence of the Lord: in the midst of our communities, the various denominations, nations and as members of ethnic and cultural realities; in our midst, in the midst of humanity, and by doing so, let us, together with Pope Francis bless” –“urbi et orbi” – the city of Rome and all the cities, our Countries and the whole of Europe, a Europe that is concerned with the entire world.

Yes, let us stand around the Bishop of Rome, whom we recognize as our brother, and pushed by the COVID-19 experience, let us give visibility to the Christian Community, a community that in this time of pandemic is characterized as an experience of a Co-Immunity; a communion that comes about – paradoxically – from the regulations and experiences of “social distancing”. At a time of enhanced global communion, this crisis brutally reminds us of the necessity to consolidate our interiority, our belonging to our own Church, family, vocation and personal history – without, however, closing ourselves inside our own homes or in our own identity. It is only thus that we can rediscover our true roots, our common belonging: that of being brothers and sisters, all equal for the fact that we are unique, intimately linked and yet completely distinct from each other: we are all brothers and sisters – in Christ!

Let us, therefore, gather around as a praying community so as to resound the words of Pope Francis, and to give them meaning and efficiency; words addressed to God, in the name of the people of God, through Jesus, through Jesus in our midst, through Jesus forsaken by the Father, whose mercy and com-passion were highlighted by the words of the psalmist.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The Lord is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made (Ps 145, 8-9).

2020 11 14 TfE Prayer in the evening_Herbert Lauenroth (675.8 KB, 44 downloads)
Some French Initiatives

Some French Initiatives

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

Strasbourg

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

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

Lyons

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

Paris

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

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

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

At national level

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

The National Group of TfE in France

Charisms in the face of Coronavirus

Charisms in the face of Coronavirus

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

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

 

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

Here you can download the texts of the various contributions:

2020 11 14 1 Corona encounters the Charism - Introduction18 December 2020
2020 11 14 2 Contribution of Community Sant'Egidio18 December 2020
2020 11 14 3 Contribution of Schoenstatt Movement18 December 2020
2020 11 14 4 Contribution of Focolare Movement18 December 2020
2020 11 14 5 Contribution of prayer network Germany18 December 2020
2020 11 14 6 Contribution of Efesia18 December 2020
2020 11 14 7 Conclusion after the contributions on Charisms18 December 2020

International Secretariat of TfE

Online, and yet, fully analogical

Online, and yet, fully analogical

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Secretariat of TfE

Graphic: ©Together4Europe

 

Looking at “the score” from Above

“The music score is written in heaven; let us listen together to the Holy Spirit and then let us do what he says”. This is how Chiara Lubich defined precisely the beginning of Together for Europe (TfE). The initiators of TfE dedicated themselves unreservedly to this program. Some have already reached their final destination: Chiara Lubich (1920-2008) and Helmut Nicklas (1939-2007). Recently they were joined by Sr Anna Maria aus der Wiesche (1952-2020) and last year by Fr Michael Marmann (1937-2019).

They were persons who were so deeply rooted in their respective Church and Community that they could trustily allow the Holy Spirit to guide them into the vastness of Together for Europe. Indeed, TfE knows its existence and achievement to their courageous witnessing, trust and farsightedness.

Sr ANNA MARIA AUS DER WIESCHE, Communität Christusbruderschaft Selbitz  was a woman who, albeit sweet, was indomitable, determined and prophetically gifted [1]

Gerhard Pross, a member of the Steering Committee of TfE, writes:

Sr Anna Maria left us on August 31, 2020. It is with profound gratitude that I look back on her contribution, which lasted 20 years, toward the moulding of TfE. In the year 2000, in Germany, together with Thomas Roemer and myself, she chaired a “Meeting of Evangelical leaders”; on that occasion, Chiara Lubich and Bishop Ulrich Wilckens facilitated the great event of reconciliation between the various Confessions. Besides its birth on October 31, 1999 at Ottmaring, this was a fundamental stage for TfE and for its mission of unity. Since the very beginning, Sr Anna Maria was part of the Steering Committee of TfE; together with others she chaired the great Congresses held in Stuttgart in 2004 and 2007, as well as the reconciliation gathering between the Churches during the Munich event in 2016.

She possessed an innate aptitude for leadership. Apart from a clear vision and the capacity to integrate, she also had a well-defined spiritual vision. One of her gifts was the love of persons: she made her closeness felt to individuals, while, at the same time, she was aware of the bigger picture. Her thoughts and actions were moulded by her donation to God, her love for the Church and a life spent for unity. She discerned the signs of the times very carefully and she was always ready to welcome the common listening of what was important at that moment. Her positive outlook on life, her joy and her laughter were contagious. Sr Anna Maria leaves behind a great void. Let us keep her in our heart as a sign of our gratitude for all that we received through her.

Fr MICHAEL MARMANN – a man of communion, strong and free [2]

 Just before the first great manifestation of TfE in Stuttgart in 2004, Fr Marmann stated: “We feel that this process in action in Europe is a clear sign of times. And the signs of times are God’s voices. Christianity cannot be solely a religious superstructure: it has to embrace the whole person”. In 1991, he was elected Superior General of the Schoenstatt Fathers, and, at the same time, he was also president of the General Presidium of the Movement. In this capacity, he was a pioneer of ecumenical openness and communion between Movements of diverse Churches. “He had a natural openness for an enhanced communion between spiritual Movements, especially in the network ‘Together for Europe’ (…). He was strongly convinced that the unity of the Churches and their reawakening is a decisive condition for a new vital bond between the autonomous and fragmented world and its infinite origin.[3]

In him, Fr Heinrich Walter, saw a ‘prophetic’ attention and sympathy; “by ‘prophetic’ I mean a response to today’s challenges that goes beyond expectations, brings about synergies and triggers off un-hoped for processes[4]This happened even after the Pentecost vigil with John Paul II in St Peter’s square in 1998: Fr Michael immediately joined Chiara Lubich, Andrea Riccardi, Salvatore Martinez and Frances Ruppert (Cursillos de Cristiandad) to form the first nucleus of communion that the Pope wished to see between New Movements and Communities. The following year, the circle was enlarged with the members of the Communities of the Lutheran Evangelical Church: and ‘Together for…’ was born!

In 2001, a meeting was held in Munich to update the members of the Movements about the strong experience that their leaders had done. In front of 5000 persons, Chiara proposed to the audience to seal a pact of mutual love. The first to agree were Helmut Nicklas and Fr Michael Marmann. This ‘pact’ has become the basis of all that has been achieved since then through a common commitment. Thank you Father Michael!

For more information see the Video Story >>

Compiled by Cornelia Karola Brand, international secretariat of TfE

[1] From the letter of condolences of Herbert Lauenroth, Ottmaring
[2] cfr. Ekklesia, n.4 (2019/3), S.51-53
[3] Obituary by Fr Theo Breitinger, Provincial of the Schoenstatt Fathers, February 2019.
[4] cfr. Ekklesia, n.4 (2019/3), S.51-53

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

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

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

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

Preparatory national meetings

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

Looking ahead at 2021

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

International secretariat of TfE

 

Political projects need to be spiritually nurtured

Political projects need to be spiritually nurtured

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

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

Fighting selfish egoistic and nationalistic temptations

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

Encouragement for future steps

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

Heinrich Brehm / Beatriz Lauenroth

Attached: the original letter

Letter Of The President Of European Parliament David Maria Sassoli To TfE 2020 07 09 (3.0 MB)

 

 

Crossing Europe in one day

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

Italy

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

The Netherlands

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

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

Austria and Eastern Europe

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

Germany

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

France

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

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

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

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

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

The preparation

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

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

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

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

Toward an integral ecology

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

Ecumenical prayer

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

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

An International Link-up on the Feast of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plans for May 8, 2021…

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

The Together for Europe Team, Austria.

 

A special event

A special event

Europe Day 2020 and Pope Francis 

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

May 9, Europe Day

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

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

Letter from Pope Francis

All our events linked to May 9 have a papal blessing. Indeed, Pope Francis, on 22 April, sent a letter to the Secretariat of Together for Europe in Rome in which, after thanking us for our letter of April 12, he encouraged in the service to the common good, inspired by values of solidarity, peace and justice. He pray for us and he warmly sents his apostolic blessing to all of us. The letter, which has been translated into 4 languages, can be downloaded in English in documents.

Sr. Nicole Grochowina, Christusbruderschaft Selbitz

Photo Pope Francis: Pixabay/Manfred Kindlinger

 

Young people, be responsible

Young people, be responsible

Europe for the future – Future for Europe. František Talíř is 27; when he speaks about democracy and reforms, his enthusiasm is contagious.  

“Since 1989, we have experienced the freshness of democracy and freedom even in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Joining the EU as well as travelling and working in other Countries bear witness to this. It must be borne in mind, nevertheless, that the Countries that used to form part of the Eastern Block have a different mentality and culture than that of the Western European ones. Co-habitation is still marked by tensions, and, now, Covid-19 has shown that our privileges are not that evident”.

František is a historian and much involved in politics. At the last elections, his party chose him as a candidate for the European Parliament in Brussels, and in the next regional elections he will be the main candidate for the Christian Democratic Union of Slovakia.

“Above all, we young people ought to be interested in what happens in Europe and in the world, and then take initiatives, for example, to vote or to be active in a political party. It’s not democracy that needs to be changed, but the persons who shape democracy”. According to František, the journey is a long one; however, what is important is to start with one’s self, and not try unloading one’s responsibility on others. “I do not subscribe to all that Fridays for Future entails. Nevertheless, the young people succeeded to highlight a problem and to elicit a reaction from persons of all generations”.

František Talíř invites all persons to be aware of their roots in order to give a future to Europe. “I’ve read what the Father Founders of Europe wrote. Adenauer, De Gasperi and Schuman faced by far greater difficulties following the Second World War than the ones we are facing today. And yet, together, they did great things”.

Beatriz Lauenroth

František Talíř took part in the meeting of  ‘Friends ofTogether for Europe’ that was held in Prague in 2018.

The entire interview of František Talíř with Maria Motykova is available (In Czech, Slovak and German) on: Podcast Europa per il futuro – Futuro per l’Europa

 

 

An epochal challenge for Europe

An epochal challenge for Europe

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

 

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

Being Together Online – a virtual, yet real, network

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

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

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

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

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

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

The International Secretariat of Together for Europe

 

Graz – ‘Plan B’ for the Europe Day 2020

Graz – ‘Plan B’ for the Europe Day 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Team of TfE in Austria

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

Following in the Founding Fathers’ footsteps

Following in the Founding Fathers’ footsteps

23 February 2020: Intergenerational Day in Brussels. 51 European citizens  – young and old – members of two diverse Communities, which are part of the network Together for Europe, share a “discovery tour” of significant places.

Agnès Grenier writes from Brussels:

“During the Ottmaring meeting that marked the 20th anniversary of Together for Europe, I came to know Pierpaolo of the Pope John XXIII Community. Pierpaolo has recently asked me to help organize a guided visit to our city for a group of 51 young and older persons from all Europe. Philippe and I, members of the Focolare Movement, immediately accepted to act as guides. In spite of the rainy and cold weather, we did our best to help our new friends discover some aspects of the European realities present in the Belgian Capital City.

For example, in the Parlamentarium we could follow the various stages of the integration of Europe; we also saw how the European Parliament functions and understood better the work that the MEPs carry out to face today’s challenges. We were all struck by the complexity of this structure and we understood how great and fundamental the intuition of the Founding Father of the European Union was to build new relationships of collaboration and trust between the various European Nations.

We then visited the Grande Place/Grote Markt, the historical City centre of Brussels. For many centuries it was the venue of political meetings, court sittings, cultural and religious festival, and even where capital punishments were carried out.

At the end of the day we felt enriched with so much history. Above all, however, we felt that the bonds that link the Focolare Movement and the Pope John XXIII Community have been strengthened: we felt as if we were one family. Together, we have enlivened a small expression of the European Union!”

Beatriz Lauenroth

Photo: ©Matteo Santini; Photo Planetarium: Wikipedia

Schönstatt visits the International Centre  of the Focolare Movement

Schönstatt visits the International Centre of the Focolare Movement

Some time ago, before the covid-19 emergency, leaders of the Schönstatt Movement coming from seven European Countries have visited the International Centre of the Focolare Movement in Rocca di Papa, near Rome. They came from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The group was accompanied by Fr Heinrich Walter, a former president of the General Presidium of Schönstatt and a member of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe.

The main objective of the visit was to “encounter Chiara Lubich”: they visited the places where she had lived and they also prayed at her tomb. Another objective was to hold a dialogue with some leaders at the Focolare Centre; one of these was Jesús Morán, the Co-president. They discussed the role of the Movements and their charisms in a context of ecclesial, political and cultural transformations in Europe. They also looked at the importance of the communion between the Movements, especially as part of the ecumenical network Together for Europe.

Both groups shared the view that the meeting and the dialogue were cordial, precious and fruitful. Obviously, this was yet another step forward in the long journey of communion and collaboration that Schönstatt and the Focolare have shared since Pentecost Eve of 1998 in St Peter’s Square, Rome, during the meeting for New Movements and Communities organized by John Paul II.

Diego Goller

 

STOP!

STOP!

Encountering Chiara Lubich to celebrate her birth centenary

Recently a famous economist said: “all of a sudden, a common evil taught us what common good really is”. These few words express a great truth, which reminds me of another: “… a thing is better understood when compared to its opposite”. In fact, while we bow our heads in prayer for the dead, the sick and for those, unknown to us, who work in silence in the hospitals and in the key places of our cities, we timidly lift our gaze toward heaven, aware of a certainty: that we are living in a time of grace. If the coronavirus were able to speak, it would tell us: “… stop, keep still, I’m here to help you...”

This ‘stop’ was the last thing that the organizers of the Chiara Lubich’s Centenary expected to happen this year, 100 years since the birth of the Foundress of the Focolare Movement. In fact, in Italy and in many other Countries in the five continents, thousands were expected to come together to mark this Centenary.  These participants would have been young and old, politicians and ecclesiastics, and people speaking different languages and having diverse cultures. They would have come together to celebrate, and above all, to encounter Chiara, who is still alive in her great Ideal: unity, reflecting Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “that all may be one” (Jn 17, 21).

Therefore, all public manifestations are on hold, for now. Maria Voce, the President of the Focolare Movement, in a video message from her quarantine at home, said: “This stop will last for days, weeks or even months…, no one really knows. But it will eventually end. If we live this period well, we will rediscover a strong presence of Jesus by living out the Gospel, in loving our brothers and sisters, in Jesus in our midst, which we can keep even at a distance in our big Family. And above all, in loving sufferings, in which we recognize Jesus Forsaken – ‘Chiara’s God’, as the Bishop of Trent likes to define Him. In Him, we encounter her too, and we start looking at every situation with her eyes. We, too, may experience what Chiara and her first companions experienced: they were not aware of the raging war or when it ended, because God and his Love completely enveloped them, and while they lived this reality, nothing else mattered. All this was the result of a new faith in the love of God”.

Maria Voce received several appreciations. Gerhard Pross (CVJM Esslingen/Germany), one of the founders, and the present moderator of Together for Europe, among other things, wrote:

Chiara Lubich was an exceptional grace of God not only for you, but for all the people of God and the entire humanity. Encountering her was something special and, thanks to the charism, she not only had the gift to found a spiritual Movement, but also to trigger off many founding and innovative impulses. […] She was the one who invited us to start the journey of Together, which started with the meeting for leaders (February 2000) and continued with “Together, otherwise, how?” (December 8, 2001) held in Munich and this led to Together for Europe that was held in Stuttgart in May 2004. In the Steering Committee, she was undoubtedly the ‘primus inter pares’; she led us forward with love and a clear vision. Together for Europe is the fruit of her love, her lucidity and her determination. […] I’m grateful for the great gift of having made her acquaintance and for having journeyed with her. When one encountered her one encountered love. In my many meetings with her I was always struck by the way she radiated Jesus Christ. She was completely at His disposal”.

The Schoenstatt Movement, too, was part of our ecumenical network from the outset. This is what the present Superior General, Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio, together with his predecessor, Fr Heinrich Walter, wrote:

“Her great contribution in this historical era is that of having always sought unity. She drew her strength from the love of the Lord and from reciprocal love, and succeeded in establishing concrete signs of unity. Little by little, this vital process gives rise everywhere to a new culture – a culture that is not meant only for Christians, but one that is addressed to all persons of good will. Her contribution is also exceptional because it flowed from the heart of a woman who had no power or ministry, and never aspired of having any. This is an indication of how, in the future, the Church may become more ‘salt and leaven’ for the entire humanity”.

Thus, our meetings are on hold. Indeed, looking Chiara in the eyes, we can join the Coordination Team of Together for Europe in Austria, and tell her: “Dearest Chiara, We want to commit ourselves to promote Together for Europe! In this Network we discern the greatness of your Dream – by listening to God, we meet, we are reconciled and we can build a world Community”.

This ‘stop’ and the exterior silence will lead us to the interior silence. Will it make us understand – as individuals, peoples and nations – what needs to be changed once this immense, world-wide – but perhaps blessed – tempest has passed?

We join Gerhard Pross in auguring: “May this time brings about a new openness to the faith in Europe. And may we, as Christians, witness our faith through our courageous living”.

Ilona Toth

Photo: Chiara Lubich with Maria Voce ©CSC Audiovisivi; Photo Chiara Lubich with Gerhard Pross / with Fr Heinrich Walter ©Severin Schmid; Logo Centenary Chiara Lubich ©Focolare Movement

 

Contagious creativity is stronger than the virus

Contagious creativity is stronger than the virus

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

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

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

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

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

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

A young Irishman’s impressions

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

Christian Churches and Movements unite to be Together for Europe

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

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

What does togetherness look like?

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

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

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

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

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

4what?

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

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

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

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

Seeds of a new season from Augsburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information about the conference click here>>

The International Secretariat of Together for Europe

“It was like Easter”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Beatriz Lauenroth

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

 

 

Anniversary celebration in Augsburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Conference day in Ottmaring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europe’s splendour is its people

Preparing the ground for reconciliation.

Walter Kriechbaum is an Evangelical Pastor and secretary of the YMCA of Bavaria. He has a soft spot for Europe and takes reconciliation seriously. To this end he has established friendships even in Poland and Ukraine within the international and ecumenical network Together for Europe

As a German, in my travels in Eastern Europe I’m often reminded of the historical cruelties. Once, while in the company of Polish friends, I found myself speechless at Lutsk (Ukraine), the place that commemorates the thousands of Poles that were mercilessly murdered. The same thing happened in a cemetery in the middle of one of the greatest battle fields of World War Two. All of a sudden, my friends asked me, a German and a member of the Evangelical Church, to pray upon the dead and ask for forgiveness and peace for our peoples of Europe”. Walter Kriechbaum experienced that living reconciliation together may entail, among other things, journeying with others along the pathway of affliction, taking upon oneself the sufferings of the others. Ecumenical reconciliation entails evaluating the gifts of the others and creating space for their development. Walter considers the suffering of an incomplete unity as a seed for the future.

Reconciliation does not require proportional representation

Munich 2016: During an ecumenical prayer meeting for the unity of Europe organized by Poles and Germans together, some twenty Russians entered the church unexpectedly. Water was leading the prayers together with a Polish friend, and for an instant was at a loss how to manage the new situation. Then he asked one from the Russian group to come forward and pronounce a prayer. At the end the participants – Catholics, Protestants, members of the Free Churches and Russian Orthodox – received a blessing from a Polish priest of the Schoenstatt Movement. Walter: “I learned that ecumenical reconciliation does not require either proportionality or deciding who is right. Jesus Christ dwells in the other’s heart and in a fantastic way he transforms diversity into a complementary, without any cancellations”.

Reconciliation requires trust

During his many travels in Eastern Europe Walter continues to weave a friendship net:  “This, however, demands patience and perseverance. Sometimes it takes years to eliminate distrust. I have understood that the ecumenical experience “in the periphery” means feeling close and far away at the same time, and to be able to tolerate tension. When all of us turn our gaze upon Jesus, an interior closeness slowly develops. This cannot be forced; it is God’s work”. Walter is convinced that the mutual trust that ensues allows persons to speak freely and to experience an interior freedom.

Reconciliation requires that we be detached

According to Walter “reconciliation and ecumenical harmony cannot be organized. We ought to be detached all the time, and keep on entering into the Kairos of God. Only he knows the right time”. Nevertheless, we may prepare for this. “Together we will succeed to make Europe to shine. Its splendour is its people that are journeying toward reconciliation”.  Walter is convinced of this and lives for it – starting anew each day.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Together for Europe turns 20!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The vocation of Ottmaring

VIDEO – INTERVIEW  

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

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

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

 

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

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

The report is by journalist Claudia Di Lorenzi

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

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

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

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

Read the full interview>>

Photo: ©Thomas Klann

Europe Day, People’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ada Maria Guazzo, Ilona Toth

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

Slovenia is getting ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Carinthia, a crossroads of nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the invitation here (available only in German)

KLAGENFURT Europa Einheit In Vielfalt - Flyer_2019 (1.4 MB)

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’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarita and Edgardo Fandino, Bogotá/Columbia

 

Voices from Prague – part 2

Voices from Prague – part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

2° Day TfE at Prague

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heinrich Brehm

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”

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

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

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”

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

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

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

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

Discussion – Dialogue

 

DISCUSSION

 

DIALOGUE

Convincing the other about one’s own point of view Exploring and learning together
Trying to get the other to agree to it Sharing ideas, experiences and feelings
Choosing the best option Integrating different view points
Justifying, defending one’s own motivations In-depth understanding of each party’s arguments
Disproving the other’s idea, defending one’s own position (values, interests) Welcoming and understanding the other
Individual leadership Shared leadership
Partial vision Overall vision, synergy of different ideas
Hierarchical and competitive culture:
Dependence, competition, exclusion
Culture of cooperation, partnership and inclusion
Victory / loss Win-win, all participants gain

 

See Pal Toth in Nuova Umanità, XXXVII (2015/3) 219, p. 320  

Illustration: Walter Kostner ©

Europe – a „revolutionary project“

A short contribution, seen from an historical perspective, to Europe’s religious foundations and their difficulties

„Not only do books have a destiny but terms do too.”  These are the opening words of the extensive History of the West (Geschichte des Westens) published in 2009 by historian Heinrich Winkler.  And although Winkler is specifically unpacking the term “the West”, he simultaneously presents arguments which form a basis for reflecting on Europe.  The fact that terms and their meanings change can either be comforting, threatening or even a sign of hope which is precisely what is currently happening in Europe.  It is therefore worth taking a closer look at his ideas.

Winkler also makes fundamental and noteworthy observations about Europe.  Firstly, he states that Europe is still most strongly characterised by its religious nature.  This might come as a surprise in view of lay and secular developments but secularisation on this scale can only be understood as a reaction to powerful religious influences which were marked by differences according to divine and temporal order right from the start. This is the historical context in which Europe was born even if Europe’s religious history was consequently one of division.

Secondly, Europe has never gone forward in a linear way. Rather than being a story of uninterrupted success, Europe is a story of fractures, destruction, new beginnings and the perennial dream of a single community of shared values. This community first emerged through “transatlantic collaboration” as Winkler calls it for there can be no Declaration of Human and Civil Rights without the 1776 Declaration of Rights. The perspective is therefore broad.

Thirdly, Europe is also characterised by the “contradiction between the normative project and political practice” (Winkler, 21) which is why its revolutionary goal of freedom and equality was not achieved at the same time.  This is ultimately still an ideal today.

What are the consequences?  The consequences are either to abandon the revolutionary project of freedom and equality – or to adhere more strictly to its main features. Winkler argues that Europe can “do nothing better to spread its values than follow them itself and be self-critical about its own history which broadly speaking was a story of its own ideals being violated” (Winkler, 24) and still is. This also means: ad fontes! What are the origins of this dream, this revolutionary project – and how can we pursue the dream today? And do spiritual communities and movements have a special part to play?

Sr. Nicole Grochowina

Dialogue in diversity

The following text has been published to facilitate those who for “Together for Europe Day”, to be held on 9th May, are considering leading a Round Table discussion aimed at opening up dialogue in “diversity”. Examples might include dialogues between East and West, North and South, or dialogues between members of different Churches, or between believers and non-believers, indigenous and refugees etc…

Europe’s diversified composition

To frame the European situation well, it is useful to bear in mind its geopolitical and cultural reality.

Western Europe is mainly a socio-political concept and it specifically identifies the European countries of the “first world”, the result of a multi-century political, economic, and cultural path, different from the Eastern European one. Today, the term Western Europe is also commonly associated with liberal democracy, capitalism, and even with the European Union, despite the latter’s inclusion of Eastern European countries. Most of the countries in the Eastern regions share the very Western culture that seems to be undergoing a crisis today. And there are differences and tensions within the West as well, for example between the North and the South. Or, let us think of the Church of England, which after Brexit will surely not want to leave Europe but intensify its relations with it.

Eastern Europe is rather a geographical concept, an area articulated by different traditions and problems within its borders. Culturally, it can be largely distinguished between Central Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union countries, and religiously speaking, between the Catholic-Protestant and Orthodox spheres, with consequences on thoughts and actions of its peoples. The common denominator are the post-communist conditions characterized by the social and political troubles of a difficult path to democratization. With the extension of the EU to some Eastern countries, new member States are rapidly adapting to the Western economic and legal system, while cultural approaches are much slower.

Building a culture of encounter before anything else

To achieve a fruitful dialogue between East and West, it is necessary to proceed in degrees and not face problems head-on. According to the Together for Europe journey, condensed in 18 years of experience, and densely expressed in the great event in Munich in 2016, it is necessary to shy away from an attitude of criticism and defense, and promote a culture of encounter, mutual acquaintance, and reconciliation.

Over the last few centuries, the East has looked at the West as a cultural and political model and has developed an understanding of what happens in Western countries, while Eastern Europeans often are painfully faced with the Westerners’ lack of knowledge, and the subsequent misunderstandings. Without Westerners acknowledging the values of the East, there can be no equality or reciprocity. So, we need humility, trust, knowledge, and mutual acceptance.

Consequently, I think that, as a first step, we should promote a culture of encounter, create a platform, a “home” where dialogue is possible. At this stage we could also reflect on our cultural traditions and different reasonings, to prepare for constructive dialogue.

Extract from a talk by Pál Tóth “Culture of encounter and the dialogue between Eastern and Western Europe”, Meeting of ‘Friends’ of Together for Europe – Vienna, 10th November 2017

Download the full talk >   

The principles of dialogue

Jesús Morán is the Co-President of the Focolare Movement: Degree in Philosophy, Doctorate in Theology. Here are his stimulating thoughts, condensed into 7 points, to learn the “language of fraternity”

1. Dialogue is always a personal meeting. It is not about words or thoughts, but about giving our being. It is not just conversation but something that intimately affects the participants. Rosenzweig used to say: “Something really happens in authentic dialogue”. In other words: you do not leave a true dialogue unscathed, something changes in us.

2. Dialogue requires silence and listening. Silence is fundamental for sincere thinking and speaking. A deep silence, patiently cultivated in solitude and put into practice in front of others, of their way of thinking and speaking. A Hindu proverb says: «When you speak, make sure that your words are better than your silence». Benedict XVI said that today more than ever we need, “an ecosystem that knows how to balance silence, words, images and sounds”. In the exercise of dialogue we need silence, so as not to destroy the words themselves.

3. In dialogue we put ourselves at risk, our vision of things, our identity, our culture. We must conquer an “open identity”, which is mature, and at the same time based on a fundamental anthropological axiom: “When we understand each other, I understand better who I am”. Paraphrasing an idea of ​​Klaus Hemmerle: if you teach me your thinking, I can learn my way of announcing again.

4. Authentic dialogue has to do with the truth. But beware: truth is a relational reality (not relative, which is different). It means that the truth is the same for everyone, but everyone shares his personal participation and understanding of the truth with others. So the difference is a gift, not a threat. “The gift of difference” is another pillar of the culture of dialogue.

5. Dialogue requires will. Love of the truth leads me to look for it, to want it, and for this reason I open myself up to dialogue. Sometimes it is thought that to dialogue is weak. In reality it is the opposite: only those who have great willpower take the risk of dialogue. Every dogmatic or fundamentalist attitude hides fear and fragility. We must be wary of those who habitually resort to screaming, to using high-powered words or disqualifying sentences to impose their convictions. Brute force, even on a dialectical level, can win, but never convince.

6. Dialogue is only possible between authentic people. Love, altruism and solidarity prepare people for dialogue by making them authentic. Gandhi and Tagore had a very different idea of ​​the educational system to be established in an independent India, but this did not hinder their friendship. Pope Wojtyla and President Pertini had, over a long period, a deep understanding of the destiny of humanity, yet they adhered to almost opposite categories.

7. The culture of dialogue knows only one law, that of reciprocity. Only in this does dialogue find meaning and legitimacy. If nations were to engage in dialogue before the silent killing of revenge or wealth or personal affirmation, we would enjoy the happiness of which we now deprive ourselves. If religions were to dialogue to honour God; if nations respected one another and understood that their wealth is in making the other rich; if everyone went through a “little personal path” of novelty, we could leave behind the night of terror in which we reel. What are the obstacles on such a path? Judgment, condemnation, intellectual pride.

The work to be done is painstaking because of the commitment it requires, avoiding distraction or compromise, but it is full of culture, much more than a profession. It is a tiring and ruthless activity. But Mercy will save us.

Our “Yes” to Europe

Since its inception 18 years ago the mandate of Together for Europe has been to work for the unity of God’s people. The second mandate is the social dimension of Together for Europe. This mandate is presented with a new challenge today in view of the current crisis in Europe, namely to live constructive, long-term “togetherness” in cultural and national diversity in Europe.

Unity is possible

At the Congress of Together for Europe in 2007 Br Franziskus stated that “Unity and diversity have the same origin.” [1]  Piero Coda said something very similar: “If God is Trinity, unity and diversity are not only not a contradiction but also of the very same origin.” [2]  From the very beginning we identified with an image of unity which explicitly acknowledges and affirms the diversity given to us by God. Smoothing over differences endangers identity and can lead to unity in diversity being destroyed in both political and ecclesial circles.

Unity in reconciled diversity

Because of the many divisions between individuals, Churches and peoples, a reconciliation of opposites is needed to reach a reconciled unity in diversity which also applies to cultural diversity. Reconciliation is needed, rather than condemnation and exclusion.  This removes the stumbling blocks along the path towards the future because it removes what poisoned our relationships in the past, so that the stranger, the person who is different is no longer seen a threat but as a gift.  As people reconciled in diversity, we experience the richness of diversity. Jesus in the midst is the one who unites. He gives us strength and hope for unity in reconciled diversity because Jesus Christ has reconciled the world with God.

 “Togetherness” lived as a prophetic sign

Our togetherness in Europe is lived out in practice through our relationships with one another.  We set out towards others.  “Togetherness” in Europe allows new relationships to be formed, fosters reconciliation and builds a future. It allows something of God’s nature to be revealed by bringing about unity.  It is therefore a prophetic sign.

Prayer brings about change

Prayer is part of Together for Europe’s mission. We do not want to deprive this Europe of our prayers.  Prayer brings about change.  It changes us, it changes the atmosphere in our own country and in Europe, it changes people’s hearts.

Our hope and our “Yes” to Europe

We are committed to Europe because we have understood this as God’s mandate for us. We say a decisive “Yes” to a Europe of unity as well as cultural and national diversity thereby revealing to us a positive image of Europe. We commit ourselves to a culture of “togetherness” based on Christian faith.  Our hope for Europe is expressed in 5 “Yeses”.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of reconciliation

A new Europe has emerged from the miracle of reconciliation following the catastrophe of two World Wars.  We receive the power of reconciliation from our Christian faith which enables historical wounds to be healed and leads to “togetherness” in diversity.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of unity in diversity

We recognize that we are enriched by diversity. Multiplicity and diversity have the same roots. Both need to balance each other out.  We are glad about those who are different and their charisms.  This interplay of charisms serves towards the unity of God’s people and the unity of Europe.  We advocate a federal Europe. We treat different backgrounds and perspectives with respect and appreciation.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of encounter, dialogue and peace

Mutual understanding grows from encounters. This is one of our main experiences in Together for Europe.  We say “Yes” to a Europe that seeks dialogue and chooses the path of negotiating for different interests.  The process of the unification of Europe and the EU gave us 70 years of peace within Europe. Anyone who over-emphasizes national interests will evoke the nationalist demons and will lead the way to the destruction of Europe.  Anyone who denies national identity, denies diversity and makes it impossible for a European community to be formed.  We encourage open political dialogue which promotes a peaceful Europe.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of mercy and humanity.

Christianity has shaped the history of Europe. It is a faith that is open to the world. Humanity and mercy flow from Jesus Christ, crucified and forsaken and are shaping the continent and both are manifested in an unconditional “Yes” to life, “Yes” to marriage and family, “Yes” to the poor and needy.

Europe is more than the Euro, more than a market economy. We therefore advocate a Europe based on its Christianity-Judaic heritage where openness towards those who think differently and live by a different faith is the norm. This is how the “soul” of Europe is being strengthened.

We say “Yes” to a Europe which over the course of history has been called by God [3]:

Its mission is to foster the collaboration between heaven and earth, to impregnate the world with faith, because heaven and earth have met in the Crucified One. Our mission for Europe also entails responsibility for Africa and the Middle East.

The living God has entrusted a lot to our “togetherness” which is why we want to publicly express our “Yes” to Europe in our movements.

Gerhard Proß, Meeting of ‘friends’ of TfE, Vienna, November 2017 (abridged version)

 

[1] “Together on the journey” ISBN 978-3-00-022045-6, Br. Franziskus Jöst at the 2007 T4E Congress in Stuttgart, p. 21

[2] Piero Coda in “Christian Culture in one Europe” by Hanspeter Heinz [Hrsg], p. 33

[3] P. Lothar Penners at the European meeting of friends in 2016 in Castel Gandolfo with reference to Pater Kentenich

 

 

Introduction by Gérard Testard

The European Union is an organisation that is often not seen favourably by the public. Politicians not infrequently criticise it, at times in order to defend their own questionable internal politics.

The European Union cannot be said to be without defects (there are many related to standards, complexities, technocracy and detachment from people…).

In spite of this, thanks to the European Union, Europe has lived peacefully for over 70 years. Robert Schuman, one of “founding Fathers of Europe” and at the time the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, launched the European project on 9th May 1950. Schuman was a well-known figure, a practicing Catholic, who showed a deep spiritual life and great moral values. He was the right person at the right time to work towards French-German reconciliation, a ferocious opponent of the spirit of vindication that was primed to remerge. His view in this respect was contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, which put the end to the Great War.

Originally from Lorraine region, born in Luxembourg and brought up in Germany, he maintained his connection to France. He referred to himself as the ‘man of the border’ and had a vision for Europe. He defined his European ideal in a small book written at the end of his life, entitled “For Europe” which was published in 1963, the year of his death. The book contains his talks and describes his European project and his vision of democracy. Below are some quotations which have been taken from this book.

*            *            *

Quotations by Robert Schuman

Europe will not be made all at once, or according to single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. (Declaration of 9th May 1950)

Following quotations are from Schuman’s book «Pour l’Europe»

“The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.”

“Europe before being a military alliance or an economic entity must be a cultural community in the highest sense of expression”.

“Political unity does not signify the absorption of the nation.”

“Who does not dare to stand up to that which is bad, defends badly that which is beautiful.”

“Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. It was born the day that man was called to realise in this temporary life, the dignity of each human person, in his individual liberty in the respect of the rights of each and by the practice of brotherly love to all. Never before Christ had comparable ideas been formulated.”

“Have we taken the wrong path? The result will to a large extent depend on the calibre of people before us, the extent of their honesty, the understanding we can gain of them and of their followers.”

“May from henceforth this idea of a reconciled, united and strong Europe become a watchword for the younger generations desirous of serving a humanity free at last from hate and fear.”

“Europe will acquire her soul in the diversity of its qualities and aspirations. The unity of these essential conceptions can be conciliated with the plurality of traditions and convictions and with the responsibility for personal choices. The present arrangement cannot and should not remain a technical and economic enterprise. It requires a soul, the conscience of its historic affinities and its present and future responsibilities, a political will serving the same human ideal.”

“Borders maintain their raison d’être if they can elevate their function to a spiritual level. Rather than barriers that divide, they should become the lines of contact where material and cultural exchange takes place.”

With regards to his Declaration of 9th May Schuman has stated that he made it because of his belief in Europe’s Christian foundations.

by Gérard Testard

Together towards a more open and philanthropic Europe

When Together for Europe was launched on 31st October 1999 on the day the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed there was a real sense of hope in the air.

It was an important sign of unity after almost 500 years of division.  Various spiritual communities and movements from Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church met in the Ecumenical Life Centre in Ottmaring to consider how this fundamental declaration could be received.  This declaration had to become more than mere words.  It had to have an impact on everyday life.  Karl Barth once spoke of Christians carrying a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

Over the centuries since the reformation of Martin Luther and other reformers, serious conflicts have arisen from the divisions and disputes between Christians rendering them unable to fully accomplish their mission as instruments of unity and peace.  These splits were a sad sign of weakness in the face of dramatic events which reached crisis levels in the 20th century with the outbreak of two world wars and the abyss of the holocaust.

Nevertheless, Christians were still credible witnesses.  When John Paul II announced a Great Jubilee for the Year 2000 he spoke of how today’s Church had again become a church of martyrs and more than ever before.  According to the Polish Pope who had experienced the oppression of the Church in his own life, this had become an ecumenical phenomenon.  Not only because it affects Christian of all traditions but also because the Christians persecuted in the gulags and concentration camps have already had an experience of unity in suffering which needs to be built on.  Andrea Riccardi gives a moving account of this story in his book “Salz der Erde, Licht der Welt”.

The historic signing of the Joint Declaration marked the start of a new story of unity and collaboration.  In response to so much division and violence that had originated in Europe the movements wanted to help to build a Europe which works for peace, hospitality and openness. Globalisation has brought about unity in economics, money and communications, yet the soul is missing, the unity of peoples and cultures living together peacefully and openly is missing.  This is where the movements recognise their vocation, a second vocation to that of their own charism.

We have experienced various episodes in the story of Together for Europe which is now approached its 20th anniversary.  There was the euphoria following the introduction of a single European currency and extension of the European Union to former Eastern bloc countries in 2004 which was tangible at the first major congress in Stuttgart.  The movements wanted to strengthen and support the process of European unification since, according to the Christian ideals of the founding fathers of European unification which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in 2017, this process needs spiritual foundations.  Europe needs a soul as we continue to emphasise.

There is increasing scepticism regarding Europe.  There is the alarming tendency towards isolation, walls are being built and Europe is becoming a fortress which ostracises people and turns them away. Much of European society is in the grip of widespread fear which is also affecting Christians.  This dangerous fear has led to a rise in pro-exclusion nationalism, xenophobia and antisemitism and the birth of extreme right-wing and fascist movements which are having an increasing influence on European politics.

So the question of our vocation for togetherness needs to be addressed with greater urgency than before.  As conflicts increase, Christians and Christian movements need to deepen their togetherness.  Our way has always been marked by hospitality and openness.  Unity is only possible by being open with, getting to know and welcoming one another.  Audacious and prophetic Christians are needed precisely in this phase of history since the current trends in European society today are dangerous and promote violence.  And it is the poor, refugees, foreigners and all those who live on the edges of society who suffer.

Europe Day on the 9th May gives us a unique opportunity to highlight the beauty and enrichment of unity.  We can show how diversity, openness, hospitality and welcoming the stranger, rather than being a threat, actually represent an enrichment for everyone.  Diverse movements were born from the Gospel, each with their own stories, vocations and charism and no-one is taking anything away from them.  Quite the contrary.  Through meeting one other we have enriched one other and deepened our own charism.  This experience is needed more today than 18 years ago in Ottmaring when we started our journey together.

Matthias Leineweber, catholic pastor

 

 

What distinguishes us?

Chiara Lubich, one of the initiators of Together for Europe, spoke several times about the communion between the Movements and Communities of various Churches. An excerpt from a talk she gave to the leaders of Catholic and Evangelical Movements  in Munich, on 8th December, 2001, can inspire us.

“The first thing we can ask ourselves is: are the Movements, of the kind we now see present in the main Churches, inventions devised by the Holy Spirit only for this age? Oh no! – we would have to answer – they have always existed, at various  times, ever since Christianity was born. Just take a look at our common history of the first millennium, and we already see them appear. What is the reason? We know it. Christianity is present in the world because of faith and the Word lived. And we know how the early Christians lived our religion authentically. But we are also aware of how, over the years, because of the influence of the spirit of the world, not all the baptized have been coherent to the faith and so Christianity  languished and became watered down. But since it cannot be extinguished, “the forces of hell will not prevail” (Mt. 16:18), there was a need, so to speak, for the Holy Spirit to give rise to new spiritual currents in the Church, including some very important ones, like those of Basil, Augustine, Benedict, etc. Then there were many others during the second millennium, like that of Francis of Assisi, who had precisely the task of bringing back the authenticity and radicalism of the Gospel to the Church, so renewing it. And it is for this same reason that the Holy Spirit has aroused, today too, our modern Movements. (…) Among many movements  an ever deeper community has developed.

And what did we do? We began to live communion in this way. First: by praying for one another; then by encouraging each other, helping each other in difficulties; by making sure that the respective Councils got to know one another; by giving concrete help when others needed something, for example meeting rooms or equipment; by participating and collaborating in each other’s activities; by giving space for presentations of other Movements in our publications, etc. (…)

But here arises a question: how can we make our own this wonderful plan of God, which despite our weaknesses and our failures, foresees a vibrant and ever wider communion in the Church,? It is evident – to create communion everywhere, it would be enough to put into practice the new commandment of Jesus. (…)

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ who has bound us together in this way?” It will be because of  this life of communion of ours, which bears witness to the world, that the name of God will come back into fashion in our streets, often frozen by materialism and secularism; in our homes, in our schools, in workplaces, in local government. We already bear witness, especially on the most advanced frontiers, the places where, in general, the Church cannot arrive by normal means, but where our Movements are often present. In fact, the Holy Spirit has called us to this and has therefore made us particularly fit for it. (…)

Because that something which should distinguish us, before the world, is not so much our prayer or other wonderful things like penance, ceremonies, fasts, vigils, moral conduct, etc., what should distinguish us is only our mutual love, unity. Jesus said: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples: if you love one another” (Jn. 13:35). By this and not by anything else, and he also said: “May they be one so that the world will believe” (Jn. 17.21). “

Start with ourselves

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

Europe is a continent that people talk about a lot and one that perhaps considers itself to be the centre of the world. Is this a bit selfish? There are other problems in the world than the European ones.

9th May is Europe Day: how would you like this day to be celebrated by Europeans?

By highlighting those things that we as Europeans have in common.

It seems that young people do not show a great interest in Europe’s future. Do you think this is true?

I think this depends on each person. I know that I could take a more active interest myself. I believe that the majority of young people does take an interest – those who are studying, and those who are starting to work for example, because they need to secure a future for their children. Europe is our home now and into the future. At times it appears as though there is no point in taking an interest in politics, because many people who are in positions of power do not set a good example.

What do you think about populist tendencies? How can we make things better together? 

I do not like populism. All the slogans in the run up to the elections and then… In what can we put our trust? Who can we believe? I often do not agree with those who are in positions of power, but I am not sure how to make a difference so that justice can win. However, we need to recognise that there are also many positive things happening. Our people want change. I hope that the future will bring positive changes. However we need to start from ourselves, as always. Instead of criticizing others we must give the best of ourselves to our neighbours, family and friends.

Marie Kilbergrová, Czech Republic

 

 

 

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).

Sharing resources

May 9th is “Europe Day”. What comes to mind when you hear this date? How would you like this day to be celebrated by Europeans?

I see this day as an opportunity for European countries to dare to start transnational actions. We don’t need an elaborate programme, but even for example, a game with the idea of getting to know each other and discovering what we have in common, beyond our differences. This is why we need an informal “place of dialogue”. Feeling the connection between us would already reach this goal.

If you were president of the European Commission, what priorities would you put on the agenda for Europe’s cohesion?

No frontiers between countries. You feel at ease quickly in places to which you can travel with ease. The hospitality of one’s own country in welcoming others is an important premise for mutual understanding and appreciation. I would try to highlight the benefits and the great enrichment of an “open” Europe. This would require concrete examples and the small results already achieved could be made known.

Does Europe have a future? What contribution do you see, for example, from the Churches and the Spiritual Movements and Communities?

Openness and transparency! If the Church communicates openly what she plans to do with money, programmes etc., she will help citizens to trust more. If the Church was recognized as having the role of uniting people, it would be understood that she also contributes to removing borders from people’s hearts. Implement initiatives for young people, create spaces where local people can meet with migrants without propaganda programmes for refugees, but to highlight the multiplicity of countries and the variety of people. Europe has a future if people begin to understand that everyone can be a resource for the other because of our diversity, just use our various skills and abilities in the right way.

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

Much has already been achieved in Europe. It is a gift to be able to travel to different countries within Europe and enjoy collaborations that have enabled the exchange of students and the social year of volunteering. These experiences should be made known, so that citizens of different countries can realize that this treasure exists. Europe should show its positive aspects more. We generally have more stable financial security and good social assistance. Should we not be grateful for what we already have?

It seems that young people are not very concerned about the future of Europe. Do you think this is true?

My experience as a young person is that you are often a bit overwhelmed by everything that happens around you all over the world. Only a few, those who have been involved in some way, are interested in politics. There are many problems in the world that young people cannot solve (at least so they think) and therefore they get involved more readily in things that promise immediate and visible results. Politics is often too complicated and sometimes uses language that is not accessible to most people. For young people there should be more incentives to take an interest in politics, with the prospect of being able to change something.

What do you think about populist tendencies? Would not it be better to walk together?

Given that today we are dominated by capitalism (I speak now of Germany), it is almost impossible that there are no populist tendencies. We tend only to want to obtain more and more profit, without taking into account the weakest. People who look only for profit cannot see any profit in supporting the weaker, because this takes time, work and commitment. The middle class is disappearing and the gap between rich and poor is widening. A cohabitation would be possible, but it must be understood that one can obtain profit even with different abilities. Maybe the profit will be lower, but you gain in human relationships, health, values ​​etc. First of all we must understand that, by thinking only of ourselves, we can no longer be happy; that people who have less, but who can rely on each other, have found a very precious treasure.

Katharina is 24 years old and a teacher. She has work experience with migrants and currently lives in Nuremberg (Germany)

 

We urgently need a European culture

If you were President of the European Commission (in other words if you had both the responsibility and the decision-making power), what priorities would be on your agenda to maintain and increase unity of peoples in Europe?

I believe the most urgent reform to be advanced on a European level is neither economic nor political in nature, but cultural. What is needed is to gather detailed information on the functioning of European institutions, as well as to source a substantial level of funding for programmes that explore our choice of coming together as one European entity as well as the historical significance of the European integration experiment. Investment in the field of culture (music, art, cinema) and targeting a young audience, is also fundamental. We need to create an awareness and feeling of belonging as European citizens.

How do you see the Churches and Christian Movements and Communities making their contribution to the future of Europe?

Christian Communities have the potential to contribute to the foundations on which the European project might rest in the future. The Christian message of community, social solidarity, civic responsibility which go hand in hand with spiritual growth as intended in the Christian religion is the foundation of our coming together united in our diversity. Europe was born from a vision of great statesmen who shared this spirit of brotherhood. It is this dimension which needs to be rediscovered.

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