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Slovenia: Veglie in 17 località e servizio TV nazionale

Ora è un tempo giusto perché l’Europa si rinnovi

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

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

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

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

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

Testo Trasmissione TV dallo Sloveno (13.9 KB, 522 downloads)

This is the Europe we want to build

Ecumenical and International Prayer Vigil – Faith opens up to culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

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

 

Christian Charisms and Europe

The contribution of Religious Orders and Institutes towards unity in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europe: inconceivable without fraternity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer for Carinthia in the Provincial Government building

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

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

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

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

Slovenia: New steps for Together for Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pavel and Marjana Snoj

Courage, Europe!

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

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

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

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

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

Below is some feedback gathered during and after the meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

“In summary…”

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

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

Live from Munich – 3nd Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live from Munich – 2nd Day

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

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

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

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

Live from Munich – 1st Day

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

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

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

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

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

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

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

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

 

Endorsement from key EU Institutions

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

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

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

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

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

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Foto: Ulz

Charlemagne Prize for Europe

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

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

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

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

ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS

Foto: Andreas Herrmann

Europe through the eyes of young people

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team of the International Secretariat of Together for Europe

 

Video Messages and EU Patronage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An important step together in Trastevere

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

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

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

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

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

by Ilona Toth

 

European identity and values: an exploration

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

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

A panel discussion, with audience participation, with:

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

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

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

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

Why are you afraid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-02-11 MfE Einladung (219.0 KB)

Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” 2015

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

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

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

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

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Patriarch Bartholomew meets “Together for Europe”

Patriarch Bartholomew meets “Together for Europe”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit to Evangelical Bishop Dr. Frank O. July

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

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

Together for Europe – an information evening in Montevideo

Together for Europe – an information evening in Montevideo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Ulrich Foundation Award

St. Ulrich Foundation Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabri Fallacara and Severin Schmid

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

Würzburg and Ischia, 7/12/2013

From Germany (Würzburg)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabriella Fallacara e Severin Schmid

Acer Movement: a rich encounter

Acer Movement: a rich encounter

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

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

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

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

Gabri Fallacara

Friends of “Together for Europe” in Paris

Friends of “Together for Europe” in Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabri Fallacara

The culture of encounter creates communion

The culture of encounter creates communion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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