Friends of Together for Europe in Porto (Portugal)
“When we disarm, expropriate and open ourselves to the God-Man who makes new all things, then, He cancels our wicked past and donates to us a new time in which all things are possible” (1)
I’m feeling a little embarrassed. I’ve been asked: how was the Meeting with my friends in Porto, and, after all, what is this ‘Together for Europe’ all about? What could 166 persons coming from 19 different Countries, and belonging to 45 Movements and Communities from 8 Churches achieve, knowing that “like attracts like”, and diversity rarely – perhaps never – can become a force of cohesion? Added to this there are the diverse geopolitical, cultural, historic and confessional views: now, what will the Russians and the Ukrainians, present in our midst, do? The idea of ‘Europe’ is not popular anymore; why keep on chasing utopias and useless dreams in this polarized society?
While my mind was being bombarded by these thoughts and possible responses, I remembered that, when asked, Jesus did not explain how and where he lived; his response was a simple invitation: “come and see” (Jn 1,39). Those present in Porto did indeed “come and see”.
I witnessed the communion between 11 Portuguese Movements; these, with great commitment and generosity provided a home, food and technology, and, above all, created a ‘family’ among all those taking part.
I listened to experts who, through their expertise, have widened the horizons of an attentive audience.
I saw ecclesial leaders who, through their presence and prayers, wanted not only to bless the gathering, but also to show their strong support for this ecumenical network.
I was glad to meet young people who have given a meaning to their life after taking important decisions; these young people, showing generosity, impetus and poetry, spoke about future concrete projects for their Countries and cities.
I felt a sense of gratitude toward those who, after years of sterling service, are moving on to take up new tasks; there were tearful eyes when, with open hearts, we renewed the Pact of mutual love.
In a nutshell: I saw a small people, who, like the ‘chosen’ one, keeps on looking for water in the desert. To drink and to provide water for others.
When we gathered for the nightly ecumenical prayer in the majestic Igreja do Cedofeita church in Porto, I sat on the back pew. Then a friend invited me to move and sit on the front pew; from there, behind the alter, I could see a statue the likes of which I have never seen before: it did not present the suffering Redeemer on the cross or the Risen Lord who conquered death. It was a big statue showing a ‘disarmed’ Christ, with dropped hands, coming out of a base full of cracks – an icon of the polarizations and the divisions in us, among us and around us.
I fixed my gaze upon him. We, too, ought to disarm ourselves! Here lies, perhaps, the secret of the force of cohesion! Could this be the key idea that will allow Europe and the entire ‘Together’ to open up to new horizons and possibilities?
(1) Excerpt from a text by Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople