“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