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

Augsburg – City of Peace

Augsburg’s history spans more than 2000 years; in fact it was founded as a Roman military encampment in 15 B.C.. Christianity was introduced by the Romans, which means that it was present since its very beginnings.

Confessio Augustana

In the XVI century, Augsburg became an important place of the Reformation because that was where Martin Luther and the Pope’s envoy, Cardinal Cajetano, met. That meeting resulted in the breakaway from the Church of Rome.

With the Imperial Diets, Augsburg became one of the most important cities of the Sacred Roman Empire. In 1530, the German Princes presented the Emperor with the confessio augustana, which formed the foundation of the Lutheran doctrine. This ‘Confession of Augsburg’, which was written by Philip Melantone, may be considered as an attempt to rebuild the broken religious unity.

Religious peace of Augsburg

10 years later, Augsburg became a city blessed with religious peace: the Diet of 1555 decreed the ‘Peace of Augsburg”, which aimed at regulating, from a political point of view, the peaceful and equal co-existence of the two Denominations. All the official roles were fairly distributed between the Confessions. This gave protection to the Denominations that were a minority. Albeit it took more than a 100 years to achieve equality and peace (with the terrible ‘Thirty Years War’ till the ‘Westphalia Peace’ of 1648), the ‘Peace of Augsburg’ was the first decisive step toward religious tolerance.

Feast of the Peace

On August 8, 1650, Augsburg celebrated for the first time the Great Feast of the Peace, which originally was a feast of the Protestant Christians as thanksgiving for the fact that, after a long struggle, they could take back their churches and could once again conduct their worship in them. This Feast is still being celebrated; for many decades it had become a Feast of the Peace of the entire city. The political leaders, the faithful of the diverse Churches and the citizens of this famous city celebrate all together in an ecumenical solidarity that goes beyond the boundaries of the Confessions. Today, on the eve of the Great Feast of the peace, the ‘Panel of the Religions’ organizes a multi-religious prayer meeting for peace. Since 1950, August 8 has been declared a holiday for all the citizens of Augsburg.

Brigitte Pischner e Margarete Hovestadt

The Town Hall of Augsburg – a historical place

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

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

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

The ‘Golden Hall’

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

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

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

Oberer Fletz

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

Beatriz Lauenroth

Together for Europe turns 20!

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.

 

 

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>>

Europe Day 2019 Strasbourg

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

A keynote speech and a debate

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

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

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

An ecumenical prayer for Europe

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

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

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

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

Team of Together for Europe in Strasbourg

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

Europe Day 2019 Toulouse

On May 11, 2019, in Toulouse, 60 persons gathered in the spirit of Together for Europe.

Among those present there were Gérard Testard, of the European Committee and two members of the National Committee. Besides representatives of the Movements there were other persons who were interested in Europe.

Gérard Testard delivered an illuminating speech through which he explained the importance of Europe, the impact of the European decisions upon our daily lives and the contribution Christians ought to give for the future of the Continent with values such as unity, the common good, solidarity and cooperation. He also spoke about Europe’s mission in the world. The discussion which followed made clearer to all certain issues.

At the end, the Pact of Mutual Love was read out and this was followed with a prayer for Europe, which was written by Gérard Testard (you can read it here in French).

We have experienced together a fantastic a moment of brotherhood. Someone affirmed: “I had no intention of voting; however, after this speech I’ve changed my mind”. And another: “I was very much struck and challenged by the Pact of Mutual Love as the way to bring together Christ to today’s Europe”.

The team of Together for Europe in Toulouse

Download Gérard Testard’s Prayer for Europe (French)  

Prière Pour L'Europe - G Testard (268.0 KB, 25 downloads)

Europe Day 2019 Roma

Rome, too, celebrated the Feast of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Europe Day 2019 Paris

The various initiatives of Together in Paris

On April 2, we met to hold an ecumenical prayer meeting in the really magnificent chapel of the Deaconesses of Reuilly in Paris. This meeting was organized and conducted by the Together for Europe group together with the local community.

“Good evening to you all and thank you for being here. In a few days’ time the elections for the European Parliament will be held, and we want to offer to God all the debates and ideas which continually invade our minds and hearts. Thus we want to pray together for Europe”. That was how we welcomed each other.

A brief presentation of this Together for Europe initiative was followed by singing, meditations and moments of silence. The culminating moment was experienced just after the meditation upon the “7 Yeses” proclaimed in the 2007 Stuttgart Message: each person was invited to write, read and then attach his/her prayer on a map of Europe. Our prayer then focused upon the whole world, particularly upon Africa thanks to a singer who has lived in that Continent for many years. When the prayer meeting was over, people found it hard to say goodbye: their relationships of unity had become profound.

On May 4, we celebrated the Feast for Europe in the square of the City Council, just like last year. Together with other 40 Associations which promote Europe, we have set up a stand in the «Village Européen». This allowed us to have numerous contacts with the Parisians and other Europeans who just happened to be there. This year we focused upon the presentation of the “7 Yeses”. Many persons told us that these were exactly what they yearned for.

On May 14, the Emmanuel community took the initiative to organize a Prayer Vigil for Europe in a beautiful Church at Longjumeau, near Paris. This started with a presentation of Together for Europe, which was then followed by some fantastic singing of praise and many prayer intentions for Europe on the basis of the “7 Yeses” which were presented as meditations. The feedback we got after the Vigil convinced us that, since the Vigil was held on the eve of the European elections, that time spent in prayer was a privileged opportunity, indeed necessary, to entrust everything unto the Holy Spirit.

Team of Together for Europe in Paris

 

 

 

Europe Day 2019 Palermo

The Feast for Europe was held at the Pentecostal church “Word of Grace” with some 1300 participants and over 4000 following via YouTube and Facebook. A whole spectrum of social initiatives carried out together by various Movements and members of diverse Churches were presented.

Videos were used to explain the endeavor of Fr Carlo Santoro in Lecce and that of Pastor Tommaso Carpino of the International Church. In helping some Pentecostals in need, they saw walls of mistrust crumbling down, and instead a true friendship in the spirit of collaboration came about.

One could feel the atmosphere of brotherhood and a culture of “togetherness”, and this was quite visible among the four presenters who belonged to 4 diverse Movements and Churches, as well as during the keynote speeches delivered by the Apostle Lirio Porrello of the “Word of Grace”, the representative of the Steering Committee, Ilona Toth (Hungarian, who came from Rome) and by Mgr Alerio Montalbano, the Bishop’s Vicar.

When it came to the final prayer, Apostle Lirio, who composed the prayer, passed the microphone to Pastor Nino Genova of the Sharing in Jesus Church of Agrigento (New Pentecostal Movement) and asked him to read it out. This tangible sign of communion and mutual love impressed one and all.

Following are just the titles of the activities presented: aid to prisoners and their families provided by the Pentecostals in collaboration with Fr Loris, the Catholic chaplain; the medical care given jointly by Christian doctors belonging to diverse associations; a lobby for a just family taxation (carried out by PdG, Eben Ezer, Forum Associations of Families, and the Focolare Movement); and “Mustard Seed” an open House run by the Waldensian, Lutheran and Baptist Churches.

Other initiatives: the local Caritas that helps homeless families; the Catholic Action which embarked on a project to make young people aware of the danger of gambling; the Adventum Foundation of the Adventist Church which helps families that risk being victims of usury; the “Word of Grace” helps the homeless; the Mission of Biagio Conte which looks after more than a thousand persons, and some others. These facts have shown that, through their charitable endeavors, the Christians are a lively reality in the midst of society.

There were also persons who shared their experiences of honesty, love of enemy, and the acceptance of an illness thanks to a closeness to God.

The young people presented a mime about “Jesus breaking the chains” –  a meaningful dance performed by young people from Eben Ezer Church (New Pentecostal Movement) and others belonging to the Focolare Movement. Other young people belonging to various Pentecostal Churches and members of the “I am Rev” (I’m a revolution) Association explained how they help other young people to conquer their fears and fragilities. Their contributions manifested a Christianity that was young, fresh, full of initiatives and an authentic love for Jesus.

A participant summed up the evening thus: “What unites us is the living of the Gospel”.

The organizing committee of TfE in Palermo (Video and photos with the permission of Biagio Pittaresi)

 

 

Europe Day 2019 Trento

In Trento, on May 3, a cultural moment in the great hall of the Vigilianum and an Ecumenical Prayer Vigil. 

In Trent, the Feast of Europe was organized by the six Movements which have been  cooperating with Together for Europe for many years. These are the Alliance Dives in Misericordia, the Neo-catechumenal Way, Cursillo, Focolare Movement, New Horizons and Via Pacis. The event immediate got the support of the Episcopal delegate for Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, Fr Cristiano Bettega.

The date chosen was May 3, 2019 and it was made up of two distinct parts: a cultural event at the Vigilianum followed by an ecumenical prayer Vigil.

The main hall of the Vigilianum, which seats about a hundred, was packed. Taking part, among others, were Fr Joan Catalin with members of his Romanian Orthodox Church, the Lutheran coordinator Mrs Berbel with a member of her community and the mayor of Trent, Alessandro Andreatta. Fr Bettega acted as chairperson and introduced the keynote speakers. Milena Mariani is Professor of Systematic Theology and History of Theology of the XX Century at the ‘Romano Guardini’ in Trent and Professor of Mariology in Bolzano.  She delivered an important, farsighted talk about “Europe and the Christian Confessions toward the future”. Lucia Fronza Crepaz teaches at the Social Preparation School of Trent, and her talk had a socio-political theme: “Europe: an encounter of peoples, building up peace!”. During the interval between one speech and the other, two young men of the Neo-catechumenal Way played Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy.

The buffet which was offered in the adjacent hall was highly appreciated and it was an opportunity to share and make new acquaintances.

The Feast continued with an ecumenical Prayer Vigil which was held at the Immaculate Shrine, which is run by the Alliance Dives in Misericordia. The Vigil consisted of prayers, hymns (two of which were provided by the Orthodox community) and reflections – all done in an atmosphere of deep recollection. Among other texts, the messages of Pope Francis, of Patriarch Bartholomew I and of the Lutheran Bishop Bedford Strohm, which were delivered to the Munich 2016 meeting, were read out. The contributions of Fr Joan and the Lutheran coordinator Berbel were quite meaningful. The former underlined the correlation between the “cultural” input which preceded the Vigil, whereas the latter highlighted the common aims of the Christian Confessions which could, and ought to be enhanced, like reconciliation and peace, the care of the environment, solidarity with the poor and the downtrodden. Fr Bettega augured that such events may be repeated, and that other local entities be asked to participate. As a sign of practical sharing, the money collected was destined to help the refugees presently in Trent.

Foto: © Barbara Passalacqua / Nino Carella

Europe Day 2019 Castel Gandolfo

Sorry, but the text is only available in Italian

Foto: ©Thomas Klann

Europe Day 2019 Padova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foto: © Giorgia Chiaro

Europe Day 2019 Carinthia

Sorry, but the text is only available in German

Europe Day 2019 Milano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The organizing commission

Foto: ©Alberto Fornasari

Prague: What vision for the Europe of the future?

In Prague, in the heart of Europe, on the occasion of the Europe Day, the Movements and Communities of different Churches organize prayers for Europe, followed by a Round Table with political representatives. The theme: “What vision for the Europe of the future?”

V Praze, v srdci Evropy, u příležitosti Dne pro Evropu, pořádají křesťanská hnutí a společenství z různých církví modlitby za Evropu, na které bude navazovat panelová diskuze se zástupci politického života.

Stáhněte si plakát  –  Download the poster (in Czech)

SPE Praha 8.5.2019 (645.2 KB, 36 downloads)

French cities celebrating the Europe Day

Here the various appointments

TOULOUSE

On May 11, 2019, after having met on a regular basis with Mgr. Le Gall, their bishop, will be holding an open meeting to deepen the objectives of Together for Europe.

LYON

After having made a survey in the streets of Lyon, the local committee is organizing a cultural evening on the 3 themes that emerged from the survey: ‘Peace, Culture and Economy’. This will be held on May 11, and will be followed by a Prayer Vigil for Europe and for the imminent elections.

STRASBOURG 

  • May 9, at the Students’ House: a Conference about Europe by the ex-speaker of the European Parliament (François Brunagel); a refugee from the Cameroons and a university student following the Erasmus program will share their witnessing. The ensuing debate will be chaired by a personality from the Churches’ Radio of the region;
  • May 10, at an Evangelical church: an ecumenical prayer service for Europe, with representatives of four Churches taking part. A get-together will follow, with wines and cheeses from various European countries being served;

The promotion for these 2 events will be done jointly and it will be made available in the churches of the various denominations present in the region. The leaflets will be handed out personally.

PARIS

  • April 2, as part of “the journey toward May 9”, in the chapel of the Protestant Deaconesses of the ‘Maison d’unite’, 60 persons gathered for an ecumenical prayer service organized by various Movements. The reflections and the intentions of the prayers were based on our 7 Yeses.
  • May 4, in the Municipality Square, a stand will be erected as part of the “Village Européen”, which is organized for the Feast of Europe by the House of Europe and the Paris commune.
  • May 14, at 8.30 p.m.: a Prayer Vigil for Europe in the church of Longjumeau, on the outskirts of Paris, is being organized by the Emmanuel community and the Focolare Movement.

LONGJUMEAU 

Tuesday, 14 May 8.30 pm prayer for Europe

Download the flyer / poster of the various events (french language): 

Invitation 11 Mai 2019 Toulouse (75.0 KB, 32 downloads)
Invitation 2 Avril 2019 Paris (177.4 KB, 37 downloads)
Affiche Strasbourg Mai 2019 (857.0 KB, 30 downloads)
Affiche Lyon Mai 2019 (209.5 KB, 33 downloads)
Invitation Longjumeau 14 Mai 2019 (639.8 KB, 30 downloads)

And what’s happening in Rome?

The group of Movements and Communities of Rome has warmly welcomed the invitation to join the “Prayer Journey” for Europe which goes on for six weeks, from March 25 till May 9, 2019. The communities of 5 important Basilicas linked to the Patron Saints of Europe have committed themselves to pray daily for Europe; each day, in turn, a Movement of Together for Europe enlivens these prayers.

Moreover, so as to deepen some of our 7 Yeses, there will be the following initiatives:

  • Gigi De Palo will take part in a debate with university students on the ‘Family’. This is scheduled for Sunday, April 28 at 3.30 p.m. in the tent for conferences at the Galoppatoio in Villa Borghese, as part of the “Village for the Earth”, www.villaggioperlaterra.it/;
  • A meeting with the theme Nuclear Peace and Environmental Challenges”: Christians in Europe will be held at the Institute Maria SS. Bambina – Vatican City, on Wednesday May 8, from 9.00 a.m. till 4 p.m. www.nuclearforpeace.org.

On the eve of the Europe Day, Wednesday May 8, 2019:

  •  4.30 p.m., at the ‘Spazio Europa’ (run by the Office of the European Parliament in Italy and the Commission’s Representation in Italy) there will be a cultural meeting with the theme “A new economy for Europe in the spirit of the Founding Fathers”; Prof Leonardo Becchetti (Professor of political economy at the Tor Vergata University) will deliver the keynote speech, which will be followed by a debate;
  • 6.30 p.m., an ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Europe at the Basilica dei XII Apostoli (Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles), Piazza SS. Apostoli, with the theme: «… each one heard their own language being spoken» (Acts 2, 6).

Download the Flyer for the Vigil of May 8, 2019 (in italian)

Volantino 8 Maggio 2019 Roma (228.1 KB)

 

 

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)

Works in progress in Padua

Those who, last November, participated at the meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe have enthused us with what they experienced and with future projects.

We are all looking forward to organize a Prayer Vigil to be held to mark May 9, Europe Day. From the very first contacts we were surprised to find so much interest for the idea: in fact, new interested groups have been approached and a new range of relationships has been established.

The first step was to approach the local Church so as to create the May 9 event in synergy. Then we contacted the priest who runs the University Centre and who also coordinates the “Biblical Festival” which is scheduled for May 10 – 12. We were warmly welcomed, seeing that the theme of the event is “The City and Citizenship”: indeed, Europe was a theme already on the program and thus we proposed to include the Prayer Vigil of Together for Europe in the program of the Festival.

Moreover, we have been asked to find an expert on Europe to address an event organized for young people, consisting of a photographic competition, with prizes, for secondary school students in Padua and its province with the theme: “Never without the other”.

The responsible for the Festival has also asked us to show a short video which narrates the history of Together for Europe during the evening dedicated to Europe.

We spoke to the person responsible for the Ministry with Migrants, and we discovered an unknown reality: in the Diocese of Padua there are 110.000 migrants; more than half are Christian, and these are ministered to by priests coming from their native Countries. We met 12 priests from India, Sri Lanka, China and Eastern Europe, and they all welcomed the idea of the Prayer Vigil and the evening dedicated to Europe. We never imagined that, in a poor rectory, we would be speaking to such a group of persons coming from so many parts of the world!

Also, we met a Rumanian Orthodox priest who chairs the Ecumenical Council of Churches: he was extremely pleased that the event will be part of a “Biblical Festival”, because, as he said, “it is the Bible that unites us all”.

Later, we met almost all the members of the Ecumenical Council: the persons representing the Greek Orthodox, the Rumanian Orthodox, the Methodist and the Lutheran Churches. With them it was decided to hold the Prayer Vigil on May 9, as an opening of the Biblical Festival; it will be held in the church of St Sophia, a most beautiful Romanic church in Padua.

All the groups we contacted form part of the preparatory commission of the Prayer Vigil (now enhanced as international and ecumenical). After the Prayer Vigil, during a convivial gathering, typical dishes from various Countries will be served.

The Team of Together for Europe in Padua

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

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

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

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).  

 

Does hope have a future?

Much research on the future of our continent has been conducted in areas such as culture, sociology and religion. The European Year of Cultural Heritage broadens this view. What is the specific contribution that Movements and Communities can offer in this regard?

Does hope have a future, or is our world embroiled in a hopeless cycle of crises and problems? If we give our future a chance, what sort of world can we imagine in this future? Would it be a world sustained by social and religious creative forces?
Let us consider:

1 If we do not want to get lost within our contemporary crises, we need to strengthen our hopes for the future.
2 In addition to hope the world we imagine needs to be characterised by something other than “modernity”, since the modern social order has been compromised leaving us without a clear direction forward. In order to secure a different future, we need to orient ourselves towards an improved society, one which could be called ‘post-modern’.
3 This can only happen under the influence of new cultural players. Here, I would like to invoke the prophetic contribution of new religious and social Movements, which are led by very high ideals. These Movements, thanks to these ideals, prefigure today how society and the Church can live together tomorrow.

There are two challenges that we can identify. We are experiencing a severe systemic crisis of modern society. Now, it is no longer sufficient to adapt to new situations but due to the radical changes in modern society, we need to see new ideas and ways of living. The second challenge addresses the new religious Movements as such, whose faith, engagement and trust are put to the test. If they pass, they will lead the way into a new world characterized by a sense of confidence in our future. But to achieve this goal the new religious Movements need to understand themselves in a new way, i.e. as creative social and cultural powers. Put simply: religious Movements need to become social Movements.

It is clear then, that what is needed, is to look forwards and to reconcile ourselves with our future.

In this, the new social and especially religious Movements come into play. These are important, as it is part of their very DNA to express a vision for the future. They not only offer viable alternative for living in society, they also loosen the restrictive shackles of modernity, which characterises today’s society. A member of such a Movement, which brings together the religious and social aspects, is equipped with a capacity to take responsibility for themselves and their environment.

Under these circumstances, it is their task not only to perform as religious, but also as social Movements. Through their faith, they achieve the possibility to harness their own cultural creative force. In this sense, religious Movements offer something that social Movements cannot since their engagement cannot be restricted to one single topic. On the contrary, being aware of God’s relationship to the whole world, there is an indefinite number of concerns that religious Movements can focus on. It is crucial that Movements and the Churches they belong to work together. Only a reconciled Church can bring about wider societal reconciliation in a credible way. Indeed, a single “Together for Europe” might not be sufficient to reach this goal; instead, a “Together for the world” is required in this case.

Excerpt from a talk by Michael Hochschild entitled ‘Becoming Reconciled with our Future’, Together for Europe, 1 July 2016

Prof. Dr. Michael Hochschild, director and professor for post-modern thought at Time-Lab, Paris/Institut d‘Études et de Recerches postmoderne,
studied education, sociology, philosophy, psychology and theology at the Universities of Hamburg, Frankfurt and Bielefeld.

To download the full talk, go to: 

2016 07 01 TfE M Hochschild Becoming Reconciled With Our Future (25.6 KB, 49 downloads)

A Culture of Togetherness becomes clear

Saturday, December 9th, YMCA-Building in Wuerzburg: about 100 people from nearly 50 initiatives, communities and movements – which are active in Germany and connected in the network Together for Europe – come together for their annual national meeting.  

“Together – how otherwise?” This is the headline that summarizes for me for what we experienced on this day in Würzburg. Such a long way travelled together that has brought out what unites us and how much power reconciled togetherness has! “Indeed a „Culture of Togetherness“ becomes clear, and I wish with all of my heart that it may gain ground in our communities, in our country and in the whole of Europe”. That was how, Sr. Nicole Grochowina from Christusbruderschaft Selbitz summarized her impression of the day. And she continued: “Therefore I am fully in favor of continuing to visit each other and go beyond our borders; we should find new friends in east and west and go on to shape togetherness throughout Europe – and be enriched by this”.

Theme of the Day

Besides a review of experiences in Together for Europe 18 years after it began, this year the question about the future way forward for the ecumenical network was the focus of our shared thinking.

„Unity among the people of God is a challenge for the future of Together for Europe, especially on how east and west Europe can come together more”, Gerhard Pross reported from the recent meeting of the European group of “Friends” of Together for Europe in Vienna.

Experience of Togetherness

Many of the participants spontaneously reported about their positive experiences during the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the reformation. There were also good experiences with “Prayer for Europe” on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome and after the Reconciliation Service between the Protestant and Catholic Church in Hildesheim. Roswitha Fuerg, from the Focolare-Movement in Solingen was „impressed by the openness and depth in Together for Europe that has grown over the years”.  The spontaneous reports of the participants showed how God leads people of different denominations and communities to get involved in this work for unity in many places“.

Fruits of Together for Europe after 18 years

Using the image of a growing tree, Sr. M. Vernita Weiss from the Schönstatt Movement made us envisage the fruits of Together for Europe after 18 years. She mentioned the deep roots from which a fruitful tree for the unity of Europe has grown and is growing.

Europe in the midst of challenges – A Culture of Togetherness

Regarding a Europe facing a lot of challenges from the political point of view, Gerhard Pross considered the task of Together for Europe first of all as living togetherness and mainly involving oneself in prayer for Europe.  But a discernment of spirits is also required. „At a time, when the old negative spirits that led Europe repeatedly into disasters are coming up again, we say our No to nationalism and state more clearly our Yes to the Gospel, to reconciliation and to love (…). We say Yes to a culture of relationships and covenants – No to simplistic and ‘one size fits all’ solutions. (see also the address by Gerhard Pross in Rom, 24.3.2017 

Steps towards the Future

Regarding the next steps, the participants shared the suggestions which had been developed during the annual meeting of the “Friends” of Together for Europe in Vienna. Especially highlighted were for example, encounters and mutual opportunities to meet and get to know each other with partners in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the idea to plan May 9th (already considered Europe Day) in 2018 and 2019 as a “Together for Europe Day” in the cities and regions.

„We felt a deep atmosphere of mutual appreciation and respect, but also of truth“, said Elisabeth and Hans-Georg Hagmann from Schönstatt movement describing their impressions. Johannes Golling, Leader of Julius-Schniewind-Haus e.V. (house of spirituality), summed up his experience of the day: „Meeting and visiting each other, making friends, listening to each other and being open to what is holy for the other person – that developed a dynamic exchange in the past which was illustrated today by plenty of examples”.

See also the detailed report on the German homepage> 

Text and photo: Heinrich Brehm

Europe, a promise of peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: SIF  

Address of Pope Francis >

Video: https://vimeo.com/240377109

Friends of Together for Europe meet in Vienna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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