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

The culture of encounter creates communion

The culture of encounter creates communion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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