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)

Europe: inconceivable without fraternity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In summary…”

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

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

Live from Munich – 1st Day

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

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

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

After Brexit: Together for Europe becomes a prophetic sign

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

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

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

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

 

Endorsement from key EU Institutions

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

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

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

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

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

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Foto: Ulz

Video Messages and EU Patronage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An important step together in Trastevere

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

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

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

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

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

by Ilona Toth

 

European identity and values: an exploration

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

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

A panel discussion, with audience participation, with:

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

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

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

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

Why are you afraid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-02-11 MfE Einladung (219.0 KB)
TOGETHER in Rome

TOGETHER in Rome

At the beginning of January a number of representatives of Together for Europe visited Card. Koch in Rome. Leaders from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were also present at the meeting.

The open atmosphere which presided over the dialogue was attested to by Gerhard Pross (YMCA Esslingen), Diego Goller (Focolare Movement), Cesare Zucconi (Sant’Egidio), Fr. Heinrich Walter (Schoenstatt), Thomas Römer (YMCA Munich) and Heike Vesper (Focolare Movement) who were also touched by Card. Koch’s openness and availability. During the meeting the Cardinal expressed his hope for a greater level of involvement from the Orthodox Church in the preparatory process for the upcoming event in Munich in June/July 2016. With the intention to contribute to the event and to facilitate the majority of other speakers based in Germany, the Cardinal has made himself available to travel to Germany for a preliminary meeting.

A personal visit to Card. Kasper concluded the day of meetings in Rome. It was also very open and constructive. Gerhard Pross commented: “Over the last 15 years Card. Kasper accompanied and followed us like no other. He has declared his availability to speak at the Congress. The fact that he also involved us in some issues which occupy him at present appears to be a clear sign of the relationship of trust which has grown over the years”.

 

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

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

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

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

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