Ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Europe, 24th March 2017 – Interview with Card. Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Your Eminence, this Vigil prayer which has brought together different Christian denominations shows that unity in diversity is possible. What sort of example can an evening such as this offer to a Europe still divided and torn on basic issues?
“This Prayer evening has been organised by Movements belonging to different Churches: there is a great variety and diversity present, however there is also unity, all of us are together – for Europe. This reconciliation between unity and diversity is very important for Europe, which is called to embody unity without negating diversity. In fact, there needs to be a greater understanding of diversity in order for all of countries to contribute effectively to building unity”.
One of the objectives of this group which unites different Christian Movements is to identify so-called “signs of the time”, that is to say, those signals which at any given time in human history indicate the direction in which humanity is advancing, however slowly towards unity. Can you yourself discern such signs?
“The greatest challenge of today is related to the influx of refugees. The challenge is for Europe to welcome them, to be open to them. There is a saying: “If I only know England I don’t really know England”, of course this saying is equally valid for any other country, like Italy or France, etc. So, realising that the other is not my enemy, is a good thing: once this has been established, everything will proceed well”.
Pope Francis stressed that peace is achieved through integration, dialogue and work, and that for Europe work is, on the political level, a priority. What is your view in this regard?
“It is fundamental that everyone be able to access employment. This is a big challenge because it concerns the very dignity of the human person. Within the working environment then what matters is collaboration, that there be no contempt between co-workers… So, the opportunity for everyone to access dignified employment clearly contributes to the unity of Europe”.
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 Lubichsaid 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.“