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

“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.”

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

Charlemagne Prize for Europe

On 6th May 2016 in the Sala Regia in the Vatican, Pope Francis was awarded the prestigious Charlemagne Prize. In his address to the eminent guests the Pope offered the award bestowed upon him for Europe as an expression of “our shared hope for a new and courageous step forward for this beloved continent”.

Indeed, the recent history has turned the eyes of the world to Europe, begging the same disquieting question that was posed by the Pope and that echoed among the dignitaries gathered for the conferral ceremony ”What has happened to you, Europe?”.

The Pope’s response on this occasion, and its three key words – “integrate, dialogue, generate”, could be read as a sort of a Magna Carta for Europe in these challenging times, and calls for a new appraisal of the idea of Europe. Through the upcoming Event “Together for Europe” in June/July 2016 in Munich (Germany) we wish to make our own contribution for Europe and witness to the fact that the ability to “integrate” grows through ENCOUNTER, the ability to “dialogue” ties in closely with RECONCILIATION and without the ability to “generate” there is no FUTURE.

On 6th May the Sala Regia at the Vatican seemed enveloped in an atmosphere of serenity, mutual support and shared hope for the future, perceptible through the small fraternal gestures of the guests. Perhaps it is a responsibility of all of us to ensure that the courageous intents shared by those present in this occasion are not wasted, but translate into a conviction that the Pope’s dream for Europe be realised.

ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS

Foto: Andreas Herrmann