To know, to deepen, to build
Timişoara (Romania) is with two other cities the 2023 ‘European Capital of Culture’. Roman Catholic Bishop Pál József Csaba of Timişoara invited the annual meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe (TfE) to his city (16-18/11/2023).
Some friends of TfE express here why they will attend the meeting.
Cezara Delia Perian, from the Orthodox youth group in Timisoara:
I am in favour of a Christian Europe with Christian principles. I would like to hear about the experiences in the context of TfE. And as a citizen of Timisoara, I want to present my city, which, for centuries has been an example of peaceful coexistence between different minorities, Churches, Movements and ecclesial cultures. Therefore, I kindly invite you to the Friends of TfE 2023 meeting in Timisoara, with the promise of an extraordinary meeting and a unique experience.
Soňa Jančíková, TfE Steering Committee, European Network of Communities ENC, Slovak Republic:
Since unity is written very deep in my heart, I decided to join TfE. I would like to meet new people and get to know what is in their hearts. In the ENC we have communities from Romania and I love this country. It is very important that this meeting takes place in the East of Europe and we are looking forward to seeing how great the potential of this country is, so that the rest of Europe will be based more on Christian values.
Philipp Barthel, TfE Steering Committee, YMCA Munich, Germany:
Why do I go to the TfE meeting in Timisoara? Because I want to personally experience the faith of Christians of different Churches, nationalities and ages.
Reydibel Mesa, Focolare Movement, Hungary:
I think this meeting will be a moment of brotherhood and peace in Europe. It will be days where we can experience the strength of the unity of peoples united in God: young people, adults, from different countries and different Christian Churches, but all Together.
Gérard Testard, Efesia, France:
We are walking on the road opened up by the founders of Europe and all those, who, throughout history, did not accept conflict as a fatality, but committed themselves to breaking down barriers.
Mgr Pál József Csaba, Bishop in Timisoara:
By your presence you show Romania the beauty of the Christian faith.
Cinzia Panero, Focolare Movement, Serbia:
For me TfE is a network of life, of shared experiences, of intentions
dreamed and achieved with others in a common concrete work. We experienced it last March in Belgrade: the Institute for the Study of Culture and of Christianity and the Focolare Movement in Serbia, we realised the Exhibition-art competition “The world in an image, image of the world” between Serbian artists of various religious faiths and nationalities, with the support of the Ministry for Cooperation between religious communities. The meeting in Timisoara will be an opportunity to strengthen our friendship, open up to new experiences, build relationships in a real network, tangible, fraternal network.
Three questions to Bishop József-Csaba Pál, Timisoara (Romania)
“This is the time when, in addition to cultural initiatives in museums and in holding memorials, we must also open the doors of our Churches to show the Christian roots of our people, our country and our city.” This was the reaction of Roman Catholic Bishop József-Csaba Pál (born in 1955) upon the announcement of the nomination of Timisoara as one of the three European Capitals of Culture for 2023.
What does this mean concretely?
You have been the Roman Catholic Bishop of Timisoara since 2018. It must have been a great joy for you when you learned that Timisoara was awarded the coveted title of “European Capital of Culture” for 2023. What do you think is the motivation for such a decision?
For centuries, in Timisoara, the many different Churches and nationalities have peacefully lived side by side. They have been able to preserve their respective identity, and in this coexistence, diversity was seen as a mutual gift. Through living in families of mixed marriages and in mixed neighbourhoods they learned to respect and appreciate one another. That is why I think Timisoara has this experience to offer Europe: the spirit of peaceful coexistence.
After eight months as “European Capital of Culture,” what do you think is Timisoara’s current contribution to today’s Europe?
In the spirit of multiculturalism there have been many cultural programmes.
For example, with young people we organized a week-long Ecumenical Youth Festival from 1st – 7th May. In the past our ancestors were driven to Timisoara by unemployment or the demand for certain professions. Today we also give a foundation to our living together but from a Christian point of view: we are all children of our heavenly Father. For His glory we want His children to get along with one another, to help and love each other. This should be the visible sign that Timisoara gives to Europe.
Young people from seven Churches and many different languages worked for fourteen months to prepare this Youth Festival. In the preparatory phase they said to themselves: the Festival must emanate something youthful, Christian and in the spirit of unity. And they succeeded: about 30 programmes, including a play staged in the Timisoara Opera Hall, a procession through the city in which we visited several Churches, a meditation during a boat trip on the Bega Canal, various lectures, a Gen Verde concert in the Timisoara Philharmonic Hall, etc… In addition, an ecumenical choir was formed comprising 40 young people who currently perform in different venues.
Why did you extend the invitation to organise the Annual meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” in November in your city? What do you expect from it?
In 2016 I attended a larger event of Together for Europe in Munich. I really enjoyed it and thought: these people from different Churches are doing what I have always dreamed of: living joyfully in unity in the presence of God. This is an overwhelming testimony. Now they must also witness this unity in God in Timisoara. When they come to Timisoara, we will strengthen each other in this very commitment.
Thank you for this conversation.
Photo: Bishop József-Csaba Pál during the Ecumenical Youth Festival, Timisoara May 2023
Ecumenical Youth Festival 2023 in Timisoara
Jean Marc Ziadé (27), born in Lebanon and raised in Luxembourg, currently works as a sales and events manager at a conference centre in the Netherlands. From 4th to 7th May, he attended the Ecumenical Youth Festival in Timisoara, Romania.
Why did you attend the meeting?
First of all, I like to travel and I am interested in other countries and cultures.
It was very enriching for me to visit an Eastern European country, Romania, for the first time. I was amazed by all that Timisoara has to offer. Thanks to a guide and involvement in the local community, we were able to better understand, among other things, the bloody revolution of 1989 and how it still influences culture, people and the economy today. Thanks to the many events and conversations, the Ecumenical Youth Festival has given me a lot of inspiration and is – I believe – a positive surprise for the future of the Church!
What inspired you most?
I was most impressed by the motivation of the young people. It is amazing how they used different forms of artistic expression, such as music and theatre, videos and life testimonies, to create an unforgettable and meaningful experience.
The international music group Gen Verde, the theatrical performances largely created by young people, beautiful songs, workshops on dialogue and the ‘Economy of Francis’ (young entrepreneurs working for a new economy) were not only entertaining, but also brought depth and reflection to the festival.
What do you take away from Timisoara?
Certainly, the living faith I found there and the ecumenical aspect have left a lasting impression on me. I think not everyone understands what ecumenism means. This trip allowed me to discover the different denominations and the cooperation between the Churches, from Greek Orthodox, to Serbian, to Greek Catholic, to Roman Catholic and other Churches, which we visited and which I did not know before. This festival and the way the Churches of Eastern Europe work together show that unity between the Churches is possible! Now wars and prejudices want to prevent us from working together. Even if we think that Church members are decreasing in number, the young people have shown me that this is not the case everywhere. This is certainly a sign of hope. This experience will continue to inspire others and me to work together for a more united and harmonious future for all Christians.
Thank you, Jean Marc, for this interview.
Together for Europe at the ecumenical Festival for young people in Timisoara, Romania, 1 – 7 May 2023
“Tonight, a dream of mine has come true. You brought with you the message of peace to Timisoara.” This is what the Roman Catholic Bishop of Timisoara, József-Csaba Pál, movingly stated to the 300 young people gathered in the Banatul Philharmonic after the concert of the Gen Verde International Ensemble on the final evening of the Ecumenical Youth Festival. Romania, a land so battered by dictatorship and communism in the past, welcomes the message of Christian love in Timisoara with an open heart as a response to today’s challenges.
‘Walking all together in the light of Christ’
Young people aged 14 to 25 had come from all over Romania and, among others, from Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine and Poland to celebrate in Timisoara, one of the cultural capitals of Europe in 2023. For the week from 1 to 7 May 2023, the young people had chosen the title ‘Walking all together in the light of Christ’. One of the highlights of the festival was the ecumenical procession with candles – also attended by the citizens of Timisoara – to four churches of various denominations (Greek-Catholic, Reformed, Orthodox and Roman-Catholic) in the centre of Timisoara. A Ukrainian Orthodox girl affirmed: “I never experienced such a wide dimension of Church”.
Workshop ‘Seek God in the City’
Be the change… be the change you want to see around you. This was the invitation to the young people that linked all the cultural and musical exchanges, short lectures and discussions. As part of the official festival programme – in agreement with the local young people – Together for Europe (TfE) offered the workshop ‘Seek God in the City’, that is, how to change the secular city into a ‘city of God’. The speakers, Hans-Martin Samietz (Schönstatt Movement) and Herbert Lauenroth (Focolare Movement) from the TfE Steering Committee proposed various approaches as to how the Word of God can inspire change and penetrate people’s lives on a spiritual, social, cultural, intellectual and political level. The 100 young people present at the workshop exchanged their ideas on how to build the ideal city, e.g. by listening more to each other, praying together and a communication that points to the positive and therefore – why not? – with ideas for making a film showing the city ‘of my dreams’. A common element in all participants was the yearning for peace that begins in the heart of each one.
Download the programme>>
Meeting ‘Friends of TfE‘ in Timisoara
Now Together for Europe is preparing for the ‘Friends’ meeting scheduled for 16 to 18 November 2023 in Timisoara. The city is optimal for the ideals of TfE because of its ecumenical and cultural openness. This was experienced during the Ecumenical Youth Festival in May 2023.
For further information and photos: https://www.facebook.com
Through Project DialogUE, Together for Europe held an international meeting online
On 3 March 2023, Together for Europe held an international meeting online. 240 participants from Western and Eastern European countries showed a great interest in the topic Dialogue. Five introductory themes were presented, and these were punctuated by several lived-out experiences.
Lutheran Bishop Christian Krause, former President of the Lutheran World Federation, shared his long experience and broad view of Church relations. Gerhard Pross, Esslingen YMCA and current moderator, explained the genesis and founding ideas of Together for Europe. Pross spoke about our ecumenical network from the perspective of dialogue between persons and communities. Sr. Nicole Grochowina, Christusbruderschaft Selbitz, in her contribution expounded that Dialog braucht Geschwisterlichkeit [Dialogue needs fraternity], that is, fraternity is a prerequisite for dialogue and unity. Walter Kriechbaum, evangelical pastor of the Munich YMCA, gave a testimony of his rich experience in the dialogue between West and East and – last but not least – Lucia Fronza, Focolare Movement, former member of the Italian Parliament, gave some insights into the political perspective of Together for Europe.
The questions from the audience to the speakers were complex and “each one would first of all require a personal encounter with mutual listening”, as Kriechbaum put it. To the question of how to make the experience of Together for Europe more visible in Europe and also transmitted to young people, Sr. Nicole responded as follows in chat: “We cannot make the experience of unity visible to young people. What really matters is that young people themselves have access to such experiences. So, we ought to offer them opportunities for these, wherever and whenever we can.”
At the request of the webinar participants, in the coming months we will publish the five reflections on our website. In this way, the dialogue with the speakers can continue.