The passion to ‘rekindle’ Christian values

The passion to ‘rekindle’ Christian values

We share here the testimony of Gerhard Pross, moderator of Together for Europe, who was invited to Thessaloniki (Greece) to sign a joint declaration by Christians of different Churches, in view of the upcoming European elections in June 2024.

On 15 May 2024, Declaration ‘Europe, Be Yourself!’>> was signed. I had the honour to sign it together with the President of the CEC [1], Archbishop Nikitas, the President of COMECE [2], Bishop Mariano Crociata and the Secretary General of the I.A.O. [3], Maximos Charakopoulos

It was quite unusual for us, as a network of Movements, to be represented at this level; but it was the Orthodox parliamentarians who attached great importance to our voice, because they knew that we were making an active contribution to the Christian roots of Europe.

In my brief greeting at the signing ceremony, I was able to refer to the conversation between the then President of the EU Commission Romano Prodi and Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement. On that occasion, Prodi asked Chiara Lubich how he could do Christian politics if Christians themselves do not raise their voices. Chiara then motivated us to plan an event, which was then held in May 2004, with the theme ‘Together for Europe’ and which impressively showed how much the Christian Movements contribute to our society with their commitment.

The signing was the prelude to a two-day ‘International Political Conference’ in Thessaloniki, with the aim of expressing Christian values in Europe. Numerous representatives of the mentioned Churches, politicians from European countries, university professors from Thessaloniki and other experts spoke in numerous plenary sessions. Sometimes there were controversial positions, with heated debates on the difference between Christian and European values, why the EU Future Document does not mention Churches and faith at all, and how to deal with increasing secularisation. On the other hand, very clear and encouraging Christian positions have emerged, for example from the Albanian Minister of Culture.

Our ‘7 YESes’ >>, which I was able to introduce in the first round of talks, resonated positively on several occasions. Many people eagerly asked what Together for Europe was all about, knowing nothing about it, and showed that they were interested. Numerous contacts were established. The conference raised awareness of the need to ensure that Christian values (and the Christian faith) are not removed from the EU consciousness. On the last day, one participant summed up the main problem as follows: ‘We Christians are not heard, because we are not united and therefore do not speak with one voice.’

We should raise our voices more courageously and defend our values more clearly, without imposing them on others – this is what I stated there, this is my deep conviction.

Thessaloniki, Pentecost 2024

Gerhard Pross

[1] CEC = Conference of European Churches. The CEC is a community of some 114 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Vetero-Catholic Churches from all European countries.

[2] COMECE = Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences [cattoliche] of the European Union.

[3] Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy

Journeying toward the future

Journeying toward the future

The European Bishop’s Synodal Assembly in Prague on 7 – 9 February, 2023

The European Assembly of the Bishops’ Synod was held in Prague on 7 – 9 February, 2023. Four Bishops or Delegates from each of the 39 Episcopal Conferences participated. I took part in my capacity as moderator of Together for Europe, and it turned out that I was the only Evangelical to be invited; together with Margaret Karram and Francisco Canzani (Focolare Movement), Cesare Zucconi and Hilde Kieboom (Sant’Egidio), Fr Heinrich Walter e Maria Pelz (Schönstatt), Matthew and Luce (Taizé), we represented the spiritual Movements. The organizers did a good job in allowing the continental Assembly to be a listening journey. Indeed, the plenary sessions were dedicated to listening to the reports from every Episcopal Conference. This was also true during the small group meetings, during which our mutual listening meant that we were all journeying together.

The word Synod comes from the Greek σύνοδος Syn hodos, that is, journeying together, which is precisely what pope Francis in inviting the Catholic Church to do.

Among the topics that many Countries underlined, and which the Synod must tackle, there are: equal rights for women and their participation in the ecclesial decision-making processes; priestly celibacy and the ordination of married persons; new ways of how to deal with homosexual persons, and clericalism.


What does synodality really mean? The issue remained open, albeit brought about several times. Will the Synod end with a common decision on this open issue, or is this Assembly just a consultative body and the ultimate decision will be eventually taken by the Bishops? Can the hopes that arose during the synodal journey be fulfilled?

We, as Together for Europe, can surely provide valid experiences of synodality, because in many Communities and Movements the synodal process has shown its validity, and Together is always characterized by common decisions. Our foundations and our rich experience are not based on hierarchy, by on mutual listening and harmony. I was really glad that we were invited; we were able to contribute in many personal conversations and encounters. Moreover, we surely contributed toward an atmosphere of openness and encounter through our basic attitude and our experience.

Rev. Martin Michalíček, the General Secretary of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE), was struck by this when he participated in our Meetings for the Friends of Together for Europe in Augsburg and Porto, and that is why he invited us to Prague.

Keeping sight of the Word of God

While delivering a brief public declaration to the Synod, I offered three thoughts which I deemed to be important:

  1. I’m aware that the synodal process has unleashed an enormous potential of hope. And for this, I must express my congratulations.
  2. I wish that the Synod will have the courage to formulate several points that represent necessary steps for change. Without any concrete steps, the potential of hope can easily become resignation.
  3. To make concrete steps I augur to the Synod the light of the Word of God. In Psalm 119, 105 we read: “Your Word in a lamp for my feet and a light for my journey”. During these days I was upset seeing that, in some contributions, sociology often took the place of the Word of God as the normative basis.
Prayer vigil in Rome

I augur that the potential of hope provided by the world synodal journey may bring about courageous steps for change, which will help the Church on her journey toward the future. It is important that we accompany this process with prayer. On the eve of the Synod, the Taizé community is organizing a day of prayer. This will be on September 30, 2023, and the theme chosen is: “Together. A gathering of the People of God”. As Together for Europe, we wholeheartedly support this initiative and invite you all to participate.

Gerhard Pross

Photo: Gerhard Pross with Margaret Karram


Our “Yes” to Europe

Our “Yes” to Europe

Since its inception 18 years ago the mandate of Together for Europe has been to work for the unity of God’s people. The second mandate is the social dimension of Together for Europe. This mandate is presented with a new challenge today in view of the current crisis in Europe, namely to live constructive, long-term “togetherness” in cultural and national diversity in Europe.

Unity is possible

At the Congress of Together for Europe in 2007 Br Franziskus stated that “Unity and diversity have the same origin.” [1]  Piero Coda said something very similar: “If God is Trinity, unity and diversity are not only not a contradiction but also of the very same origin.” [2]  From the very beginning we identified with an image of unity which explicitly acknowledges and affirms the diversity given to us by God. Smoothing over differences endangers identity and can lead to unity in diversity being destroyed in both political and ecclesial circles.

Unity in reconciled diversity

Because of the many divisions between individuals, Churches and peoples, a reconciliation of opposites is needed to reach a reconciled unity in diversity which also applies to cultural diversity. Reconciliation is needed, rather than condemnation and exclusion.  This removes the stumbling blocks along the path towards the future because it removes what poisoned our relationships in the past, so that the stranger, the person who is different is no longer seen a threat but as a gift.  As people reconciled in diversity, we experience the richness of diversity. Jesus in the midst is the one who unites. He gives us strength and hope for unity in reconciled diversity because Jesus Christ has reconciled the world with God.

 “Togetherness” lived as a prophetic sign

Our togetherness in Europe is lived out in practice through our relationships with one another.  We set out towards others.  “Togetherness” in Europe allows new relationships to be formed, fosters reconciliation and builds a future. It allows something of God’s nature to be revealed by bringing about unity.  It is therefore a prophetic sign.

Prayer brings about change

Prayer is part of Together for Europe’s mission. We do not want to deprive this Europe of our prayers.  Prayer brings about change.  It changes us, it changes the atmosphere in our own country and in Europe, it changes people’s hearts.

Our hope and our “Yes” to Europe

We are committed to Europe because we have understood this as God’s mandate for us. We say a decisive “Yes” to a Europe of unity as well as cultural and national diversity thereby revealing to us a positive image of Europe. We commit ourselves to a culture of “togetherness” based on Christian faith.  Our hope for Europe is expressed in 5 “Yeses”.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of reconciliation

A new Europe has emerged from the miracle of reconciliation following the catastrophe of two World Wars.  We receive the power of reconciliation from our Christian faith which enables historical wounds to be healed and leads to “togetherness” in diversity.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of unity in diversity

We recognize that we are enriched by diversity. Multiplicity and diversity have the same roots. Both need to balance each other out.  We are glad about those who are different and their charisms.  This interplay of charisms serves towards the unity of God’s people and the unity of Europe.  We advocate a federal Europe. We treat different backgrounds and perspectives with respect and appreciation.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of encounter, dialogue and peace

Mutual understanding grows from encounters. This is one of our main experiences in Together for Europe.  We say “Yes” to a Europe that seeks dialogue and chooses the path of negotiating for different interests.  The process of the unification of Europe and the EU gave us 70 years of peace within Europe. Anyone who over-emphasizes national interests will evoke the nationalist demons and will lead the way to the destruction of Europe.  Anyone who denies national identity, denies diversity and makes it impossible for a European community to be formed.  We encourage open political dialogue which promotes a peaceful Europe.

We say “Yes” to a Europe of mercy and humanity.

Christianity has shaped the history of Europe. It is a faith that is open to the world. Humanity and mercy flow from Jesus Christ, crucified and forsaken and are shaping the continent and both are manifested in an unconditional “Yes” to life, “Yes” to marriage and family, “Yes” to the poor and needy.

Europe is more than the Euro, more than a market economy. We therefore advocate a Europe based on its Christianity-Judaic heritage where openness towards those who think differently and live by a different faith is the norm. This is how the “soul” of Europe is being strengthened.

We say “Yes” to a Europe which over the course of history has been called by God [3]:

Its mission is to foster the collaboration between heaven and earth, to impregnate the world with faith, because heaven and earth have met in the Crucified One. Our mission for Europe also entails responsibility for Africa and the Middle East.

The living God has entrusted a lot to our “togetherness” which is why we want to publicly express our “Yes” to Europe in our movements.

Gerhard Proß, Meeting of ‘friends’ of TfE, Vienna, November 2017 (abridged version)


[1] “Together on the journey” ISBN 978-3-00-022045-6, Br. Franziskus Jöst at the 2007 T4E Congress in Stuttgart, p. 21

[2] Piero Coda in “Christian Culture in one Europe” by Hanspeter Heinz [Hrsg], p. 33

[3] P. Lothar Penners at the European meeting of friends in 2016 in Castel Gandolfo with reference to Pater Kentenich