“We marvel at the action of the Holy Spirit in our times”. Cardinal Kasper accompanied and supported Together for Europe network from its very beginnings. On the 30th June 2016, on the occasion of the last Congress in Munich, he shared his views on the importance of the network and his hopes for the future.
THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS STILL AT WORK TODAY
Dear friends, it is wonderful to be with you again and even more wonderful to see what has become of you since Stuttgart 2004. The dream of that time is becoming reality. The Spirit of God is still bearing fruit today. We have good reason to be grateful.
It all started on 31 October 1999 in Augsburg. Protestant and Catholic Christians made an official and collective declaration: together we acknowledge that Jesus is our salvation. Many said this declaration means nothing, that nothing has changed. No, things have changed. You are the result. Your movement is the fruit. Pope John Paul II was right. The declaration was a milestone.
A milestone is a marker along the way, not the goal. The next marker is ahead of us: Autumn 2016 in Lund, October 2017 in Wittenberg. Once again there are those who are skeptical. We say five hundred years of separation is enough. Something has to change. It would be betraying Jesus Christ and a disgrace for the world if we didn’t act upon our words.
We have a dream. We know that ecumenism is the Holy Spirit’s passage through the Church. We can rely on Him. It was He who initiated the movement for ecumenism, and He will lead it to the finish-line. Unity in reconciled diversity is possible. Tell those hesitant experts of division that we are the experts of unity. We have seen that even today unity is more possible than you think! Everyone needs to start moving; everyone needs to change their ways and way of thinking!
Together in Europe
Unity in the Church is now more important than ever because unity in Europe is in danger. “Together for Europe” is now more important than it has ever been. When I was young, after the disaster of the Second World War, Europe signified a peace project for us young people. Enemies were to become friends and we did. We were granted seventy years of peace and prosperity that our forefathers would never have dreamt of and it isn’t a dream; it’s reality. It’s our future.
Noone is denying the fact that Europe needs a flourishing economy to achieve this. An economic system is needed for life and survival but it is needed for life. It’s not the meaning of life itself which is why Europe needs more than an economic system. Europe isn’t just an economic community. Europe is a community of values. It has strong Christian foundations without which Europe cannot be called Europe. Many people have forgotten this. So, it is our duty to stand up for it again.
We cannot allow the ghosts of nationalistic egoism – believed to have died long ago – to rise from their graves and spread fear and terror. Every one of us loves our own homeland, our own language and our own culture. We’re not looking for uniformity. Europe’s diversity is the Europe’s wealth. Patriotism has nothing to do with nationalism which creates walls and fences. Nor does it mean withdrawing to a national “Island of the Blessed.” Patriotism is about being open; it allows itself to be enriched and seeks to enrich others. Whoever raises the drawbridge in front of it will soon starve.
Pope Francis recently said Europe is a “work in progress.” Europe was never simply a fait accompli; it has always been “in progress”. It has always been its strength to integrate other cultures: Celts, Germanic tribes, Normans, Slavs and Muslims whom we are not meeting for the first time today.
We were ecstatic after the fall of the Berlin Wall, hoping for borderfree communication, universal democracy and universal human rights. We are now facing the problems of the world becoming one which do not appear as abstract numbers but as real people with real faces. They are children of God. They present us with new challenges. We need to show them how attractive Christianity is, show them that being a Christian is a good thing. We can only do this together as Protestants and Catholics if we set aside our differences.
Is it possible? Yes, it is. As Christians we believe in the resurrection and the power of the Spirit of God. We believe that life is stronger than death and that love is stronger than hate. Jesus Christ is in our midst; he goes before us. As Christians we are witnesses of hope that we can live and work together as Christians and live and work together in Europe. What’s needed is not fear, but hope. Let us not be those who doubt, but those who build bridges and bring hope.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Emeritus of the Roman Curia and President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity