Europe Day in Vienna, 6 May 2023. More than 100 people from six Central European countries gathered for the event promoted by ‘Together for Europe – Austria’ in the Schönstatt Centre in Vienna-Kahlenberg.
Under the title ‘Building Bridges of Hope’, ten speakers shared their experiences as ‘bridge builders’. On this day, the dream became reality, a day of encouragement in an often-discouraging daily routine.
In Innsbruck, Gottfried Rießlegger is involved in an ecumenical exchange between a Catholic and a Protestant parish, which have their own churches, and an Orthodox parish without a church. Two churches, 150 metres apart, separated by a fence. One day the desire to be together was stronger than fears and reservations – two big scissors, one on the left, one on the right – and already there was a big hole in the fence, the beginning of a blessed enrichment. The Orthodox community has a kit in a large chest; and every Sunday, after the Catholic liturgy, the iconostasis is set up in front of the altar.
From Slovenia, Marjeta Bobnar reported on the fruits of the ‘Summer job’ project. This project builds relationships with people in need through aid of a physical nature and, of course, between young people from different parts of Slovenia.
In Hungary, Tibor Héjj is ‘building bridges’ with minibuses. People with disabilities are transported day by day to the workplaces of various companies, where they work and live with people without disabilities.
Also, from Hungary we had the choir ‘Vox mirabilis’, which made bridge building a tangible experience.
In the Czech Republic, Dagmar and Petr Peňáz are bridge builders with heart and soul. They build bridges for people with special needs. They build bridges between Christians, for example through ecumenical pilgrimages in Moravia, and bridges between the nations of the former Monarchy.
MEP Lukas Mandl recounted the tensions he experiences in his parliamentary work, in which he could not agree on everything. However, as a Christian, he always tried to uphold human dignity and respect the freedom of others. Working together requires concrete work in committees, but also spiritual inspiration.
Eva ed Erich Berger gave him a 44-page collection: small stories of bridge-builders, stories from the daily lives of Christians, which can give courage and hope.
On this 6 May 2023, God showed his people that he is capable of building bridges for everyone. An injection of courage.
The building of bridges must continue, in a concrete and lasting way: on 7 May and every day thereafter.
Edited by Diego Goller
Photo: Christoph Fürböck