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
Meeting in Graz to mark the Europe Day, May 7, 2022
The venue was a recently refurbished hall that previously was the refectory of the Franciscan Friar Minors. Now it is the baroque heart of a modern conference Centre in the city centre of Graz. The date was May 7, 2022 and the participants were members of Christian communities from diverse denominations. The purpose was to mark Europe Day and it was organized by Together for Europe.
There were about 130 participants and these came from various places in Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Switzerland. They came together to listen to the Word of God and to share lived-out experiences related to the topic of the conference: “How to overcome divisions”.
The various inputs included:
- A dialogue project in Hungary to deal with controversial political opinions;
- Building trust between refugees and those opposed to their presence;
- Reconciliation of families of victims and executioners 75 years after the Holocaust;
Needless to say, all participants were struck by these and they created the right atmosphere for a lively exchange of ideas in small-group meetings.
The leaders of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, together with those of the Baptist community, had words of encouragement. Friends from Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy who could not be present due to their commitment with refugees, or for health and other reasons, sent their greetings.
After a shared lunch and a guided visit of the city, the afternoon was dedicated to an ecumenical prayer for peace.
All the present difficulties, like the war in Ukraine and in many other parts of the world, the climate crisis, the Covic-19 pandemic, the economic uncertainty… were presented to God. This touching intercession prayer was organized by a family from the Schönstatt Movement.
The participants felt strengthened to fulfil their task in the Church and society by the words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “May the God of peace… equip you with every good thing to do His will” (Hb 13, 20-21).
The meeting was enhanced by the contribution of accomplished musicians who injected the event with a festive and spiritual atmosphere. The participants responded very generously toward a project to help Ukrainian refugees being hosted near the Hungarian border.
In the background of the hall there was an expressive painting of “Jesus feeding the five thousand”, a fitting reminder. The day, which was full of enriching encounters, came to a close with the hymn: “Stay with us Lord, because evening is fast approaching. Stay with us Lord, because it’s getting dark. Stay with us Lord”.
Michael Murg, TfE Graz
May 9, 2022: a European expression
Once again, this year many original initiatives were organized to mark May 9, Europe Day. The following are just glimpses of some of them.
A trans-borders meeting was held in France and Germany. From Strasbourg (France) the one-hour walk under the banner ‘For a peaceful Europe’ ended at the Church of Peace in Kehl (Germany). At the end of the event, one of the 200 participants stated: “This day will be remembered for a long time. Together we offered a sign of unity and celebrated hope for all Europe”.
The EU declared 2022 as the European Year of Youth. Thus, Together for Europe in Italy focused on “Education” to mark May 9. The online sharing of experiences between young and old persons clearly showed that there exists a mutual dependence between the two for a happy and successful life. The meeting was followed by about 1,800 persons.
About 300 persons from Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Switzerland met in Graz (Austria). Friends from Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy sent their greetings. The meeting reach its climax in the afternoons with a common prayer for peace. The participants then responded generously to the appeal for donations in favour of a project to support Ukrainian refugees near the border with Hungary.
In Munich (Bavaria), Together for Europe went up a panoramic wheel. The gondolas performed numerous rotations, always with eight persons on board – who held a conversation and a meeting at high altitude!
Together for Europe – culture of reciprocity
Since 1999 has grown Together for Europe, an initiative of already more than 300 Christian communities of different Churches. It is a network which is engaged in shared goals where the charism of each community comes into play. It´s „culture of reciprocity“ contains that individuals and peoples get to know and appreciate each other, become reconciled and support each other.
Saturday, 7 May 2022, 9 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Minoritensaal, Mariahilferplatz 3, 8020 Graz, Austria
Free parking: Access via Volksgartenstraße-Afritschgasse
Admission: voluntary donation (approx. € 25 for food and conference fee)
The event will be held in German, translations will be provided.
||Welcome and spiritual impulse
||Ways out of divisiveness
Exchange of experiences with participants from Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria, …
||Small city tour (optional)
||Attunement to the prayer for peace
|15:30 to 16:30
||Prayer for Peace in the Cloister of Minorite Monastery
Registration for the event
firstname.lastname@example.org until Monday, 2. 5. 2022
with surname, first name, language/s, place of residence, country
Overnight reservation (if required)
email@example.com, Ms Anna Gigl
Exerzitienhaus der Barmherzigen Schwestern, Mariengasse 6a, 8020 Graz
(Near the main station, 15 minutes walk to the Minorite Monastery)
COVID-19 measures according to the current regulations, in any case negative PCR test not older than 72 hours or daily negative antigen test.
Organiser: Together for Europe – Austria together4europe.org/Österreich
With the kind support of the Diocese of Graz-Seckau
Europe turns 71. What can we conclude when we see that the European States, and the entire world, are struggling due to the consequences of the Pandemic?
This was the introductory question with which the Austrian professor, Dr. Petra Steinmair-Pösel, started her contribution during the Zoom conference. The conference was based in Graz and was held to mark Europe Day 2021. She quoted the Schumann Declaration (May 9, 1950): “World peace cannot be preserved without creative efforts that are as great as the threat”. According to the Professor, these words are still valid today and thus the question is: what creative efforts ought to be done by our generation?
Dr Steinmair- Pösel proposed the three steps: seeing – judging – acting. “Seeing” today’s great challenges: the pandemic, the fear of the others and therefore the building of defence walls. “Judging”: what does Europe need today? Here the Professor spoke about the need of dialogue, which is able to change life. And lastly, “Acting”, which means: to dialogue while keeping an interior silence, respecting the others and being open to learn from them.
According to Dr Steimair-Pösel, dialogue is the personal and cultural bases that allows us to seek together new solutions in a creative way; this entails nurturing mutual trust and working together. In this way we will create the conditions for “a discussion that unites us all”.
Here the transcription of her talk (translation from German) 2021 05 08 TfE Austria -Steinmair-Poesel – A conversation that brings us togehter
Once again, Covid-19 is preventing the holding of the ‘Meeting in Graz’ on the occasion of the 2021 Europe Day. Nevertheless, a Zoom meeting will cater for the manifold friendships:
Saturday, May 8, 2021, from 9 till 11 a.m. from Graz
With participants and contributions from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia
(with simultaneous translations in the national languages and English)
Topic: “A conversation that brings us all together” (Laudato si‘ 14). DIALOGUE
Guest speaker: Dr. Petra Steinmair-Pösel
Ecumenical prayer with Bishop Dr. Wilhelm Krautwaschl, the superintendent Mag. Wolfgang Rehner, and Pastor Bruno Gasper
This is being organised by the Styria Team of Together for Europe
Bookings at Elfriede Palt: firstname.lastname@example.org stating name and surname, language and respective Community/Movement
You can download the invitation and the programme:
Programme Zoom Meeting from Graz 2021 05 08