“Called to unity – Towards an ecology of relationships”
This is the title of an
online workshop scheduled for 2 March 2024
which our network is promoting in 4 languages: English, Italian German and French.
The event was prepared with representatives of various Churches, Movements and Communities, with the aim of highlighting one of the ‘7 YESES’ of our journey together: the ‘YES to creation’.
During the morning, the speakers will take us through the Churches’ thinking on this subject; afterwards, we will dialogue with them to further explore the topic.
In the afternoon, ample space will be devoted to good practices in the efforts to safeguard creation which are already underway in various European countries.
The Focus? The relationships that form the basis of our acting and interacting with creation.
We would like to offer this opportunity to enhance a network regarding ecology, encouraging positive and imitable initiatives.
The Workshop is being supported by European Union Funds and is part of the ‘DialogUE’ project, which we joined as the Together for Europe network.
To participate, one needs to register via the link on the Flyer that you can download here>>. Subsequently, the link to the webinar, together with the programme, will be sent for registered participants.
We look forward to seeing you!
The Secretariat of Together for Europe
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.
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.
Interview with Herbert Lauenroth (1) ahead of the next meeting in Timisoara
Where do you see the main values of Together for Europe (TfE)?
Based on common Christian roots, TfE has made its own the vision of a Europe of solidarity, peace, reconciliation, justice and fraternity. TfE wants to re-propose the Christian ethos (with reference to Jn 15:12: This is my commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you) in the light of a ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ (in the words of the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman), which seems to be the indispensable basis for a communication capable of overcoming the current tendencies of increasing polarisation and fragmentation. It is in acquiring a “culture of listening”, that very promising avenues for dialogue and for an experience of reciprocity are opened up, thus coping with the media pathologies of a so-called “post-factual” (with their notoriety, such as disinformation, denunciation, “hate speech”, dissemination of “fake news”, etc.).
Does this create greater solidarity?
I think so. Because solidarity is born in the light of the Christian experience, of its vision of a “universal brotherhood”, which brings us out of our respective “echo chambers” or “bubbles”, to open up to the (discursive) spaces of an “egaliberté” or “egalberty” (according to the neologism of French philosopher Etienne Balibar). These spaces resonate with what Gal 3:28 states: there is no longer Jew nor Greek; there is no longer slave nor free; there is no longer man nor woman. Being ‘Christian’ therefore means being a ‘citizen’. Democracy, as a secular project, needs very precise presuppositions, namely the reference to the transcendent, to the ‘religious’ sphere (it is enough to remember the emblematic meeting in this regard between Card. Joseph Ratzinger and the renowned German representative of so-called post-metaphysical thought, Jürgen Habermas, in 2004).
And how can these values be realised?
There have been many occasions in the past. Most recently, TfE participated in the Ecumenical Youth Festival in Timisoara/Romania, to promote dialogue between young people of various Churches.
On 5 May 2023, we offered a workshop on the theme of citizenship and the transformation of cities, starting from the passage of scripture ‘Seek the Good/the Shalôm of the City’ (Jer. 29:7) and a text – endowed with an unprecedented prophetic pragmatism – by Chiara Lubich: ‘One city is not enough’. Approximately 100 young Catholics, Orthodox and members of other Christian churches participated. The workshop was then further divided into various thematic groups, of which ‘The Art of Listening’, ‘Christians=citizens’ and ‘Ideas for a film/storyboard about my city’ were the most popular. On the part of the young people (16 to 28 age bracket), both the practice of ‘story-telling’ and a psycho-spiritual approach to group dynamics were appreciated, as well as the enhancement of the aesthetic side (in addition to the diaconic or social side).
From 16 to 18 November 2023 there will be the annual meeting of the ‘Friends of Together for Europe‘ also in Timisoara. Why?
For the year 2023, Eleusis (Greece), Veszprém (Hungary) and Timişoara (Romania) won the title of ‘European Capital of Culture’. On this occasion, Catholic Bishop Pál József Csaba of Timişoara invited to his city the annual meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe. The TfE Steering Committee accepted the invitation and included it in its programme.
On an annual basis, the meeting of the ‘Friends of TfE‘ takes place in Eastern and Western European countries (e.g. Prague, Timisoara and Porto) with the aim of creating the basis for a differentiated and fruitful dialogue. It is about fostering an attitude that creates the conditions for this very dialogue. The aim is to learn more deeply the ‘Art-of-Listening’, the readiness to mutually ‘listen’, which is the only way that can lead to a solid and sustainable knowledge of the other’s culture.
For the Friends’ meeting in November, among other things, we would like to propose workshops that take up and discern in depth the theme “Seek the Good/the Shalôm of the City” on a larger scale.
(1) Herbert Lauenroth, historian, is a member of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe and has accompanied the development of the international network since its inception.
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:
- I’m aware that the synodal process has unleashed an enormous potential of hope. And for this, I must express my congratulations.
- 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.
- 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.
Photo: Gerhard Pross with Margaret Karram
The Steering Committee of Together for Europe (TfE) met in Munich
The Munich YMCA hosted the annual gathering of the TfE Steering Committee which was attended by 20 members and several invited guests, from 27 to 29 April 2022.
The participants experienced a wave of fresh air that was brought about by the young adults belonging to the European Network of Communities (ENC), the YMCA, the Focolare and the Schönstatt Movements: they wanted to reflect with the first generation of the network upon the future of ‘Together’. The guests carried out their task with delicacy and respect. Mária Špesová (ENC) from Slovakia said: “In TfE I see something sacred that grew in these 20 plus years. I feel invited to enter this rich experience on my tiptoes”. Also, Georges El Hage (Syndesmos): “Here I feel free to express my thoughts and people listen attentively. We are welcomed with great trust”.
The program of these days included numerous spiritual inputs, prayers and a lively exchange of ideas. The recurrent topic was the war in Ukraine. During the first evening, several persons from Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia were linked via zoom to share their experiences of practical help. An Italian participant affirmed: “We are seeing the birth of a new Europe based on solidarity”. And Zsuzsanna Klemencz (Sant’Egidio/Hungary) stated: “We ought to disarm ourselves and let others disarm us. How? By putting aside our arrogance and our hatred”. According to this Hungarian, this is what true disarmament means; this will give rise to a “peaceful people”, disarmed to win the war. Franꞔois Deloors (Sant’Egidio/Belgium) added: “This is the attitude that we strive to constantly put in practice between us, and thus, as TfE, we can offer it to Europe and the entire world”.
Porto 2022 and Timisoara 2023
“Here I feel at home” was the comment offered by Clotilde Pestana of the Schönstatt Movement. She travelled to Munich with another member of the National Committee of Portugal to help out in the preparation for the “Meeting of the Friends” scheduled for November 2022 in Porto. “Portugal has a lot to offer to Europe: openness, hospitality and a rich culture”. These are but a few of the reasons to hold the 2022 ‘Meeting of the Friends” in the Country on the far western side of Europe.
In 2023, the ‘Meeting of the Friends’ will be held in Romania, in Timisoara. Ilona Toth of the Steering Committee updated us regarding the many conversations and meetings she had in Romania. The encounter with the Orthodox world and the multicultural reality of Eastern Europe, among others, require a detailed and in-depth preparation.
Witnesses for humanity
During the meeting it became ever more clear that TfE, faced with the great sufferings in Europe and in the world, is called to support the “incomplete” and to go down the rifts of humanity, which are injustice, hatred and war.
Thomas Römer (YMCA Munich) underlined: “Indeed, most probably we are living through a change of epoch, an epochal upheaval, so to speak. Let’s not allow evil to win, but let’s defeat it with good”.
As Römer noted, death and resurrection are entwined in the history of humanity. He was introducing the participants to the renewal of the Pact of Mutual Love, based on Jn 13, 34. With fraternal encounters with the Risen Lord in the midst, TfE continually witnesses hope for humanity.
Photo: Diego Goller / Group photo: Thomas Barthel, YMCA Munich