Called to Hope

Called to Hope

It is wonderful (even if challenging!) to feel “called” to live and work in a reality greater than oneself: one does so, with joy and an ever-new impetus, on a well-founded Hope! Because, when God calls, we can always count on his grace that leads, accompanies, gives strength… And it is even more beautiful to discover that others, too, have received the same call – but with different tones and concrete expressions. This is how it is when different charisms meet! Converging in great freedom, discovering the myriad things that unite us, amplifies the beauty of each, refines and strengthens common goals.

Last year, in Timisoara/Romania, the Friends of TfE once again experienced being called to unity, an unforgettable experience, which filled their hearts, minds and souls.

Despite the fact that the world – including Europe – seems to be crumbling, there is a growing number of people who have been walking together for 25 years, experiencing the generative power of peace in going with an open heart towards the different, in welcoming each other even when it costs, in serving the Church and society together. These people know that the word ‘hope’ is not something that only refers to the future, but something already alive among them. “Called to Hope!” Hence the choice of this title for the meeting in Graz.

In and around the picturesque Hotel Schloss Seggau there will be time for getting to know each other, for dialogue, for making plans together for the good of our Churches and societies, and… also for an ‘ecumenical walk’ through the city of Graz, which is full of history in this respect. There will be opportunities to meet with leaders of local Churches and civil society. And, of course, there will be times for learning more about our charisms and for prayer.

We look forward with joy and full of renewed HOPE to this appointment – open to the surprises that its human-divine potential holds in store for us!

Cornelia Koni Brand

Christian Roots and the Future of Europe

Christian Roots and the Future of Europe

On 9 May, on the evening of Europe Day 2024, Jeff Fountain, Director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies in Amsterdam, and former Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger spoke at an online conference on the topic: Let us speak and pray for Europe. More than 100 participants in Europe followed the keynote speeches with great interest.

The conference was enthusiastically prepared together by a group consisting of members of the YMCA in Esslingen/Germany, ENC in Bratislava/Slovakia and the Focolare Movement in Vienna/Austria.

Jeff Fountain ha discusso nella sua presentazione la storia dell’Europa e le origini della Giornata dell’Europa e ha citato, tra gli altri, l’ateo Richard Dawkins: “Non si può capire l’Europa senza capire il cristianesimo e la Bibbia”. Il 9 maggio 1950, il ministro degli Esteri francese Robert Schuman annunciò l’accordo sul carbone e l’acciaio tra Germania, Italia e Francia con un discorso di soli tre minuti. Adenauer, De Gasperi e Schuman, insieme ai Paesi del Lussemburgo e del Belgio, posero in seguito la prima pietra della Casa Europea dopo la Seconda Guerra Mondiale concretizzando quell’accordo, chiamato CECA. “Questa è la storia che dobbiamo raccontare ai nostri figli e ai figli dei nostri figli ancora e ancora”. Leggi il discorso di Jeff Fountain (inglese) >>

Eduard Heger outlined the problems of our time. To overcome wars, migration, climate change, polarisation and fake news, Heger called on Christians to bring the good news of the Gospel into politics. Heger affirmed: ‘Forgiveness, hope and love can change the world and bring long-desired peace’.

A discussion with the speakers then followed. From the Netherlands: ‘For me, this means that I have to start making peace in my immediate environment. Many small steps then make a big difference’. ‘Unity is strength, that is, connecting with like-minded people to achieve a common goal,’ commented a student from Maastricht.

Beatriz Lauenroth

Wake up, Europe!

Wake up, Europe!

This year, Together for Europe (TfE) in Belgium celebrated Europe Day together with the Schuman Centre, which organises the annual ‘State of Europe Forum 2024’ event in Brussels, the host city of the European Union institutions.

The conference, entitled ‘Wake up Europe’, was prepared in cooperation with the Capella for Europe, the TfE Belgium committee, the EEA (European Evangelical Alliance) and the Carmelite Church, where the Forum was held. The participants at the Forum came from various Western and Eastern European countries (Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Ukraine), as well as a few participants from Armenia.

A rich two-day programme was presented, containing, among other things, prayers for the EU and reflections on the upcoming European elections. Among the many contributions, we mention only a few such as, for example, the impulses on the history of the ‘awakening’ of Europe – by Jeff Fountain of the Schuman Centre/Amsterdam, Christian Institute for European Studies. Fountain examined its origins, based on the visions, but above all on the friendship of three Christian politicians from previously hostile nations: Robert Schuman (France), Konrad Adenauer (Germany) and Alcide de Gasperi (Italy). Prof. Evert van de Poll from the University of Leuven referred to ‘moments of grace’ in Europe’s rich history.

This was followed by the main reflections of two speakers from the cultural and ecclesial fields: Herbert Lauenroth, speaker from the ÖLZ (Ecumenical Centre) Ottmaring and long-standing member of the TfE Steering Committee, and the auxiliary bishop of Kamyanets-Podiliskyi in Ukraine, Radoslaw Zmitrowicz. Both speakers emphasised that Christians are ambassadors and architects, indeed witnesses, of new spaces of reciprocity, of reconciliation, of shalôm, of that peace which is founded in the Gospel and which our increasingly bellicose times so urgently seek.

One participant commented: ‘This peace, this witness of reciprocity – or “mutual otherness”, as the German theologian Eberhard Jüngel rightly called it – is entrusted first and foremost to Christians of all the different Churches, traditions, Communities and Organisations. If this witness is missing, nothing else counts’.

At the Chapel for Europe, TfE set up an exhibition of crosses from various cultures and Christian denominations, which can be visited until after the European elections.

Beatriz Lauenroth (TfE International Secretariat) and Anne Plancke (TfE Belgium Committee)

Programme 9 – 10 – 11 May>>

The State of Europe Forum 10 – 11 May>>

European Studies Day, 9 May>>

Programme European Studies Day, 9 May>>

Speech of Herbert Lauenroth>>

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

Self-awareness, serving the common good

Self-awareness, serving the common good

In Rome, at the event organised for Europe Day, I meet Aldo Bernabei, who has long been committed in the political world to create opportunities for young Europeans to meet, engage socially and work together. On this occasion, he tells me about a recent European Union Project: the European Solidarity Corps.

It is an EU-funded project, approved in 2018, for young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30, with the aim of developing young people’s sense of European citizenship through a period of voluntary work. It must be offered in at least three different European countries and include a prior training course.

It is intended to offer young people the opportunity to engage in programmes aimed at the common good. Within their own countries, national associations or agencies propose the funding of projects aimed at social initiatives, helping people in poverty, also in non-European countries, or undertaking cultural activities, e.g. on the identity of their own country. These work assignments give European-level credits that can be used for entry into the labour market.

It is hoped that ‘national civil services’ will be established throughout Europe, so that in the future there will be a civil service at European level and that volunteer status will be mutually recognised by all countries. To this end, an appeal was formulated>>, addressed in particular to MEPs, for their support of the Programme ‘European Solidarity Corps’ in view of a Europe of solidarity, active citizenship and peace.

by Diego Goller

For more information on the project, see the dedicated page on the EU website>>

Poto Canva / Photo Aldo Bernabei: Diego Goller

Building Europe Together

Building Europe Together

In 2024, the city of Munich once again sent out a common message for Europe: there were celebrations around Europe Day for a whole month. This year, the focus was on the European elections scheduled for 9 June. Activities and events were held every day. Munich residents were invited to actively participate, ask questions and be creative.

In this context, on 9 May, Together for Europe – represented by the Focolare Movement and the YMCA on site – took part in the big party in the city centre with a stand in front of the main stage, where singers, various speakers, and musicians alternated throughout the afternoon.

A lot of people came to inquire about our ecumenical network and its activities in Europe. There was time and space to get to know each other, exchange ideas, dreams and even difficulties.

Capturing the attention was a puzzle about the European continent that fascinated mainly children and young people, the generations that will carry Europe into the future.

Beatriz Lauenroth