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Apostolic Movement

Together for Europe called to be a witness of unity

By: Beatriz Lauenroth/Hbre.

From the crisis of saturation to the crisis of longing.

“At a time of polarization, the Holy Spirit brings about Togetherness”, expressed Gerhard Pross, YMCA Esslingen, current moderator of Together for Europe (TfE), at the beginning of the online support group meeting 2021. Pandemics, the environmental crisis and the refugee issue have drastically transformed our crisis of saturation into a crisis of longing. Walter Kriechbaum of the Munich YMCA explains, “But as Together for Europe, we have been entrusted with a valuable treasure.” According to Kriechbaum, it is about encounters, enhancing mutual listening and understanding, building bridges, seeking reconciliation, and thus daring to live within a reconciled diversity.

Gérard Testard, Efesia, Frankreich
Johannes Fichtenbauer, ENC, Austria

This is exactly what happened on the first Saturday of November 2021 in Castel Gandolfo/Rome, at the International Center of the Focolare Movement. Sixteen members of the Steering Committee of TfE (Community of Sant’Egidio, YMCA Germany, Efesia France, ENC Austria, Focolare Movement, Schoenstatt Movement, Syndesmos) and more than 150 others were linked via Zoom.

Sister M. Lioba Ruprecht, Schoenstatt Sister of Mary, and Father Heinrich Walter, Schoenstatt Father and international co-coordinator of the Schoenstatt Movement, participated representing the Schoenstatt Movement.

The International Network of Christian Movements also organized this year a day of exchange on the common concrete commitment for a (more) Christian Europe.

The day before, the main leaders of the participating movements met the Steering Committee for an intense exchange of ideas on how to shape up Together for Europe now and in the near future. “Here our charisms are tangible. It is a communion of pathways that becomes a living sign of unity in the midst of a Europe marked with centrifugal forces,” commented one participant.

Two important impulses

Together for Europa
Gerhard Pross, CVJM Esslingen

On the morning of November 6, the focus was on the speeches by Gerhard Pross and Margaret Karram, the new president of the Focolare Movement. In his lecture “The Prophetic Mission of Together,” Pross highlighted the cracks running through Europe and invited citizens to become bearers of hope. He continued: “In the midst of the upheavals and the crisis of our time, we can live the unshakable hope of the Gospel and be messengers of God, who, even at this time ‘wants to give us hope and a future’ (Ger 29:11)”.

Margaret Karram, President from the Fokolare-Movement

In her contribution “A message of reconciliation in the midst of polarization”, Margaret Karram encouraged the participants to embrace a reconciled diversity and thus be apostles of dialogue. In doing so, differences would not be ignored but rather recognized. “When we engage with other cultural horizons, schools of thought, customs and paradigms with appreciation, we are enriched, not disoriented.” Karram encouraged participants not to fear suffering. “God is at work here. Have courage to build the culture of togetherness and also have courage to risk doing something new.” Referring to her own life experiences, she stressed the absolute need of forgiveness in order to achieve peace.

National committees

The national committees, the local and national working groups of the TfE, illustrated their dynamic “togetherness” in Eastern and Western Europe through the contributions from ten countries. Some examples: from Austria, some 300 people from eight countries went online for a two-hour dialogue on May 9, Europe Day. The conversation went beyond cultural and political differences to a deeper understanding of each other. In the Czech Republic, TfE members went together to the White Mountain, near Prague, as a sign of reconciliation. This is where Catholics and Protestants clashed 400 years ago during the Thirty Years’ War.

In Slovenia, young journalists from different Christian movements came together to organize the ACTIVATOR initiative. In times of polarization, including in the social media world, they are spreading the attitude of respectful dialogue. In Serbia, a group of various Movements is committed to working together to “walk together” with refugees across borders on their long journey to a new life.

Pater Heinrich Walter, Schönstatt-Movement

Evening prayer

The day concluded solemnly with an evening prayer which included a Pact of mutual love. During this moment, those present renewed the promise to live according to the foundation of their communion, that is, the New Commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34-35).

The Future

– From November 10-12, 2022, the TfE commissions in Portugal invite you to the meeting of the Circle of Promoters in their country. They state: “We want to get to know and understand each other even better, and that includes on a cultural, political and artistic level. That is why we need to meet”.

– 2023 Roman Catholic Bishop Jòzef Pál of Timisoara, Romania, invites friends of TfE to his city, which will become the European Capital of Culture in 2023. “In my diocese we speak seven different languages. Therefore, we are already a “little Europe” and we can certainly enrich each other in contact with TfE,” he said.

Photos: Thomas Klann


You can also read: Poland – Church and protection of minors: from unprepared to informed


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