Germany: European ecumenical meeting in Stuttgart

Source: FSSPX News


On May 12, the Second Ecumenical Meeting, “Together for Europe”, took place in Stuttgart (Germany). It brought together leaders of more than 240 Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican communities and movements. The meeting included several thousand participants – including Romano Prodi (the Italian President) and Jacques Barrot (vice-president of the European Commission) – and a satellite broadcast in major European cities. The First Meeting took place in Stuttgart on May 8, 2004, with 9,000 participants including around fifty personalities from various religious denominations and many political leaders.

 These meetings have their origins in a meeting between Catholic and Evangelical movements and communities present during the signing of the “Joint Declaration on the doctrine of justification” between the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation at Augsburg (Germany) on October 31, 1999. Later, representatives of German Evangelical groups which make up the “Congress for Leaders”, including Helmut Nicklas (YMCA Munich), Gerhard Pross (YMCA Esslingen) and Friedrich Aschoff (Charismatic Renewal in the Protestant Church) met with the founders of the Focolare Movement and the Sant’Egidio Community, Chiara Lubich and Andrea Riccardi. In 2002, “the proposal to offer a contribution to the spiritual unity of Europe was adopted, and it was decided to organize a demonstration of dialogue, with the participation of members of movements and communities of different Churches”. These included members of Alpha International (England), the Sant’Egidio community (Italy), Fondacio (France), the Focolari movement (Italy), Schönstatt (Germany), Syndesmos (Belgium) and YMCA (Germany).

 Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’Egidio Community had this to say on May 12, on the future of Europe today: “We have a common destiny. It is something to share with our fellow citizens as a conviction, a vision, an additional passion. (…) Together with Africa, we have a shared destiny: either we will live together or we will die together. (…) Europe will be more united insofar as it is able to live with Africa.”

 In her speech entitled For a culture of communion, read by Bruna Tomasi, Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement, said: “the leaven of a new life can be discerned in the world, which is propagating a new culture, a culture of communion. We must observe that the Holy Spirit has been particularly generous in our times. (…) Each movement, community, or work is a response to the collective darkness which is raining down on the world. (…) So it is more necessary than ever to spread these movements which, in the mutual love between them, make up a great network of universal brotherhood. (…) When Christ takes control of the economic world – and this will come about when more and more men and women have the wisdom to place their humanity at Christ’s disposal – we may hope to see justice reign and finally witness a major transfer of goods of which there is an urgent need. He filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away (Luke 1:53). Such is the revolution we are called to bring about.”

 Gérard Testard, president of Fondacio – Christians for the world, spoke at the conclusion of the day: “It is not about going back to a dominant Christianity. But may God’s kingdom come. Your kingdom come, as we say in the prayer Jesus taught us. To open our hearts to the Gospel, to the word of God, is to welcome the gift of peace, of charity, the gift of respect, of welcoming the stranger, as, to live like Christ is to meet the eyes of the poor, it is to fight against all of the dehumanization. That is where the spirituality of Europe lies. A Europe more united, in a mission for the world to be more united, more supportive, especially with Africa. Christians, and especially communities and movements, have the duty to carry on giving this human depth to Europe. Wanting to live together is a political project which concerns Christians. (…) Europe is made up of different Christian denominations. This is an opportunity. These denominations have played an important connective role for the future of peoples. Undoubtedly, ecumenism has a vocation to bring about that which policies alone cannot achieve: to receive one another, to confirm the anthropological foundations which act on personal behavior and give a soul to the peoples of Europe.”

 The organizers presented different messages of support from political and religious personalities: José Manuel Barroso (President of the European Commission), Angela Merkel (German Chancellor), Mary McAleese (President of Ireland), Bertie Ahern (Prime Minister of Ireland), Jacques Delors (Former President of the European Commission), Giorgio Napolitano (President of the Italian Republic), Bartholemy I (Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople)…


Benedict XVI assigned Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of the Holy See, to address a message to “the promoters, organizers and the numerous participants at the meeting, ‘Together for Europe 2007’”. Published on May 15, the message stated: “The ‘Together for Europe’ initiative that has come to life through the good ecumenical intuition of Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican groups, associations, movements and communities seeks to underline the need to re-affirm together faithfulness to the Gospel in a Europe that risks losing its original values and giving up on its Christian roots. (…) The appeal not to lose our roots is like a repeated invitation to work concretely so that believers in Christ of different confessions may unite their efforts in the service of such a timely and relevant cause. It’s a matter of defending a human and spiritual heritage that is vital for the authentic development of Europe.” (…)

“The Holy Father hopes therefore that the meeting "Together for Europe" may strengthen the desire for communion that animates lay movements and communities of the different churches; that it may contribute to overcoming prejudices, nationalism and historical barriers, and may urge people to work so that the spiritual dimension may not weaken in the Europe of post-modern times.”

In their final declaration, ‘Together for Europe’ stated: “Gathered in Stuttgart from all over Europe, we represent more than 240 Christian Movements and Communities, and we wish to bear witness to the continued growth of a new communion among us, which can only be the fruit of the spirit of God.

“Thanks to this communion, we see clearly our responsibility in facing Europe’s challenges today; to be a strong social and cohesive force within a context of cultural pluralism. The awareness that our differences constitute a richness, and are not a reason for fear or division, can become a sign of hope wherever human coexistence is endangered.

“Our contribution consists in offering a Gospel that is always relevant and alive. We want to manifest the fruits of Europe’s Christian roots – its past, present and future – which were so essential to our founding fathers. We are grateful to all those who have worked for peace and reconciliation among the peoples of Europe. We hope that Europe – which through colonialism, world wars and the Shoah inflicted harm on humanity – may have greater courage to express its spirit and thus contribute to the building of a more fraternal world.

Charisma, gifts from God, help us along the road to fraternity and co-existence, which is inherent in Europe’s vocation. Our fraternity is born out of love of the Gospel, ever renewed and communicated, excluding no one. It is because of this bond which unites us in God, which we have renewed today through a pact of mutual love, as Jesus asks us.

“United by this pact of mutual love, we say YES to life and we commit ourselves to defend its inviolable dignity at every stage, from conception to its natural end.”

(source: Together for Europe)