It is not the first time that the Gniezno forum has posed the question about Europe’s future. This year’s conference, however, was particularly important because of the imminent membership of Poland in the European Union. It was significant that Gniezno was the chosen venue. In the year 1000, Gniezno was the cradle not only of the Polish Church but of the Polish nation as well. St. Adalbert is buried in this city. Martyred in his attempt to christianize the Prussians, he is considered as one of the Fathers of the united Europe.
“Europa Ducha,” Europe of the Spirit, was the title of the important conference organized by St. Adalbert’s Forum, which is composed of several Polish associations and movements. The conference brought together over 500 participants from all parts of the Old Continent. Fifteen different countries and 25 public organizations were represented. There were also about a hundred journalists. Leading figures were present, such as Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity; Card. Lehmann, President of the German Bishops’ Conference; Polish Primate Card. Jozef Glemp; founders of ecclesial movements such as Chiara Lubich and Andrea Riccardi. Also a large number of politicians, civic leaders and intellectuals participated.
Zofia Dietl, the conference organizer, explained: “We invited the Movements because the title ‘Europe of the Spirit’ wants to put into light the European spirituality and those who are building it. Currently, I believe, the most important elements of European spirituality are the Movements, the New Communities. That is why we asked Chiara Lubich and Andrea Riccardi to open this conference.”
The circular hall was filled to capacity last March 12. After the preliminary remarks, the word was passed to Chiara who addressed the theme “Charism of Unity, Charism of Europe”. Piotr Cywinski, moderator of the morning session, commented: “This conference began in a strong and convincing way thanks to this contribution which is a true theological study on unity.”
Chiara was followed by Prof. Andrea Riccardi who presented a vast historical fresco on Europe. He began by saying: “Wherever I go in the world I see that Europe is badly needed.”
In the dialogue with the participants afterwards, Andrea and Chiara helped delineate this Europe of the spirit, completing one another’s ideas with great hope in a Europe which is on its feet and functioning well…
In the afternoon, there was a discussion on “Christians and Money” with Michel Camdessus, Prof. Gronkiewicz-Waltz, and Leo Andringa, a Dutch married focolarino. The proposal of the Economy of Communion was well-received by the public who saw it not as a utopia but as a prophetic reality.
Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, former president of the Bank of Poland, currently president of the Bank of Europe for Reconstruction and Development, affirmed: “The Economy of Communion is possible. (…) It could be the solution on the national, regional and personal levels.”
And Michel Camdessus, former general director of the International Monetary Fund, commented: “Economy and Communion can be interrelated, yes. A principle which evidently we have all forgotten is the principle of brotherhood; the world must be built first and foremost on this foundation. Furthermore, we Christians go a step further by passing from brotherhood to communion. We must do this and suggest it to others, because we are all brothers and sisters.”
The Gniezno conference concluded with speeches given by authoritative persons in European politics. In particular, the President of Poland Aleksandr Kwasniewski, who began his talk with warm words of recognition on the importance of Christian Movements in the life of Europe.
An interesting discussion followed on the role of politicians in this historical moment, with Rocco Buttiglione, Italian Minister of European Affairs, and the former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki.
The fact that Gniezno was an important step for Europe along the way to Stuttgart, was confirmed by Cardinal Lehmann, President of the German Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Mainz: “In May we will see one another in Stuttgart and it will be a good continuation of this conference. I believe that many efforts, many opinions, many associations are needed… But the Movements have a strong spirit, a constant commitment, and I feel that this is very important. A fleeting enthusiasm, a sudden outburst is not enough; we need to work with continuity, as the Movements do.”