Twenty years being “Together for Europe”

An important anniversary was celebrated at the ecumenical little town of Ottmaring, then sealed with a ceremony in the city of Augsburg, Germany. There was a renewed commitment to be ambassadors of reconciliation and signs of hope in the various churches and society.

Foto: © Ursula Haaf

More than 300 members of the “Together for Europe” network of 55 communities and movements from 25 countries came together 7–9 November at the Focolare’s international centre of Ottmaring and in the city of Augsburg, Germany. It marked 20 years of life for Together for Europe.

It was 31 October 1999 when, for the solemn signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification at St. Anne’s Church in Augsburg, the leaders of a number of Christian groups from different denominations came together at Ottmaring. They fully realised their shared responsibility for ecumenical coexistence in Europe.

After representatives from the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church declared in a shared document that the centuries-old doctrinal condemnations were invalid, those representing the charisms of various confessions decided to get to know one another better and work to reconcile the diversity in their churches, society and politics.

Through their commitment they brought about “Together for Europe.” It was a small seedling that today has become a European project, and more than 300 communities, movements and ministries have joined.

“So many countries have never been represented at our annual meeting as have this time”, affirmed one of the representatives from friends of the Together for Europe network who attended this year. Since it began 20 years ago, there have been many profound relationships born between people of different countries. “The representatives of the churches and politicians appreciate our contribution.”

The high regard that Together for Europe enjoys in Augsburg also supports this. The city itself, in fact, invited the European representatives attending the meeting to a reception in the Golden Hall of the Augsburg Town Hall.

Mayor Stefan Kiefer, greeting them in his speech, emphasised the various points in common and shared objectives that the network has with the city. For its jubilee year, the city made the town available for the meeting, expressing its appreciation and gratitude. At the same time, the presence of civil and religious authorities demonstrated that the network has an important function of being a bridge in the Church and society.

Foto: © Ursula Haaf

“We must become active citizens, taking courage to defend the weak and raise our voices for justice”, invited Czech Senator Pavel Fischer.
The moving conclusion of an ecumenical prayer in the Lutheran Church of St. Anne and a procession of light on the square in front of the church reminded many of the peaceful forces that 30 years prior on the same day had brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall and a new era of a united Europe.

Gerhard Proß, who moderated the event, saw a “golden thread” linking these events, and a mission for the future. “In times of separating ourselves and tendencies to draw boundaries, we want to be a prophetic sign with Together for Europe of a credible coexistence and collaboration in Europe.”

Andrea Fleming

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