Messenger of peace and reconciliation

In Aachen, Germany, the Focolare presented the Klaus Hemmerle Prize to Metropolitan Anastasios Yannoulatos of Tirana, Albania

He is not a familiar face on newspaper front pages, this white-bearded, gentle 90 year old who received the Klaus Hemmerle Prize from the Focolare Movement on February 14 in Aachen, Germany. But Anastasios Yannoulatos, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Tirana, Albania, is a well-known and respected figure, both at the international religious and political levels, especially in Eastern Europe.

In his acceptance speech, Yannoulatos said he hoped for a “peaceful coexistence in a multireligious world”, and expressed his fascination with Albert Einstein’s phrase about the power of love: “Each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released… because love is the quintessence of life.”

Yannoulatos recalled that it was this same love that encouraged Bishop Klaus Hemmerle (1929–1994) to commit tirelessly to world peace and reconciliation.

One can see this same commitment in the actions and life of Metropolitan Anastasios.
Bishop Helmut Dieser, current Bishop of Aachen and successor of Klaus Hemmerle, welcomed the 300 guests to the imperial cathedral of the city of Charlemagne, presenting the award in honour of this “pioneer of faith and ecumenism”.

Metropolitan Augoustinos Lambardakis, president of the Orthodox Episcopal Conference in Germany spotlighted the esteem that Metropolitan Anastasios enjoys in the Orthodox world, where his words are heard despite tensions between the various autocephalous churches.

Focolare president Maria Voce emphasised Metropolitan Anastasios’s tireless commitment to dialogue between Christians and Muslims in her message for the occasion, thanking him for his ability to inspire communion, brotherhood and sharing.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, paid tribute to Metropolitan Anastasios. He retraced his path from Greece through Africa to Albania, where Yannoulatos showed how “interreligious dialogue and missionary commitment did not have to be in conflict”. The cardinal also emphasised how Yannoulatos has been carefully committed to rebuilding and reinvigorating the Orthodox Church in Albania since 1992, helping to reduce strong tensions in the Balkans.

Every two years the Focolare Movement in Germany honours key individuals in the field of dialogue between churches, religions and ideological beliefs with the Klaus Hemmerle Prize. Previous winners include the former president of the World Lutheran Federation, Bishop Emeritus Christian Krause (2006); Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I (2008); Muslim doctor Noorjehan Abdul Majid of Mozambique (2016); and German Rabbi Henry Brandt of Augsburg, Germany (2018).

Andrea Fleming

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