A crucial moment

Interview with Frère James of Taizé

“Visits promote mutual understanding. Each relationship requires time to mature”. In an interview to SIR Europe, frère James, responsible of the Taizé community for Romania, speaks of the relationship between a community and a village that grew in the course of 40 years. Since the 1970s, the Taizé brothers have been paying regular visits to Romania; initially in secret, now as an official destination of the “Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth”. Also this year, from May 10 to 27, a pilgrimage across 15 cities bring together the youth, to address their difficulties, to establish relations, to encourage them and pray together. The meetings are accompanied by workshops on various themes linked to spirituality and marked by moments of prayer attended by young Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant faithful.Since the Community’s initial phases, the religious of Taizé displayed a great interest for Romania. How did it come about? “Frère Roger, the prior of the community, wished that the brothers accompany and support Christians experiencing difficulties under the Communist regime. They went there as tourists and under the pretext of visiting monasteries they tried to communicate with the locals. In Bucharest they met father Galeriu, an Orthodox priest, and through him it became possible, soon after the events of 1989, to organize the first bus of youth directed to Taizé. Relations with Romania were very lively and progressed in time. At the beginning many people were arriving in Taizé, and the was a major endeavour. There were also those who arrived for the wrong reasons, because it was an easy way of travelling in the West, and it was therefore important that they understood the meaning of what was happening. As time went by, people started to understand and the relationship changed. Romania undergoes no restrictions today, but the Churches are experiencing a difficult moment, there are increasingly less people and the phenomenon of secularization has arrived at the speed of light. Churches are experiencing difficulties and we are trying to help them”.How do young Romanians relate to faith and to the local Churches? “In the Churches of Romania there are still many young people. However, an increasing number of young people see the Church a remnant of the past, something that no longer has relevance in modern life. The Churches need to find the most appropriate ways to communicate with the youth. Changes arrived so quickly that there was no time to envisage the developments. We must be very flexible. This is the time to reach out to the youth on the threshold, as they won’t resist much longer. It’s a crucial moment indeed”.In your opinion what is the greatest challenge faced by Romanian youth? “The greatest challenge is to preserve one’s roots. Young Romanians yearn to open to others, to come to learn new people and cultures, to travel. This openness is a wonderful gift, but we must remain faithful with what we are. The greatest danger when we leave behind who we are and we throw ourselves to others is to lose our very self. While our vision encompasses others, we must continue looking for new things about ourselves, regarding our culture and our tradition”.After the events of 1989 Romania experienced massive emigration by its local populations, especially by the youth, towards the West, in search of a better life. Nonetheless many young people decided not to leave. How do you see the Country’s future through their eyes? “It isn’t always easy for those who remain. They want to create a better tomorrow, but at times the system makes things difficult. We’re trying to support the youth, to encourage them to soldier on. But it’s hard to fight for the future of the Country whilst working for those who perhaps will never return”. How did Romania change in 20 years since the fall of Communism? “We’re still in a phase of adaptation. Twenty years ago the arrival of freedom caused widespread euphoria followed by disappointment, since in reality, things hadn’t changed much. As the time went by there was the suspicion that there were people who wanted to preserve the same system, but with a surface of democracy. Now we’re progressing towards a more mature democracy, although most young people don’t feel involved in political life. Politicians are not considered at all trustworthy. Until people start to feel that voting or supporting politicians could bring about a change, this transition phase will linger one. But there are signs that things are starting to develop”.

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