Two strong passions

Ecumenical dialogue and the Christians' responsibility for Europe

Ecumenism and dialogue in an ever-more globalized world, focusing on the responsibility of Christians in addressing the challenges in Europe. These were some of the themes broached in the forum and workshops that animated the second edition of the Kirchentag, the ecumenical event promoted by 17 Germany’s ACK Member Churches in Munich May 12-16. This year was marked by the important presence and cooperation of the Orthodox Churches in Germany, visible especially in the celebration of the vespers and in the liturgy of the blessing of the bread with 20.000 participants on the Theresienwiese esplanade on Friday May 14. Let us draw a balance on what has been said on ecumenism and dialogue. An inalienable objective. The “objective” of the path of ecumenical dialogue is “inalienable”: namely, to undertake all possible efforts to achieve Christian unity. Thus spoke the President of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) Msgr. Robert Zollitsch. “There will always be different interests and opinions among people. Our humanity is marked by plurality. In order to shun divisions and isolation we need a force that will create unity, capable of overcoming our human possibilities”, namely, “Jesus that prays for us so that in God we may find the unity we are unable to produce on our own. Zolltish exhorted Christian faithful to not “isolate” themselves “from the rest of the world”. “Missionary engagement is deeply aimed at mission and it cannot remain trapped within Christian self-complacency”. It is necessary that despite the legitimate diversity, “the unity and the efforts for unity that Jesus wanted for his Church become evident among us, since only in this way can Christianity fulfil its task and its mission in the world”. A just combination. “Ecumenism cannot be confined to the debate on the Eucharist and on the leaderships”, said Alois Glück, Catholic President of the Ecumenical Day of the Churches (Ökt) and of the Central Committee of German Catholics (Zdk) during a meeting with Catholic and Evangelical media. Referring to one of the many ecumenical ceremonies celebrated this week in Munich, Glück described them as signs of “ecumenism lived in prayer”. “There are no limits that prevent us Christians to act and work together”. “We must find the right combination of unity and diversity”, he declared. Immeasurable riches. Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) addressed the theme of the pastoral care of foreigners. In the Mass of the nations celebrated in the Church of Saint Micheal in Munich, His Eminence underlined the theological meaning of the different cultures and human languages, which contain, he said, “the immeasurable riches of experience and creativity of human communities”. “The encounter in plurality, made possible by the Holy Spirit, – continued cardinal Erdo in his homily -, entails a wonderful internal unity obtained within and not despite diversity”. Indeed, also “the Holy See encourages the Church to consider as much as possible the specific religious faith of foreigners”. The Cardinal mentioned as a last aspect “the Gospel’s relationship with the cultures” to the light of which “it is necessary to zealously identify the appropriate language for proclamation to different cultures and in different places. In this we are helped by the Holy Spirit”. Ecumenical passion. Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio Community, spoke of Christians’ responsibility for Europe with a bitter remark: “The world has changed. We’re living in a new era. Also the past two decades have been marked by intense changes. While often we limit ourselves to focus our glance on our Country or on our religious community. Each community naturally has its own problems. But this is not enough. Contemporary challenges are visible on vast horizons. The globalized world demands a broad-ranging vision”. “A Christian, audacious vision is needed in order to overcome particularisms marked by the fear of the world and by mistrust”. “One must not live for oneself – Riccardi added -. This entails finding the peaceful balance between globalizing unification and surging particularism. European States cannot depend on national developments only. There is a unification process that needs to advance. The fear is to lose something today. But tomorrow, if European States are left to themselves, they risk going off track. European unification is not a bureaucratic effort or a soul-less construction. Christians and their brothers (i.e. ecumenism) must act as the soul and the zeal of united European populations”. Riccardi believes that Christians cannot “renounce the commandment of unity. We need one another”. And “ecumenism is an exchange of gifts”. “This is why we cannot risk witnessing the diminishment of ecumenical passion, as often happens in academic or diplomatic discourse”.

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