Walking together

The Second Ecumenical Church Day

The Second Ecumenical Day for Churches (Ökt) came to a close on May 16 with a major celebration held in Munich on the Theresienwiese Esplanade. During the service attended by 100,000 faithful, the two co-presidents of Kirchentag, Eckhard Nagel (Protestant) and Alois Glück (Catholic), urged German Christians to try to bring about a “new turning point” in order to tackle social and ecclesial problems together. “We need to grow in solidarity, respect and understanding”, said Nagel. “We are Christians in this world and for this world” and “we need to assume this responsibility jointly”, Alois Glück added. According to both, the meeting in Munich marked significant progress in ecumenism. “Ecumenism is alive”, highlighted Glück. “In Munich, the dream of the Churches’ unity in diversity has been in part fulfilled”, Nagel added. As for the crisis in the Church in the wake of the abuse scandals, the Catholic president called on lay Catholics to commit themselves, “so that this crisis may be a source of new vitality, new strength, and new attraction”. One thousand tables. More than 3,000 events were organised to mark this ecumenical meeting attended by over 130,000 visitors. Among the main issues were the economic-financial crisis, peace, the war in Afghanistan, as well as the situation of the Churches and ecumenism and the inter-religious dialogue with Muslims and Jews. The celebration of the vespers of Orthodox rite held May 14, attended by 20,000 people, was the highlight of the event. 10.000 faithful of different Christian confessions broke the blessed bread together seated around 1000 tables in Odeonsplatz. Metropolitan Augoustinos recited the blessing of the bread that was consumed with oil and apples according to Orthodox tradition, which refers to the agape of the first Christians. Everyone could participate since it was not a sacramental celebration. The event was attended by political dignitaries as well as by the Catholic Archbishop of Munich Msgr. Reinhard Marx and the head of the Evangelical Church Schneider. The knot of the Eucharist. The Kirchentag organizing Committee was clear: it was not possible to hold a common Protestant-Catholic Eucharistic celebration since the time is not ripe as relates to theological dialogue. The Catholic archbishop of Munich Msgr. Reinhard Marx and Evangelical pastor Eckhard Nagel explained that the step will be taken in due time. The problems of Church office and understanding need to be solved first. However, at the end of the vespers, in conveying his “deep gratitude”, Catholic Ökt President Alois Glück said: “With the sign of the table, ecumenism has gained a new symbol”. Evangelical president Nagel reiterated, “The tables are a concrete sign of the authentic yearning to be a community. After this joint celebration the world will no longer be the same”. Metropolitan Augoustinos called upon attendants “to look in the eyes and if possible receive in their hearts” also their Orthodox neighbours once they are back in their homes. “May God bless our Churches and give us unity”, he finally exclaimed, welcomed by an applause. The Orthodox vespers represent the most significant symbol of the ecumenical meeting in Munich, and strengthened the ties with the Orthodox Churches and with other Christian Churches. No alternative to ecumenism. “The Ecumenical Church Day means that we are on a journey with other people who, like us, seek and hope, believe and love. Ours is a nostalgic journey with a goal”, said Msgr. Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), in the homily delivered May 16 at the closing celebration of the event. “For me, there is no alternative to ecumenism”, highlighted the DBK president in a press conference held the day before. “Ecumenism is not dead, nor is it stuck in a glacial time”, he told journalists, adding that Ökt gave him “new strength”. “The Ecumenical Day was not marked by euphoria and arrogance, but by joy and reflection”, he observed. During the meeting, Mgr. Zollitsch also spoke about the abuse issue, saying: “it has been of great benefit to reflect together on our responsibility in the crisis. As Catholic Church, we are working hard to settle this crisis. We need time. But Ökt encouraged me to go forward on this path”, he concluded.

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