The five-day symposium, organized by the Order of the Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget, has attracted experts from all over Europe. The event ends Sunday.
“We follow the example of our founder, St. Bridget of Sweden, proclaimed co-patroness of Europe by John Paul II in 1999,” the order´s abbess, Mother Tekla Famiglietti, explained. Next year the order will celebrate the 700th anniversary of the birth of its founder.
The symposium follows John Paul II´s statement earlier this week that ecumenism is a priority of his pontificate.
–Q: Why is the primacy of spirituality proposed again in the ecumenical realm?
–Mother Tekla: We have been working for years in this field, in the International Ecumenical Center of Farfa, which we inaugurated five years ago.
It is an attempt to respond to the Pope´s wish to reconstruct man from the interior. There can be no ecumenism without a strong spiritual impact and a solid inner way. This is why the scientific committee of the symposium, composed of Catholics and Lutherans, has focused on this binomial.
–Q: Are St. Bridget´s religious working in this field?
–Mother Tekla: In each one of our communities, especially in our houses of shelter, we promote meetings and congresses open to the faithful of other Christian denominations.
We try to build an ecumenism of charity, made up not just of words and dialogue; we walk together, placing Christ at the center, both in the eucharistic celebration as well as in daily adoration: a moment of prayer in which even Lutherans participate, attracted by the atmosphere of silence and recollection.
We will open a new ecumenical center in Bremen next year, as well as in Cuba, where [our] house has been requested by Fidel Castro, in memory of John Paul II´s visit.
On Dec. 8 we will inaugurate a house of an ecumenical nature in Bethlehem, which will welcome pilgrims, but also break bread with all the poor, Christians and Muslims alike.
–Q: Do you also have contacts with the Orthodox?
–Mother Tekla: In Estonia, where we arrived Sept. 15 of last year, we have begun good contacts with them.
People are conscious of the laceration with Catholics and seek someone who will help to sow the tears, to heal the division so that the Church will also breathe with the two lungs of East and West there.
We would like to be present in other countries of Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, dialogue proceeds with Lutherans in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, England and Switzerland.
–Q: An ecumenical sensibility rooted in the history of your founder …
–Mother Tekla: St. Bridget wanted to rebuild unity in the Church of her time. In the 14th century, she appealed for a reform of customs and the return of the Pontiff from Avignon to Rome.
In the 19th century, Mother Elizabeth Hesselblad re-founded the order when the Pope was no longer far from Rome but the faithful were far from the Holy Father, following the Lutheran schism. Thus, our spirituality has maintained its fidelity to its origins: to pray for unity and the ecumenical dialogue.
–Q: What steps must ecumenism take in Europe?
–Mother Tekla: Above all, as Catholics we must be the first to believe profoundly, asking the Holy Spirit to convert us and make us understand what steps must be taken. The Pope always opens the way by giving example.
In addition to prayer, witness, and dialogue, we cannot each remain in our positions. From words we most move to actions, to a concrete expression of ecumenism, both on the part of those with responsible roles as well as simple faithful.