Berlin's "Kirchentag" Gives a Boost to Ecumenism

5 Days of Conferences, Talks and Prayer Attract Young People

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BERLIN, JUNE 3, 2003 ( Over 200,000 people gathered in Republic Square to pray together, at the close of the «Oecumenische Kirchentag,» the first ecumenical congress of the German churches.

Promoted jointly by Catholics and Protestants with the motto «Be a Blessing for the World,» the five-day event served as the context for more than 1,000 activities, including round-table talks, conferences, shows, times of prayer, and spiritual meetings. It closed Sunday.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was impressed by the number of young people who attended.

«There is the hope and will to cooperate, to come closer, to learn from one another,» he told Vatican Radio. «The impression of this ‘Kirchentag’ is very positive and I think it gives a strong impetus to the future of ecumenism.»

Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference, also noted the important presence of youth, who comprised about 40% of the participants.

«It was a worthwhile undertaking: a really successful ‘Kirchentag,'» Cardinal Lehmann observed, adding that he hoped the meeting would «accelerate ecumenism,» the Italian newspaper Avvenire reported.

For Lutheran Manfred Kock, president of the council of the EKD, an organization of the German Protestant churches, the «Kirchentag» is a «historic event in the life of our churches.»

In fact, the participants «have given a positive sign for greater communion among themselves and for the cohesion of our society,» Kock said. An opening-day session attracted 400,000 people.

«I have the impression that […] the ecumenical dialogue, as Cardinal Kasper has emphasized, has reached a certain maturity; which after a springtime of ecumenism has not now reached winter, as many say, but summer, namely, the period in which things are maturing, perhaps in a slower way,» said Joachim Schwind, director of the review Neue Stadt.

«One detects a need to return to the spiritual roots; that it is not enough to engage in ecumenism with activities or initiatives, but there must be a return to Christ himself, to Christian life, to the life of mutual love,» Schwind added.

Perhaps «the most important message of the ‘Kirchentag,’ which has had a strong repercussion in society and the media, has been the proof of the existence of a modern, alive, attractive, serene and joyful Christianity, which manifests a profound, human joy,» he concluded.

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