Christian Movements Poised for a Key Gathering

Motto of May 8 Event Is «Together for Europe»

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ROME, APRIL 22, 2004 ( Christian movements of various churches and ecclesial communities will meet for the first time to offer their contribution to the building of European unity.

The meeting May 8 will gather some 10,000 people in Stuttgart, German, in addition to 100,000 connected by satellite from more than 150 cities. Organizers outlined the plans for the event at a press conference today in Rome.

Gathered under the motto «Together for Europe» will be representatives of some 175 movements, communities and Christian groups, as well as 25 Catholic, 14 evangelical, eight Orthodox, and two Anglican bishops, and 30 parliamentarians from 10 countries.

The program features addresses by founders and leaders of movements and communities, including Chiara Lubich of the Focolare Movement, Andrea Riccardi of the Community of Sant’Egidio, and Orthodox priest Heikki Huttunen.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Bishop Johannes Friedrich of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Bavaria will be interviewed on the contribution of the movements to Europe.

Andrea Riccardi said that the idea of the meeting first emerged at the ceremony of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification of the Catholic Church and of the World Lutheran Federation in October 1999.

«The Christian roots of Europe are not something that forms part of the past,» said Riccardi, who is a university professor of history. «Personally I lament the failure to present with greater clarity the Christian history of Europe in the Constitutional Treaty.»
<br> «I lament that it was not said that the European Union, basically, began with the failure of Auschwitz, and that no mention is made of anti-Semitism. This memory of the evil that Europe lived through, gives us an orientation for the future,» he said.

May 8, the date of the meeting, is the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. It also celebrates the enlargement of the European Union to 10 new countries, which will take place a few days earlier.

Speaking on behalf of Chiara Lubich, Gabriella Fallacara explained that «Stuttgart is a point of arrival but also a point of departure; it will be the first of other events, which perhaps will be carried forward by others.»

«The united Europe is a Europe of the market, a geographic Europe, which also hopes for a spiritual contribution,» added Fallacara, director of the Centro Uno for the promotion of ecumenical dialogue.

«John Paul II said it in Madrid: ‘I dream of the Europe of the spirit,'» Fallacara added. «This passion has led several Movements to discover in themselves the possibility of making a concrete contribution to the building of a united Europe in the spirit.»

The meeting will be followed live by satellite by thousands of people.

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