Recently 30,000 young adults from all over Europe came together in Strasbourg, France. This gathering was the 36th European Meeting, an annual event prepared by our Taizé Community and held each time in a different European city.
By giving young people the opportunity to make personal contacts across borders, we want to help them acquire a true European awareness. The work of international institutions is essential, but unless there is a meeting of persons, Europe cannot be built.
If there is no longer a wall between East and West, there are still walls between our perceptions. The young people who came to Strasbourg want an open and inclusive Europe. They want solidarity between all European countries and solidarity with the poorest peoples of other continents.
They ask that a globalised economy be closely linked to a globalisation of solidarity. They expect rich nations to show greater generosity, both through investments in developing nations that truly offer justice and by a worthy and responsible welcome given to immigrants from these countries.
Wounds of history
The wounds of history leave deep scars and damage mentalities. To play their part and bring healing, young people possess one possibility: they can refuse to pass on the accumulated rancour and bitterness to the next generation. They can do this not so as to forget a painful past, but in order to break the vicious circle that perpetuates resentment, and so to gradually heal the memory by forgiveness. Without forgiveness there is no future for any society.
With the young people of different denominations gathered in Strasbourg, we were reminded that to seek reconciliation between Christians is not to become closed up on ourselves.
It is now possible for Christians, separated in our various denominations, to get stuck in a tranquil coexistence. How can we move beyond this?
In Taizé, we are amazed to see that young people spending a few days together on our hill – Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics – feel deeply united without in any way reducing their faith to a lowest common denominator. On the contrary, they deepen their own faith.
I should like to find the right words to ask Christians of different churches: does there not come a time when we should have the courage to come under one roof, without waiting for all theological formulations to be completely harmonised? There will always be differences: they require frank discussion, but they can often also be an enrichment.
Let us do with Christians of other denominations all that we can together, and let us not undertake anything without taking others into account. Praying together once a year during the week of Christian unity cannot be enough; it may even become a formality. Why not pray together more often?
In many places, there is ecumenical partnership, particularly in prison and hospital ministry. Why not intensify collaboration and spread it to other areas, instead of working in parallel?
I touch on one of the most sensitive points. Could not all Christians consider that the Bishop of Rome has a calling to support the communion between all – a communion in Christ where certain theological expressions involving differences remain? Does Pope Francis not set a course for us by making the announcing of God's mercy a priority for all?
I am aware of touching upon a subject which arouses strong feelings, and may be doing so clumsily. However, in order to move forward, it seems to me that the need to enter upon a way of reconciled diversity is unavoidable.
Br Alois Löser is Prior of Taizé, an ecumenical monastic community in France made up of brothers from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds. This article marks the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which continues until
Saturday, January 25th.