Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Together for Europe

Maureen Liddy, one of our parishioners, attended the international gathering of Christians organised in Stuttgart recently by the Focolare Movement. This is her report:

This remarkable gathering of more than 9,000 people representing 240 Christian Movements and Communities from all over Europe took place in Stuttgart, Germany on Saturday 12th May. Many Church Leaders and politicians were also present, while others sent very positive messages of support.

The initiative for such a gathering originated in 1998 when Pope John Paul invited the leaders and representatives of the European Movements to meet with him at Pentecost in Rome. There was a huge response and thousands thronged St Peter's Square in a spirit of joyful hope and enthusiasm to celebrate the diverse charisms which the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon the Church. During this historic event the Holy Father expressed his desire that the Movements would continue to build a network of relationships with each other and collaborate with their distinctive gifts to be a Christian witness throughout Europe. There was an immediate response to this request and a current of communion began which led to the first " Together for Europe " event in 2004 where 180 Movements were represented in Stuttgart. A joint declaration was made there, promising to work together with all people of goodwill to build true brotherhood in Europe.

This year's event showed the growth and development of the Movements and their influence on society, particularly in the areas of the Family, Work and Economy, The Poor and Underprivileged, Peace and Justice and the City. Many positive experiences were given to illustrate how the Gospel is the basis of bringing peace and fraternity in every situation. One couple shared a very moving experience of trying to build bridges between the divided communities in their town in Nothern Ireland despite immense difficulties and disapproval from both sides. Their faith in the Gospel message of love for every neighbour sustained them.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XV1 sent his special blessing in a message which was read by Cardinal Bertone. In it the Holy Father quoted Pope John Paul saying his words were more relevant than ever; " I would like to mention in a particular way the loss of Europe's Christian memory and heritage, accompanied by a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference, whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots and somewhat like heirs who have squandered a patrimony entrusted to them by history ". Cardinal Bertone continued, " The Holy Father hopes that the meeting may strengthen the desire for communion which animates lay Movements and Communities of the different Churches; that it may contribute to overcoming prejudices, nationalism and historical barriers, and may urge people to work so that the spiritual dimension may not weaken in the Europe of post - modern times. "

Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke of his joy in seeing the Churches of Europe growing closer together with new attitudes of sharing in a spirit of communion. He said the Gospel gives us the hope and energy to build peace and solidarity in Europe, then to look beyond to the needs of the world , especially Africa.

Bartolomaios, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, said: "The secularized man of our time suffers simultaneously from material saturation and spiritual impoverishment ". He urged all Christians to build a personal relationship with God so we can overcome divisions and see everyone as brothers and sisters: "Let us look for our original Christian roots , so that an inspired desire becomes tangible reality ".

The Catholic Patriarch from Armenia said that this coming togetherof Christians has been initiated by the Holy Spirit ..."in order to give Europe a new heart according to the plan of God, a renewed soul to unify the peoples of Europe in the Spirit of the Gospel ....they will discover every day new ways , new "formulae " which will diminish the significant differences and increase the number of unifying values... The Holy Spirit astonishes us with his initiatives which generate light, joy and peace. "

Messages of encouragement and blessing were also given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Budapest and President of the European Bishops Conference; Cardinal Vlk of Prague ; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference in Germany; Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches; Pastor Thomas Wipf, President of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe: Johannes Friedrich, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and many others. The many politicians who supported the day included Jose Barroso , President of the European Commission, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, and Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister. Romano Prodi, the Italian President, spoke of the challenges facing Europe in the Middle East and Africa which give us a great impetus to grow together to bring unity, fraternity, reconciliation and peace.

The vibrant joy of being part of this collaboration and enrichment gave the participants a new determination to live the Gospel together - " for the glory of God and the good and blessing of all humanity ". However, this was not just an emotional or superficial feeling , for a leitmotiv running throughout the day was a profound sense that the sufferings of Europe's past history and the experience of the present "dark night " can be resolved only through our love for Jesus, Crucifed and Forsaken.
In the final talk Chiara Lubich, foundress of the Focolare Movement, reminded us that it is Jesus Forsaken who is present in every division and suffering of society, and with Him we can overcome them: "This gives birth to and spreads in the world what we could call the 'Culture of the Resurrection' ... Jesus Forsaken, the modern day Crucifix , radiates the light of the Risen Lord and makes us generous in sharing His gifts... we want to give priorty to loving and following our mode: Christ Crucified and Forsaken. In this way, we will be able to take upon ourselves the cry of today's humanity, and through His 'cry' which redeemed everything, build around us that human family for which the world is yearning".

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


On Sunday 20th May, Brother Martin from the Fransiscan Friars of the Renewal spoke to Forum Christi on the topic of evangelisation. He gave us a number of examples from his personal experience of speaking to people about Jesus and said that the key things to remember when evangelising were: - Have confidence and trust in the truth of the Gospels - Use personal testimony - even if you think your life has been boring. Perhaps the fact that you play football will be enough to engage you in a conversation with a stranger that eventually leads you to talk about Jesus with them - Pray that God will put you in the situation where you can evangelise and make a difference to someone's life Brother Martin left us with a challenge: he gave us all a miraculous medal at the end of the talk, and asked us to pass it on before we got home. The evening ended with a decade of the rosary, and Theology on Tap at the Nightingale - where at least 3 miraculous medals were passed on.

Trip to Our Lady of Consolation and Chessington

On Saturday 19th May a group of 40 youngsters from the altar servers, Keep the Faith and Confirmation groups went on a trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead. After watching the new film "The Nativity Story" during the coach journey, we had refreshments on our arrival at the shrine. We then said the rosary outside on the rosary walk, and had Mass where Fr David Goddard told us about the history of the shrine and about the secret chapel, where Mass was said during the reformation. He was very impressed with the prayerfullness of all the children during Mass. After this it was time for lunch and an opportunity for football and piggy-back races, whilst small groups were able to visit the secret chapel and see the relics of Blessed Francis Bell.

After lunch we left the shrine en route to Chessington World of Adventures. There we faced the challenges of surviving the Vampire ride, Dragon rollercoaster, Pirate Ship, Dragon Falls, Rameses Revenge etc. And we even got Fr Marcus on some of the rides! All the group enjoyed the day and we say a special thank you to Fr Marcus for organising the trip, and to the other adults who came along to help.