Wonderfully sunny weather throughout gave the recent European Meeting in Rome a festive air, even if several thousand of the young people needed to stay in very rudimentary accommodation, including large-scale dormitories in the city's exhibition halls.
One moment each day when it was possible to see the whole meeting together was lunchtime at the Circus Maximus. It was transformed into a vast picnic area. Photos from this Flickr page
For the early evening prayer with Pope Benedict on Saturday 29 December the number of participants was swelled by Italian groups who had come as day participants. During the course of the afternoon the whole of St. Peter’s Square filled. 45,000 people is probably no exaggeration.
Brother Alois spoke clearly of our desire for unity in the Church: “Reconciled Christians can become witnesses to peace and communion, bearers of a new solidarity among human beings. Seeking a personal relationship with God is the basis of this approach. This ecumenism of prayer does not encourage a facile tolerance. It promotes a mutual listening which is demanding, and a true dialogue.”
And Pope Benedict, in his reply, showed that he realised the ecumenical dimension of the meeting: “I assure you of the irrevocable commitment of the Catholic Church to continue seeking the paths of reconciliation leading to the visible unity of Christians. And so this evening I greet with special affection those among you who are Orthodox or Protestants.”
The full texts of their short addresses are attached with this message and downloadable here.
The afternoon “workshops” were wide-ranging. The Vatican Museums were opened specially for about 3,000 participants. Their visit culminated in a short talk given by one of the brothers in the Sistine Chapel. The young people sang prayerfully as they filed out. The staff at the museum spontaneously gave their thanks, saying they had never had a visit like this before. Others made pilgrimages to various Catacombs, the burial places of the early Christian communities. The remaining workshops were more usual in format, for example two meetings on themes of science and faith with a Jesuit astronomer. The titles of all the workshops are in the downloadable Meeting Booklet which was given to participants on arrival.
At the beginning of the same booklet, you can find Brother Alois’ text for the coming year, “Proposals 2013”.
The meeting could not have taken place without the generous help of many religious communities, as well as parishes. The experience of one community of sisters who opened their doors wide is recounted here.
Evening meditations by Brother Alois
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s message for the meeting
Articles, videos on the internet
with very best wishes at the beginning of this new year,