EUROPE: Taizé urges young people to promote unity between churches

January 1, 2008

The leader of the Taizé community urged tens of thousands of young Christians from Europe who gathered in Geneva at the New Year to organize "vigils of reconciliation" for unity between churches that are divided from each other.

"How can we be credible in speaking of a God of love if we remain separate?" Brother Alois, prior of the ecumenical Taizé community said in his meditation at a televised prayer service on December 30 at Geneva's Palexpo exhibition center.

"It is up to you young people to take the initiative," said Brother Alois, who became the community's leader after the death in 2005 of its Swiss-born founder, Brother Roger. "Those who hold positions of responsibility in the churches will support you. It is up to you young people to prepare these 'vigils of reconciliation.'"

In launching the community's "call in Geneva for the reconciliation of Christians," Brother Alois said, "Coming together in this way in prayer vigils is already a way of anticipating unity; it allows the Holy Spirit to unite us already."

The "European Meeting of Young Adults" from December 28-January 1 included moments of prayer, silence, song and testimonies. Taizé is a community of brothers that includes Protestants and Roman Catholics. It has developed its own style of music for meditation, using simple phrases, usually lines from the Psalms or other pieces of Scripture.

Brother Alois announced that the next European meeting would take place in Brussels, from December 29, 2008-January 2, 2009 and that there would be a meeting for young adults from Africa in Nairobi in November 2008.

As well as evening prayer at the Palexpo center each evening, there were smaller meetings at churches throughout the city as well as at the Geneva headquarters of the World Council of Churches. Many of Geneva's streets thronged with young people during the period.

"It's an encouragement to see young people in Europe getting closer when some people say Europe is going through post-Christianity," World Council of Churches general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia told Taizé participants meeting at the church grouping's headquarters.

In his December 28 opening meditation, Brother Alois recalled that Brother Roger had left Geneva in 1940 to look for a place in France where he could found a Christian community.

The Geneva gathering was the 30th Taizé meeting of young adults from Europe. The first was held in Paris over the 1978-1979 New Year, and the last before Geneva was held in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. The community said 40,000 people took part in the five-day Geneva gathering, 30,000 coming from outside Switzerland. The biggest national grouping was from Poland, with more than 9,000 participants.

Some participants, however, like Isaac and Miho Arai and their two children came from as far as Sendai in Japan. "It looks like a long journey but to us its not a long journey," Isaac Arai told Ecumenical News International, noting that this year is the third time the family has attended such a Taizé meeting in Europe. "We can meet and talk with so many young people from all over Europe and even from Africa and Asia. We feel so blessed."

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