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European Editorial: Youth and Ecumenism

(Vatican Radio) In the eigth of a series of Vatican Radio editorials focusing on the Church and Europe, the head of Vatican Radio’s German Programme, Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, SJ, discusses Youth and Ecumenism

When Taizé holds its annual meeting in Rome at the end of December, we’ll have the opportunity to see some concrete ecumenism in action. While theologians discuss and debate the important questions of our Faith, a tangible and very real form of ecumenism already exists in many local Churches. That’s something worth considering. Because there’s not much theory about the Taizé Community: it’s mostly about living the Faith in a concrete way.

Taizé’s brand of ecumenism is quite specific. At first glance the differences and groups that characterize the Community might appear of little importance. But that would be a superficial reading. Taizé, and its annual meetings, attracts a generation of young people that wants to see (and succeeds in seeing) what they have in common, what unites them. It’s a generation that expresses different traditions: Catholic, Oriental and Reform. Taizé meetings aren’t just attempts to unite that which can be adapted, they are experiences that apply different ways of approaching both God and the community of believers.

Young people are searching for God and they search for Him together with others. That’s why Taizé stresses song and monastic styles of community, places that have special significance, alongside shared peer experience and an international atmosphere, especially. The young generation meets beyond borders which, on these occasions, cease to be lines of separation. This kind of ecumenism isn’t focussed on discussions and activities. It’s the result of a common search for God. Tradition, and Pope Benedict XVI on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, calls this: Silence.

“That which is truly great often goes unnoticed, and calm silence is more fruitful than the frenzy that characterizes our cities,” said the Pope. “In due proportion, they lived the same way in important cities like Jerusalem long ago. It’s that unbridled activity that makes us incapable of being still and at peace, of listening to the silence in which the Lord makes his discreet voice heard."

It’s always impressive seeing how young people can teach the older generations how to discover God in this kind of silence – how to welcome Jesus into their lives. Taizé brings peace and tranquillity to prayer and to listening. And it does so through music, interpretation of Scripture, and encounter. Taizé invites people to leave behind the craziness of everyday life and to concentrate on community – under the sign of ecumenism.

The community of Faith through the common search for God, without the stresses and strains of day to day living: that’s what Taizé will be bringing to Rome at the end of December.