Messages received for the meeting in Strasbourg

Pope Francis
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Le Patriarcat de Moscou
L’Archevêque de Canterbury, Justin Welby
The Secretary General of the Lutheran World Federation, Pastor Martin Junge
Le Secrétaire Général de la Communion mondiale d’Églises réformées, Rev. Setri Nyomi
Le Secrétaire général du Conseil Œcuménique des Églises, Rev. Olav Fykse-Tveit
The Secretary general of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon
The President of the European Council, Mr Herman van Rompuy

Pope Francis

Dear young people,

Rome remembers with joy your European meeting last year and especially the beautiful prayer that brought together thousands of young people in St. Peter’s Square with Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis feels close to you who are now gathered in Strasbourg and in the towns and villages of Alsace and Ortenau: a land torn by wars that have created countless victims, but also a land that bears a great hope, that of the construction of the European family. Because it is taking place simultaneously in two countries, your meeting is a sign. Europe, which has gone through and is still going through difficult times, needs your commitment, your faith and your courage.

You are together to "seek visible communion among all who love Christ." This is the project that you have set for yourselves for the meetings in Taizé throughout the year 2014. You are aware that the division among Christians is a formidable obstacle to the accomplishment of the mission entrusted to the Church and that “the credibility of the Christian proclamation would be much greater if Christians went beyond their divisions” (Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, n. 244). The Pope shares with you the conviction that we can learn so much from each other, because the realities that unite us are many.

The Popes counts on you so that, by means of your faith and your witness, the spirit of peace and reconciliation of the Gospel may shine forth among your contemporaries. From the bottom of his heart he extends his blessing to you, the young participants in the meeting, the brothers of Taizé, as well as the pastors and all those who are welcoming you in Alsace and Ortenau.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Dear young people,

For decades now, generations of young people have been coming together to witness to their common faith in Christ our Saviour. Meeting involves a double movement. It is a matter of giving and receiving, taking the initiative with respect to others and accepting that our neighbor can communicate something new to us. Some are more willing to share. Others are able to welcome with genuine joy. The link between these two actions must be fed by thanksgiving. To say thank you is not a simple greeting that one learns in youth and is then repeated without any awareness of the depth and theological richness of the word.
Saying thank you is a Eucharistic way of giving thanks and should be the characteristic of Christians. In the Orthodox Church, the Eucharist is a central event in the life in Christ, since we are incorporated into the mystery of the Church through him. We offer the bread and wine as the fruit of our work and receive it as the body and blood of Christ. For Saint Nicolas Cabasilas, the heart of the Eucharistic mystery is the bloodless sacrifice that transforms material elements into the sacrament of eternal life. In the final analysis, the entire life of Christ is a Eucharist that continues in the life of the Church and in which we must participate. When we study the Scriptures, we see how everything granted by God leads us to give thanks, even in the most terrible afflictions. From the cross, Christ offers himself for the life of the world. It is not a question of being thankful for one’s misfortunes, but of asking that we be given the strength of the Holy Spirit. If we pray while thanking God, then Christ will pray to the Father that a Paraclete may be granted to us. "He is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, for it does not see him nor know him. But you know him, for he dwells with you and is in you" (John 14:17).

Let me offer you our warmest greetings and congratulate you on the occasion of the 36th European meeting in Strasbourg. We pray that it may bring each of you the grace of unity that sustains the life of the Church and that you may be worthy creators of reconciliation among Christians.

Le Patriarcat de Moscou

Dear Brother Alois! Dear brothers and sisters!

I cordially greet you on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and of all Russia, and I wish you a joyful celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

According to a good tradition, the young adult European meetings are held in the period between Christmas and New Year. This gives them a special meaning, full of light and hope for a more just and happier future.

We live together in a rapidly changing world and, thanks to scientific discoveries and the introduction of new technologies, one which is being increasingly characterized by globalization. But is it also becoming more united? Unfortunately, we observe that outer closeness leads to hostilities and conflicts between the rich North and the poor South, between social classes, between representatives of different religions. This reinforces our belief that the unification of humanity on the basis of purely economic interests is impossible. But what is impossible for men is possible for God. The Son of God was born in Bethlehem to restore the unity of human beings with God. In the words of the blessed Macarius the Great, Christ transforms those who love Him “into new men, new wineskins to pour in new wine, in other words the Spirit” (Conversation 44). In the Son of God we receive the Spirit of universal adoption, the Spirit of brotherhood, the Spirit of peace which overcomes all national or social differences.

May your participation in the annual meeting of young people of Europe “root you more deeply in Christ and strengthen you in the faith” (Col 2:7). As beloved disciples of Christ, be witnesses to His love which overcame the hostility of this world by helping those who are near and those who are afar, supporting all those who are in need.

May God grant that the coming year may be, in the life of our Churches and our peoples, as well as in relationships between people, more marked by Christian mercy and spiritual unity.

May the blessing of God remain with you all.

With love in the Lord,

Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk,
Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations
Moscow Patriarchate

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

In South Korea at the beginning of November, during the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Brother Alois met the new Archbishop of Canterbury. He was very cordial and attentive to the welcome that the Taizé Community extends to the young. Then, for the young people gathered in Strasbourg, he sent his New Year message.

This summer a very well-known soft drinks company launched their latest marketing campaign. They printed bottles with personal names on and we were encouraged to share a drink with specific friends. It was genius marketing. The names they chose were the 250 most popular names. There was even one with Justin on it.

It is a growing trend in the Western world that we are targeted personally by companies that want us to buy their product. Shops and internet sites have developed highly specialised ways of specifically addressing us as individuals. In this way they hope that we feel singled out from the crowd, personally addressed and offered something that is just for us. And it seems this trend of personalised marketing is just going to continue to grow in the next few years.

There are those who think that the main challenge for the church is to get up to speed with such marketing techniques; to employ similar strategies to try and get our product out there.

I am wholeheartedly committed to effectively proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am passionate about learning and strategizing, so we employ fruitful methods for people to respond to the Good News. However, we do not have a product. We do not push merchandise. We are about Jesus Christ. He is not a thing or a package. He is the most alive, real, true One in existence. And this New Year He invites us, calls us, summons us, charges us, to come before Him.

When we say the Gospel is God’s answer to the human condition, we are talking not about a scheme or doctrine of beliefs, not a strategy for managing internal life or behavioural commands. We are talking about living before, with, by and for Jesus Christ. He is the Gospel, and every facet of His life connects with every part of our lives.

As we look into the year we might be full of hope as to what it might hold for us, or we might feel despair at what will or will not come our way. As we look back we might feel nostalgia for how it used to be, or fear that it might be that bad in the future. Whatever is past, and whatever is in front of us, we must live, neither in the past or in the future. But in the present. We can think that the most important time for us spiritually is in the past, that there will never be times like that again. Or it might be that we think the most important time for us spiritually is some way off in the future. But it is neither of these. It is now.

That is because Jesus Christ stands before us at the beginning of this New Year as one who has loved us from all eternity. He knew us before we even had a name; He not only knows our name, He knows our past and our future, and chooses, in the here and now, at this very moment, to relate to us as the God who is for us. And because He is alive and divine He knows exactly who we are, exactly where we are, and exactly what we need. The irony of that drinks campaign was that they made it seem as if this drink was especially for the person named on the label. But the fact was it was exactly the same drink that everyone else in the world got. Jesus Christ quenches our thirst and satisfies our hunger with food and drink that is tailor made for us.

So today – come to Him. Tomorrow resolve to come to Him. We can’t go on trying to make ourselves up. But we are daily made new in Him. Allow all of yourself to relate to Jesus truly, and allow all of Jesus Christ to relate to all of you.

May we live each day of this year for Him and by Him. Let us follow Him – the one who was and is and is to come – into this year. Let us daily ask Him to live His life in us – so that everyone may see it is the best thing anyone can do to encounter Jesus Christ.

The Secretary General of the Lutheran World Federation, Pastor Martin Junge

Dear participants of the European Meeting in Strasbourg,

I send you many greetings from the Lutheran World Federation and the Communion Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

What a joyful gathering: because by walking and talking, by praying and singing together in the coming days you journey together towards a new solidarity.

Solidarity with poor and vulnerable people who are suffering most in a crisis situation, is a call for us as Christians.

Young people in the Lutheran World Federation too have recognized this call towards solidarity as a fruit of faith. Attending in November 2013 the UN Conference on Climate Change and listening to the desperate call of a delegate from the Philippines, who called for real change in behaviour, attitude and policies in order to stop the climate change they took up his call to fast with him for change. These young people began their own fasting, and invited other Christians to be in solidarity with and to advocate for those who are most affected by extreme weather events and by climate change.

Fasting first and foremost allows us to meet God. In the midst of the hectic and rush of daily live, we step back, pray and reflect. We open our hearts, minds, eyes and hands so that we become more aware of the loving God that searches us, meets us and wants to be close with us.

And since Christ teaches us to recognize God in those who suffer, fasting also allows us to become closer to those who suffer. Through the concrete feeling of hunger, fasting brings us physically in solidarity with the victims of extreme climate events and their hunger for food, for secured livelihood and for change. Fasting takes away the vast distance of space and time that separates us one from another, a distance that even has the power of disrupting the bonds of solidarity into which we are woven as a human family. Thus, fasting makes the reality of those suffering from climate change to break into our reality. With our whole bodies, we move from declaring ourselves in solidarity with others, to actually be in solidarity with them in much deeper ways.

Many other religious organisations are now together calling for an “Interfaith Fasting for Climate Justice”. By praying, fasting and acting we are in spiritual solidarity with each other.

It will start on January 1st, 2014 and continue until the next UN Climate Change Conference that starts on December 1st in Lima, Peru.

In this European meeting you will be searching for visible communion among all who love Christ. Praying, reflecting and being in solidarity with each other definitely opens new paths towards each other.

We wish you, in the spirit of journeying together towards a more just and peaceful world, a blessed European meeting in Strasbourg. Thank you for your witness! We pray for you!

Le Secrétaire Général de la Communion mondiale d’Églises réformées, Rev. Setri Nyomi

It is with joy that I greet you on behalf of the World Communion of Reformed Churches – a church family of more than 80 million Christians found in 108 countries.

You are gathering at a time when we are in the spirit of celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ who prayed that his followers may be one. It is therefore very meaningful to have this gathering under the theme “Searching for the visible communion among all who love Christ. It is our prayer that this gathering will inspire you, whatever your background, to do your part in fostering unity among all who love Christ.

Those who love Christ love to worship with others and to celebrate the fact that we belong together, and to make every effort to overcome divisions. Those who love Christ love to partners with Him in making this world a better place. This includes critically looking at the things that have led to injustice in the world and the things which make it difficult for large numbers of people to experience the fullness of life for which our Lord Jesus Christ came. Many people – Christians and non-Christians live – live in difficult situations suffering from the results of economic injustice or racial injustice or sexism. Yet, since we belong together, we are called to celebrate the fact that we belong together. Questions to ponder include: How can we live in such a way that our lives and actions demonstrate that we care for our sisters and brothers in such situations. How can our lives and actions help bring healing to the millions who are hurting. How can Christians of different denominations express our unity in Christ, pray and act together for the transformation of the world.

We thank God for the Taizé Community which gathers young people together at the end of each year and the impact the community is making throughout the world. We pray for this year’s gathering in Strasbourg.

May God bless you all.

The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse-Tveit

By the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:78-79

Dear Frère Alois,

It is my honour and pleasure to offer a message on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC) to the thousands of young people gathering for prayer and fellowship at the 36th European meeting to be held in Strasbourg from December 28th to January 1st. We are inspired by the work of Taizé all over the world. Your prayers and songs imbibe us in a spirit of solidarity.

The WCC is a fellowship of 349 Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant and United churches, representing 560 million Christians in more than 100 countries, which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. Our fellowship seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, "so that the world may believe." (John 17:21)

The theme of our 10th General Assembly in South Korea, Busan, 29 Oct – 9 Nov 2013,“God of Life, lead us to justice and peace” says a lot about what the WCC is and what it is trying to achieve.

We are living in times when we learn that solidarity can lead to justice and peace, as we honour people like the late President Mandela. We are living in times when the lack of solidarity and justice leads to conflicts that destroy the hopes of young people, furthermore, we are also living in times where the Christian presence in many parts of the world is facing shadows of darkness and uncertainty; times where churches and worship spaces are attacked and destroyed; people are kidnapped or killed because of their religious, ethnic or cultural identity. We are living in times where the human life and dignity are threatened by the lack of tolerance, the lack of love and of understanding; times where millions of families are displaced, young people are unemployed, children are deprived of proper nutrition, health services and education, because of wars, conflicts, economic crises and natural disasters.

In this context, Christian solidarity in the light of the cross of Christ becomes not only a response, but an imperative and a foundation for all ecumenical relationships and actions. It is in this solidarity with the groaning world that we pray, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.”

God in Jesus Christ is in solidarity with those who have less, those who are in pain, those who are mourning. To follow Jesus Christ means to do the same. He even became a victim of injustice and violence himself. His way to Golgotha became a way to dismantle and display the lies, the human weakness, the injustice and sin in its many dimensions. Following the resurrection it could be seen as a sacrifice for sin, once and for all, for all of us, to bring a dawn of forgiveness, reconciliation, justice and peace received through the tender compassion of our God. To be baptized into Christ is to share in the cross and the resurrection, giving us courage to hope in life and in death.

Young people have a particularly important role to play in the pilgrimage for justice and peace. The current social and political context is witnessing a shift of the role of youth from passive recipients to active leaders. The same applies to the life of the churches and to the ecumenical movement. Without the active participation of youth in the development, operation, and ownership of programs designed to create unity and peaceful climates, social change efforts will fail to create the transformative functions it’s meant for. We embrace the power of youth as agents of social change and leaders within the ecumenical movement. Youth are the present of our churches and societies, and not only the future. As we work together and empower each other in the pilgrimage for justice and peace we shall develop mechanisms that correspond to the pro-active and dynamic spirit of young people.

Finally, I would like to highlight the fact that your own gathering in Strasbourg today is a sign of hope, a living image of Christian fellowship and a reflection of Christian solidarity. May your prayers and reflections bring you closer together in your communion so that you experience the unity that God calls us for. May your gathering be inspired by the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and may it inspire other young people who are in search for unity, peace and reconciliation.

The Secretary general of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at the Taizé Community’s 36th Annual Meeting for Young Adults.

You gather at a time of both opportunity and risk for the human family. We have the ability to end extreme poverty—yet people and the planet face the rising pressures of a warming climate, growing inequality and exploitation from mines to fields to factory floors.

The United Nations works every day, around the clock, across the world, to confront today’s emergencies while building foundations of peace for tomorrow. We are feeding the hungry, fighting disease and pressing for a nuclear-weapon-free world. We are strengthening peacekeeping, peacebuilding and preventive diplomacy as well as our tools for justice and accountability. Our sights are also set on the key year of 2015: the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, reaching an agreement on climate change and adopting a bold vision for the period beyond 2015 that will advance economic growth, social progress and environmental stewardship.

These plans are ambitious. We need people to make them real, especially young people. You are part of the largest generation of youth in history—and you have an historic opportunity to make an impact on our world

Technology has globalized communications. Now we have to globalize compassion and citizenship. In a world that is more connected, we must be more united. With our fates ever more entwined, our future must be one of ever deeper and wider cooperation. That is the global logic of our times.

I count on you to help advance our shared goals of peace, development and human rights.

Please accept my best wishes for a meaningful gathering.

The President of the European Council, Mr Herman van Rompuy

Dear Brother Prior and all of you united in Jesus Christ,

Going beyond separations, reconciling all Christians in one Church is the theme of your meeting this year. A theme that, taken in its broader sense, is that of unity in diversity, I would even say unity by and through diversity. A theme which the European Union has made its motto because it is at the heart of the construction and development of the European project. A theme that brings Christians together around a person, a word, a message and a book.

A book, or rather books in the plural, because the Bible is not completely identical in content for every Christian. Neither completely regarding its content, nor regarding its container, or, to say it with another word, its interpretation. And this is also what gives it its richness and the richness of the texts that the Bible includes, because it is in the discussion of the foundational texts, in the principle of a permanent quest for meaning, that is found the diversity that enriches us. That is why I like so much the process that has been initiated by your community in the course of thirty-six European meetings.

Because “Taizé” is the opposite of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism means being imprisoned in a text, in a so-called literal interpretation of a text. It is high time to rehabilitate the need for a more detailed and more intelligent reading, and this for any book or any text whatsoever. A reading which says that each text can say more than it seems to say explicitly. An open-ended reading in the image of the diversity of Christian denominations.

“Taizé” is a synonym for openness towards one another and towards others. An openness that requires being able and willing to call one’s convictions into question, to put one’s beliefs to the test of others’ opinions. An openness, in short, that requires a certain culture and a desire to be cultivated by and through the company of others. Others and the other, our neighbor. The image of God is the other.

And “Taizé” is also the unity of Christian denominations. A unity that I would call spiritual, by means of one and the same search. The movement toward unity in diversity is mainly accomplished within. There is thus a “transcendent unity” of Christian denominations (and beyond this, of authentic religious traditions), united by their “hard core” around Christ and his message. And all the Christian denominations share a very similar spiritual experience, even if the language of their traditions differs here and there when it comes to expressing it. That is why we do not pray together, but we are together in prayer.

To conclude this message, my wish is that you, as Nelson Mandela taught us, may “bridge the gulf that separates” and “build together” as part of the same church in the etymological sense of the term, of one and the same “assembly,” one and the same “community.” My wish for you is meetings borne by prayer and by the spirit of the others and of the Other.

Last updated: 30 December 2013