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22 December 2023 | A Christmas miracle

To truly show you the behind the scenes of this preparation process, we need to talk about last week. When the brothers arrived back from Taizé (for the change of the prior) they realised that we are missing more than 2000 accommodation places for pilgrims. And with little time left. For a few days there was a mix of different emotions in the air - stress, uncertainty, disappointment, surprise, puzzlement… We had to change our strategy and inform the parishes to take action. To push a little bit more, to make announcements and organise different kinds of actions. We involved the media to spread the word and even went to the streets with hot cocoa and tea and sang Advent carols to attract attention.

And it worked! In one week we saw the numbers quickly changing and our confidence grew. All pilgrims will be welcomed in host families! Our emails were flooded with applications from even far away which unfortunately we cannot use but we thank them for the good intentions!

Now our last stage is to visit all parishes for host meetings where the preparation team informs locals about details of the meeting. For us it’s a chance to see everyone in person and thank them for opening their doors to complete strangers. Without their openness this meeting would not be possible.

And with these last steps we are approaching the meeting very quickly. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and see you soon!

14 December 2023 | Two days ago I had the first meeting with...

Two days ago I had the first meeting with some of the people that will be hosts during the meeting. It was unexpectedly touching to finally see the faces of the people that will open up the doors to their homes for the young people arriving in the end of the year. Faces that until now have mainly been numbers in a computer for me, and it struck me more concretely that the meeting is coming closer and closer and that we are doing this for real people, together with real people. The meeting is becoming more and more ”incarnated” so to speak.

During these months we have been sowing seeds of encouragement, time, planning, prayer and presence into the soil of Slovenia. God has been shining on and watering the soil and now we are in the stages of seeing what is coming back to us. To watch the vines grow, looking with awe how they sprout, flourish and bare fruit. Waiting with excitement how the fruit will be and taste like during the meeting, and then later on when they are pressed into wine and stored in bottles - how will aftertaste be? What will we remember from the European meeting 2023? How will this experience feel like in time?

Still, the last preparations occupy our minds, but knowing that you soon will be with us helps us to stay motivated! Keep us in your prayers, we are living in exciting times!

8 December 2023 | Did you know how Slovenes celebrate Advent and St Nicholas?

Last Sunday was the start of Advent and Slovenia is full of events! When you come to Ljubljana for the European Meeting, you will see how many lights and Christmas trees are decorating the streets, and also hot wine being served all around as a warm welcome!

But Christmas lights are not the only important lights for this season. In every parish and every house there is also the Advent crown and candles, which we lit up for the first time in our preparation centre while joining in communion the prayer of change of prior in Taizé.

And after the first Sunday of Advent we have the celebration of St Nicholas on 5th and 6th of December which we cannot forget to mention when we speak about Advent in Slovenia! Sveti Miklavž is one of the most important days in the year for all Slovenians, and you can understand why when you experience it. St. Nicholas was an archbishop in the 4th century in Myra, today Turkey. His popularity endured for centuries thanks to his generosity, since he gave presents to all kids who behaved well. And so we do in Slovenia, where both adults and kids receive presents and chocolates for this day.

He arrives on the evening of the 5th of December accompanied not only by angels, but also by their antagonist, the krampuses, a species of demons whose role is to frighten and hit those kids who did not behave well. Even though many kids get scared by the krampuses, joy outweighs fear when they see St Nicholas and receive a present from him. Also us volunteers, brothers and sisters, we welcomed the presents we received together with joy and excitement for these Advent weeks to come, and we let the flame of the Advent candle be the light for preparing our ways to welcome Jesus and the pilgrims in Ljubljana.

17 November 2023 | Changing things around

Last year in Rostock, pilgrims were hosted mainly by Protestant churches. This year it is the opposite situation, with the Catholic Church being the largest Christian denomination in the country. Approximately 72% of the Slovenian population identify as Catholic. During the meeting in and around Ljubljana, pilgrims will be welcomed in Catholic host parishes. However, other denominations have an important role to play in the faith life of the city, such as Serbian Orthodox and Lutheran, which have churches located in Ljubljana.

It has been wonderful to get to know our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Slovenia. Less than 1% of the Slovenian population identifies as Lutheran. There is a church in Ljubljana but the majority are located in the East of the country. Every month, we have an evening prayer in this Lutheran church and during the European Meeting, some midday prayers will take place here.

In recent weeks the preparation team visited Murska Sobota twice - a town two hours away from Ljubljana, which today is the largest Lutheran parish in Slovenia and where the bishop of the Lutheran church resides. On Reformation day we celebrated the service together with a local pastor.

We thank the bishop for the opportunity to visit Murska Sobota and learn more about the diversity of Christianity and the beauty of different traditions here in Slovenia. Every visit we feel very welcomed and we are eager to continue our friendship with all church communities in Slovenia!

5 November 2023 | Ljubljana: Getting to know the impressive welcome area!

We can finally say that we have visited all of our local churches that will be welcoming pilgrims at the end of the year! You can find all of them in the map below. We are grateful for their kindness and hospitality, and visiting them has also allowed us to discover some real gems in the country.

Easily accessible in less than an hour by public transport, and located at the meeting of the Poljanska and Selška Sora rivers, its old town transports you directly into the middle age! It is actually considered the best preserved medieval town in Slovenia, even though it had to be rebuilt after the great earthquake that occurred in 1511. We invite you to explore the streets and churches, and take a walk up to Loka castle and enjoy the beautiful views from there!