40,000 young people in Rome for Taizé meeting.

Last evening Pope Benedict XVI attended the Taizé European youth meeting at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome.

He already thanked those offering hospitality to the 40,000 participants stating: “I thank the families who, in the Roman tradition of hospitality, have made themselves available to accommodate these young people." He spoke of how host families "with great simplicity, may make this beautiful experience of Christian friendship.”

40,000 young people have arrived in Rome for the 35th European Meeting, which runs from 28 December to 2 January. They came from across the European continent and beyond for six days of prayer, reflection and life with parishes, families and religious communities in and around Rome.

On Friday (Dec 28th) Brother Alois, Prior of Taizé, was present in Rome and led the first daily meditation. He said: “In Rome we will discover indications of the continuity of the faith from the apostles down to the present day. And also, coming as we do from different nations and from different Christian denominations, we will deepen our solidarity, at a moment in history when material difficulties are fostering fear and withdrawal.”

Speaking of Pope Benedict XVI launching the year of faith, Brother Alois said: “For Christians of all denominations, it is vital to respond in a new way to the question: why believe in God? In a world where trust in God is less and less self-evident, a personal answer to this question gives direction to our lives” He added: “We need each other to live out trust in God. No one can believe all alone.”

Prayer services are being held every day at 2 pm and 7:30 pm in seven large churches of the city, including the major basilicas: St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Walls. Meals will be distributed at the Circus Maximus.

While being well integrated into the life of the city of Rome, the European meeting is led by Taizé and involves the morning program in parishes with moments of prayer and sharing and the discovery of signs of hope in the neighbourhoods. In the afternoon there are workshops on spiritual, artistic and social topics; prayer for peace in the parishes followed by a “festival of peoples” to usher in the new year.

Messages have been received for the meeting from both church and civil leaders. The latter includes the Secretary general of the United Nations, M. Ban Ki Moon, and the President of the European Council, Mr Herman van Rompuy.

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople stated in his message: “If we can say, contrary to popular opinion, that ecumenism has not broken down, this is primarily because it is supported by the lifeblood of your youth. Youth is also charity, simplicity of heart and the struggle against an overly cynical view of life which makes it no longer possible to understand the basically good dimension of humanity. Consequently, and against all odds, ecumenism is tracing out a path of excellence through the authentic Christian experience that you share together. This experience is above all one of trust.”

Other church leaders who sent messages include: the Moscow Patriarchate; Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams; Secretary General of the Lutheran World Federation, Pastor Martin Junge; Secretary General of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, Dr Setri Nyomi; General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse-Tveit; and Churches of Geneva.


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