“Together – Gathering of the People of God”

“Together – Gathering of the People of God” is the ecumenical prayer vigil to be held on 30th September 2023 in Rome in advance of the Synodal Assembly in October. Damian, a Polish Catholic, and Masha, a Russian Orthodox, are two young people from the Focolare Movement who recently participated in the preparatory meeting for the event, which was followed by a private audience with the Pope.

Praying together gathered under the same “tent”, to discover each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the idea at the heart of the ecumenical prayer vigil that will take place on 30th September 2023 in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis announced the event during the Angelus on 15th January 2023, to entrust to God the work of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme of Synodality, which will take place in October 2023.

It will be a genuine gathering of the People of God, which will extend an invitation, as the title given to this occasion indicates (“Together”), to walk together, which is also expressed  by the verse of Isaiah (cf. Is 54, 2) chosen for the occasion: to “widen the space of your tent”. The Taizé Community will lead the vigil, which will be attended by Pope Francis and representatives of various Christian Churches, as well as many realities and organizations. It is open to everyone, especially young people who are invited to attend from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, and will be welcomed for a weekend of true sharing.

Damian Skłodowski, from Poland, and Masha Iasinskaia, from Russia are two young people from the Focolare Movement who are part of the team that is organizing “Together”. At the meeting held on 12th-15th March 2023, they had the opportunity to meet the whole team and to begin the work of preparation.

Masha, how did the meeting go for you?

This preparatory meeting was a very strong experience for me. I was pleasantly impressed to see so many people belonging to different Churches and to various confessions working together. I am Orthodox and, having been part of the Focolare Movement since I was born, I have always lived in an atmosphere in which dialogue between the Churches is normal but I was happy to be surprised on this occasion. I have discovered that many, each in their own reality, feel this need for brotherhood and work hard to achieve this goal in their communities.

Damian, how did you share out the tasks from an organizational point of view?
The “Together” weekend will be a journey made up of several parts. On the morning of 30th September, there will be itineraries and workshops on various themes in different areas of Rome. This will be followed by a time dedicated to prayer for all the young adults in the city centre and then there will be a procession to St. Peter’s Square. This preparatory meeting was certainly a way to get to know each other, brainstorm a little on the topics and understand how to share the work between us. Masha and I will take care of preparing one of the morning workshops.

Masha, in this context what does the word “Together” say to you?
The first time I felt I was living this “together” fully was in Hungary, during the 2012 GenFest, a gathering of the young people from the Focolare which takes place every 5 years. It’s a different kind of event from the one we are organizing now but I will never forget the mandate that was given to us to be “bridges”. A bridge represents something that unites, which creates a bond between us, between our countries, our churches, our differences and the more united we are the more unshakeable this bridge will be. I think this being “together” is essential, especially for me, for my country. I am lucky because I had the joy of receiving this mandate, but we have to bear witness to it, to truly become bridges and this vigil offers a wonderful occasion.

Damian, what do you think is the starting point for establishing true relationships of communion?
The starting point is to really go to meet others, to put the person at the centre, to get to know each other and ask “how are you?” You have to build that relationship. Yes, it is true, we are different, there are differences between the various Churches, between denominations, between religions but also between people in general. Before finding solutions or giving great speeches, what is important is listening. I, a Catholic and Masha, an Orthodox, are already experiencing this in sharing this work and also during the lunches and dinners of these days of preparation. It was nice to meet the others in such social moments without too many pretensions, with great simplicity. Even when Pope Francis welcomed us in a private audience, he thanked us for our availability and repeatedly used the word “synodality”. This is the path of God’s people: we walk, we open our hearts, our ears to listen, our eyes to see and little by little, we go ahead together.

Maria Grazia Berretta

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