Hautecombe celebrates its 50th anniversary

«Church of tomorrow » EN

Celebrating 50 years of existence is certainly an opportunity to remember and give thanks for the benefits granted by God. But it is also, and this is what the Chemin Neuf Community has chosen to do, an opportunity to bring together friends from different Christian backgrounds and to look, with them and thanks to them, at the challenges facing the Church and the world today. This is how 150 people came together at Hautecombe Abbey on 19 August for a day of meetings, exchanges, celebrations and fraternity, with particularly ecumenical connotations. "Tomorrow's Church. Scrutinising the signs of the times, rising to the challenges; making hope blossom". The day was punctuated by four round-table discussions, featuring contributions from leading Church figures such as Cardinal J.M. Aveline, Archbishop J. Welby, Fr L. Fabre, founder of Chemin Neuf, Mennonite Pastor A-C. Graber, Mgr E. Vétö, Sr E. Sogbou and Fr F. Michon, current General Moderator of the Chemin Neuf Community. The themes chosen for these round tables reflected our attention to the clamour of the earth and the signs of the times: the situation of migrants, ecumenism, interculturality, synodality and our presence among the poorest.

Scrutinising the “Signs of the Times” – Migration and the Mediterranean space.

At the opening of the first round table devoted to migration and the Mediterranean, the scene was set by a slam written by Marie, a 16-year-old girl, who uses her words to express God’s presence in the lives of migrants.

The floor is then given to Cardinal Aveline, who, recounting his own family’s migratory journey, gives us an insight into what it means to “leave one’s country”. The Archbishop of Marseille, “a city whose history is made up of layers of people who end up there because there is no other place”, tells us how he came to imagine and propose to Pope François a meeting between different Church leaders from around the Mediterranean, to consider together the economic, environmental, climatic and migratory situation, as well as the geopolitical tensions of this region with its five shores.
For Jean-Marc Aveline, this mission concerns the whole Church, because it is “at the service of God’s loving relationship with the world… God’s compassion must be expressed to mankind, particularly in situations of malnutrition and poverty…. It’s an apprenticeship in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Vétö took the floor to review the history of the Mediterranean, highlighting its religious transformation. Once the region with the largest Christian population, the Mediterranean is now bordered by countries where Islam is often in the majority. And the theologian salutes the humility with which the Church is “holding up”.
Committed to dialogue between Christianity and Judaism, Etienne Vétö then presented religious diversity in the Mediterranean as a realisation of Catholicity, the gathering together of the promises of the Old Testament. “What do we do with this? What is the rest of the world doing to make this diversity a success?
 After these two keynote speeches, the floor was opened to free discussion. The Archbishop of Canterbury recalled some figures: global warming will cause (and is already causing) between 800 million and 1 billion migrants. Governments are resisting this challenge. “We need a Church that works together. How do we respond to the poorest?
The words of Sr Estelle Sogbou resonate in this vein: “These migrants are the face of God. They are not outside the Church; they are in the Church. It is the Church that takes care of itself by taking care of them.” Cardinal Aveline confirmed: “For me, catholicity concerns the whole of human reality. The Church’s role is to listen to God’s desire in all of humanity.”

Watch the round table on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOOrd5-zqqE

The many faces of Christianity – Christian unity and intercultural dialogue.

The second round table, devoted to the many faces of Christianity, was introduced by a video recounting the ecumenical initiatives that marked the last WYD in Lisbon, partly initiated by the Chemin Neuf Community. Sr Anne-Cathy Graber and Sr Estelle Sogbou gave a double reflection on ecumenism and interculturality as privileged places for seeking unity in diversity.

During the “conversation” between several people, Fr François Michon uses the example of the three celibate consecrated sisters present on the set (A-C. Graber, E. Sogbou and Bl. Lagrut) to talk about reconciled diversity, so dear to Chemin Neuf. For its leader, ecumenism is the paradigm that opens the way, “it is the gateway to thinking from the other. It is Christ’s masterly message to the whole of humanity.”

Watch the round table on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9QaIzIWEJU

“A time for change” – Synodality

In her introduction to this new round table, Sr Blandine Lagrut presented synodality in the 21st century as the (re)setting in motion of our Church life, in particular through listening and co-responsibility. To use the title of Pope Francis’ book, synodality is: “A time for change”.

But while this Synod is a decisive stage for the Catholic Church, the event already has an ecumenical dimension. Pope Francis has asked brothers and sisters of all Christian confessions to come to Rome on 30 September to invoke the Holy Spirit at this stage of the Synod. This is the “Together” event, a very strong message from the Pope: to transform itself, to become truly synodal, the Catholic Church needs the other Churches.

  • Archbishop Justin Welby’s contribution to the round table confirmed this intuition. In response to the question: “What do you consider to be ‘good practice’ in synods? the Archbishop of Canterbury described the difficulties encountered during the last Synod of the Anglican Communion. In his experience, “the Holy Spirit works in synods.” But you have to be prepared to follow three rules:
  • Start with Jesus. Watch him wash the feet of his disciples, listen to him: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13). Unrestricted humility.
  • Working in small groups, not just in plenary sessions. This encourages us to see others as human beings with God-given dignity.
  • Practising “realpolitik”, being realistic about the challenges. While Father Laurent Fabre recalled the importance of a commitment to non-violence, Bishop Etienne Vétö emphasised that there is no «miracle» solution, but that listening to the Holy Spirit means listening to fraternity. How, then, can we ensure that those who cannot speak up can be heard?

François Michon was able to share the experience of the General Chapter held at Hautecombe in the preceding days. How can we learn to listen together to God’s will, when the 72 capitulants came from around twenty different nationalities, states of life, lifestyles and denominations? “We don’t see the community from the same place. How do we come together? First, we had to put ourselves at the Lord’s feet. Then we had to learn to “feel together”. This involves a “sacred” letting go. To what extent am I prepared to let myself be moved?

Watch the round table on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-As3TVVZTAU

“The last shall be first”

“The Bible says: “The last shall be first.” At the moment, that’s not the case,” says Jean-Philippe in the introductory video. “When I see that they don’t let people who are begging on the pavement into church, it really hurts me.”
Having had a difficult life himself, Jean-Philippe is currently at the service of the poorest of the poor, and he calls on the Church: “We really need to open our doors to everyone! You have buildings that are useless, give them to the people who need them!

Jesus pays special attention to those who feel “separated” from God and “excluded” from the community. Against the customs of his time, he puts them back at the centre of the circle (Mt 18).
Why did he do this? Jesus wanted to send a message to those who considered themselves to be the model disciples, those who were well integrated into the Church, “the rich”. Let the last be first! Put the poor at the centre! Not just so that you can look after them, but above all because they are going to look after you, and you need them.

At this round table, each participant was invited to share an experience of an encounter with a “little one” or a “poor person”, in the evangelical sense of the term, that had left a lasting impression on them.
At the start of his address, Archbishop Justin Welby took up the words of the Magnificat:
He scatters the proud with the strength of his arm.
He casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.
He fills the poor with good things and sends the rich away empty-handed.”

Every two years,” he continues,
I go to work in the poor districts of London. It’s a discipline for me, and more than that, it’s the joy of being with them! The only way to do that is to spend time with them!

A friendly dialogue then began between Justin Welby and Jean-Marc Aveline: “We’re still a long way from creating a church for the poor,” says the archbishop of Marseille. “We need to help convert generosity and give people the opportunity to express it.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury confides:
Often in my prayers, I see a drop in the number of faithful in the Church of England, and yet we’re still rich and powerful! I say: “Lord, I feel like someone who has nothing to put in his profit column”. All you can do is sow grains of wheat and God gives the harvest! Weakness has the power to change the world, so let’s remain hopeful.”

After thanking the speakers at the round tables and all the friends who had come to take part in this “jubilee” day, Fr François Michon recalled the hundreds of young people who had come to the World Youth Day, thirsting to hear a word of hope. “The Church is a channel for God’s mercy, and an “effective” sign of it. That is the word of hope.”

Watch the round table on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=homE4GHLejA

Cet article fait partie du numéro 78 de la revue FOI


septembre-octobre-novembre 2023

Formation Chretienne   Oecuménisme   Vie de la Communauté  

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