“Ecumenism begins with prayer and is sterile without it.” The words of Pope Francis as thousands of young Christians and Church leaders from all across Europe gathered together in St Peter’s Square on 30 September 2023 for an ecumenical prayer vigil.
I joined the flood of Christian youth from every corner of Europe, as we gathered in Rome, from 30 September through to 2 October 2023, to pray, worship, learn, and journey together with one another as a collective body of Christ. The event was called Together 2023. The city was truly a magnificent sight to behold as parishes across the Italian capital lovingly opened their arms and their homes to welcome guests of all different cultures, customs and nations, into their communities.
On Saturday morning, where various workshops were held in churches all over Rome, the metro network was bustling full of youth groups coming together in harmony to grow deeper in their faith and gain an understanding of what it truly means to be part of a global church. One of the workshops I attended was titled ‘Rekindling our Christian identity as a minority Church.’ Representatives from different denominations shared their experiences.
Later, we worshipped together in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran), the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome which serves as the seat of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, this is the Mother Church of the world. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to worship in a contemporary style with modern worship songs alongside traditional hymns in a Taizé style worship.
From the Cathedral we participated in a journey entitled ‘Walk Together’. Young members of many denominations walked six kilometres across the city as a symbol of our commitment to walking together as a global Church. This ended in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. On the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, we saw Christian leaders from all over the world alongside the Pope and The Archbishop of Canterbury standing and praying together in unity. This inspired me, and I’m sure the other young people present to truly believe that ecumenism is not only something talked about in principle but is being promoted in practice.
Daud Irfan, Youth President of the Methodist Church in Britain 2021-22, Methodist Local Preacher.