ISSUE 100  October 9th, 2003




In this issue: Ecumenical steps in Austria

In the eighties Charismatics from different denominations started to meet for prayer in different Austrian cities. In Vienna the first "March for Jesus" was organized in May 1992. Both the Evangelicals and the Catholics did not join this event on a larger scale. This also happened at the next "March for Jesus" in 1994. The organizing committee started to plan events where leaders of all denominations would be able to meet and to go forward towards reconciliation. In June 1996 the first conference was organized - just to meet each other and to build up personal relations. Main speaker was Stuart Mc Allister (Secretary General of the European Evangelical Alliance).

In the same year the so-called "Round Table" started to meet regularly. It was a board of 35 leaders for whom there was a strong call from the Lord to work towards reconciliation among Christian denominations. They formed an executive committee of six people for this board each one chosen in one of six "groups": Catholic Charismatics, Evangelicals, Free-Church Charismatics, Lutheran Charismatics, Mission Societies and Pentecostals. A Catholic Charismatic - Johannes Fichtenbauer - was elected chairman. As an employee of the Archdiocese of Vienna he has full support in this task by cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna. The national leaders of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal were among the founding members, one as part of the executive committee.

Two big ecumenical prayer meetings were organized in Vienna - in 1997 and 1998. It was the first time since the days of the Reformation that all main denominations met in the Catholic cathedral in the presence of the cardinal. At the first meeting a Lutheran, at the second a Baptist was the main speaker. Some groups asked others to forgive old and recent events of violence and attacks during these prayer nights.

In 1999 the Vatican paper "Dominus Jesus" created some turbulences in the Round Table (1). As a consequence Cardinal Schoenborn met with representatives of the Round Table.

A "Festival for Jesus" united about 8000 Christians from all parts of Austria in Vienna in June 2001. It was the first time that the organizers from the Round Table could motivate many Evangelicals to come to this gathering at St. Stephans-square in the center of Vienna witnessing the desire to find reconciliation and unity. The weather-forecast was rather bad for this afternoon. During this event there were rain showers in many parts of the country around Vienna and even in some districts of Vienna - except on St. Stephans-Square. Like a sign from heaven the sun was shining there for some time - this gathering felt at these moments the love and blessing of the heavenly Father.

In the last years the Round Table has officially adopted the name "Way of Reconciliation". A thesis about the main basis of its unity was developed together named "Jesus - reason for our unity". It points out that all are deeply concerned by the disunity in the Body of Christ, "created through disobedience to the gospel, lack of knowledge and lack of love among us. We are responsible for this condition and want to do all what is necessary to find ways for reconciliation and love in truth." Further on a vision for the work of the Round Table was found and written down in a document. Because it was obvious that the history of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation was decisive for the denominations in Austria, a meeting was focused on the history of these years, especially concerning the development of the Anabaptists in the 16th century.

In fall 2001 the Round Table met in a center of the Evangelicals to listen to three Catholics presenting the basis of Catholic theology and devotion to Holy Mary. This topic was chosen going back to wishes of the Free-Church members. A "theological group" started afterwards to work on topics chosen by the Round Table for further meetings.

During the last years the members of the Round Table have started regional "Round Tables" in provincial capitals in Austria to spread the idea of reconciliation and ecumenical prayer meetings.

Hans-Peter Lang

Austrian National Service Committee, Catholic Charismatic Renewal


(1)Note of Kees Slijkerman: Dominus Iesus was also a subject in one of the ecumenical conferences in Bari, led by Matteo Calisi. Very good teachings on Dominus Iesus were delivered by mgr. dr. Peter Hocken and published on the internet, , English section, documents 0101uk and 0102uk.



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