30th European Young Adults Taizé Meeting in Geneva

Piotr Drzewiecki

The Taizé community organises annual youth meetings in various European cities at the end of December and the beginning of January. Geneva, located on the shore of Lake Geneva, at the border between France and Switzerland, hosted the 30th European Young Adults Meeting from 28 December 2007.
The meeting was the next stage of the so-called ‘Pilgrimage of trust on earth.’ During the meeting young adults from all over Europe, together with more and more participants from other continents representing various cultures and denominations, were united in prayer for world peace.

In Geneva the Polish delegation was the biggest

Over 40,000 thousands, including about 9,000 pilgrims from Poland, arrived in Geneva. We had the biggest delegation among other nationalities. One could encounter Polish people everywhere, in Palexpo, the Geneva Fairs where prayers were held, while sightseeing the Old Town or using the public transport.

One could see certain dualism

Every pilgrim that had come to Switzerland was warmly welcomed and accommodated by families, both Protestant and Catholic ones. Every morning the young adults participated in prayers in the parishes where they lived, but the afternoon and evening prayers took place in conference halls. It often happened that one day the pilgrims prayed in a Catholic church and the next day they prayed in a Protestant church. In most Swiss and French (where some pilgrims lived) cities and villages there are parishes belonging to both Churches. Thus the participants could get to know the liturgies of both denominations and they could experience various cultures.

Meditations of Brother Alois

Every afternoon and evening the young adults prayed in the main hall in Palexpo. There were also brothers from the Taizé community and invited guests as well as dignitaries from various Churches. The participants’ prayers were accompanied by the well-known Taizé songs, which enriched the requests for peace in families, societies and all over the world. Brother Alois, the successor of Brother Roger, delivered his message, calling to reconciliation and peace. He also thanked all those who gathered in Geneva and asked them to pray for an end to the current fights and conflicts on the whole earth. Surrounded by children and young people, Brother Alois fervently prayed every day. He greeted the particular groups of pilgrims coming from various countries.

The adoration of the cross

The evening prayer was closed with the adoration of the cross. The young and old participants of the meeting approached three crucifixes, put their heads on the wood, submitting their requests, concerns and problems to God. Whoever wanted could approach Brother Alois to receive his blessing. Brother Alois made the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads with joy and cordiality; he greeted people and talked to them. It was an extremely moving moment and one could see emotions and tears on many faces.

Polish participants’ meeting

During every Taizé meeting there are the so-called regional meetings when all representatives of one nation gather to share their thoughts and opinions about the host country and to pray for one another. Bishop Wojciech Polak, the special delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference to the meeting in Geneva, participated in the Polish meeting, which was led by Brother Marek and Brother Wojciech, members of the Taizé community. He answered the young people’s questions concerning building relationships between Churches. Brother Marek noticed that young people came to the Taizé meetings to plan how to build their relationships with Christ in the following year. At the end of the meeting Bishop Polak presided over solemn Eucharist, co-celebrated with the priests who came with the young people from our country.

‘Nations’ feast’

The prayer on New Year’s Eve in Palexpo was the closing element of the meeting of all nations. Before midnight the pilgrims returned to their parishes where they prayed for peace. Afterwards there was the so-called ‘nations’ feast’ during which the representatives of various nations enjoyed themselves and welcomed the New Year. Every nation had a short presentation. The Polish participants taught their friends coming from various parts of Europe how to dance minuet and polonaise, and they sang beautiful Polish carols.

Geneva is a beautiful city

During their free time, which was limited because of the full programme, the pilgrims went sightseeing. The most frequently visited places were the port and the famous water fountain of Lake Geneva, which is visible even from distant villages. One could taste delicious Swiss chocolate and see watches and jewellery, which Switzerland is famous for. Many people went to see the UN building as well as numerous museums and churches. The Protestant Cathedral of St Peter, which witnessed John Calvin preaching on faith, was worth seeing, too.

On the way to Brussels

The last event of the pilgrims’ stay in Geneva was a solemn New Year’s meal with the families. The participants gave their hosts some national souvenirs in gratitude for their hospitality and generosity. During his meditation on Sunday Brother Alois announced the International Youth Meeting in Kenya, Africa, on 26-30 November 2008, and the 31st Youth Meeting in Brussels, Belgium’s capital, to be held on 29 December 2008-2 January 2009 (notice the change of the date). Today it is worth starting preparing to the next stage of the ‘Pilgrimage of trust on earth’. So, see you in Brussels!

"Niedziela" 2/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl