22nd Mar 2019

Chapel for Europe opens in Brussels

On Tuesday, a chapel in the heart of the European Quarter of Brussels was reopened after 20 years as a "Chapel for Europe". It is hoped that the chapel, renamed as Chapelle de la Résurrection (Chapel of the Resurrection), will act as "a crucible of hope and unity" in the future integration of the EU. Robert Schuman, widely credited as one of the founding fathers of the EU, once said: "Europe cannot remain economic and technical: it needs a soul." It is expected that this new "Chapel for Europe" will provide the level of spirituality that Mr Schuman was talking about.

Brother Roger of Taizé, a well-respected member of the Catholic church, expressed his support for the "Chapel for Europe" and the European project. "If we want to build a Europe which is peaceful, reconciled and which shows solidarity with other continents, work should first start within each of us."

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Jerôme Vignon, who is president of the association and closely involved in the Commission white paper on EU governance, also spoke at the inauguration ceremony. "A place of silence, of prayer and communion, the chapel will not be cut off from the world which surrounds it," he said. "It will also be a place of exchange, of dialogue and of sharing for all those engaged in the construction of Europe."

Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, also attended the ceremony. "The events of this day symbolise our common hope that the Europe of the 21st century will not forget its heart, but will be able to develop in an innovative way," said President Haval.

Although the Chapelle de la Résurrection is a Catholic church, a spokesperson for the organisation was keen to stress the ecumenical nature of the initiative. The services during Tuesday's inauguration ceremony were conducted by representatives of the Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Churches. Also attending the services were members of the Jewish and Islamic communities. "The need for this ecumenical openness is particularly perceived in the present circumstances," a spokesperson for the chapel told the, referring to the recent events surrounding the 11 September terrorism attacks on the US.

However, the spokesperson did concede that, from the religious standpoint, the project is a "Christian temple", and the involvement of non-Christian religions would be limited. "One does not contemplate the possibility of services by non-Christian religions," said the spokesperson. "But at the same time the chapel is an ecumenical venture and completely open. We will organise social, cultural, educational activities which will be open to all faiths."

Europe is more-and-more becoming a multi-cultural and multi-religious society. It is estimated that there are some 20 million non-Christians living in the EU. If Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, joins the EU, a further 60 million could be added to this total.

The construction of the "Church for Europe" cost 1.5 million euros, 0.625 million to purchase the chapel and 0.875 million to pay for its restoration. The majority of this money (65 per cent) came from Christian institutions, with 28 per cent coming from the public and private institutions and 7 per cent from private individuals. The European institutions have not provided any money for the project.

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