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«Die Welt war meine Gemeinde»- Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft

A Theologian for Europe between Ecumenism and Federalism


Edited By Filippo Maria Giordano and Stefano Dell'Acqua

Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft (1900–1985), Dutch pastor and theologian, was one of the most significant personalities in the Protestant Ecumenical movement. Deeply influenced by Karl Barth, and filled with a strong Ecumenical spirit, he was closely involved in the founding of the World Council of Churches, of which he was elected General Secretary. During the Second World War, many Protestants became convinced of the need for an international political system which, beside uniting the nations and peoples of Europe, would guarantee them fundamental freedoms and mutual respect for their historical, cultural and confessional traditions.
The directors of the WWC were strongly committed to federalism, partly because of the political traditions of the states from which their member churches originated (Switzerland; Great Britain and its Commonwealth; the United States), and partly because of their conviction that a simple confederation of states, based on the model of the League of Nations, would be completely incapable of containing national ambitions. In spring 1944, Visser ’t Hooft welcomed into his Geneva home the representatives of the European Resistance, who, under the leadership of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, signed the International Federalist Declaration of the Resistance Movements. These historic transnational encounters, aimed not only at coordinating military action or seeking diplomatic contacts but at exploring ways to «build» peace and re-establish the future of the Continent on new foundations, marked a profound break with the past.
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Ecumenism and the Construction of the European Union

Ecumenism in Europe during the Cold War


Some Reflections on the Basel Ecumenical Assembly of 1989

Debora SPINI

In his historic speech of 1992, delivered at the Conference of the European Churches, Jacques Delors, former President of the European Commission, voiced the need to find “a Soul for Europe”, for the integration process to effectively succeed. On that same occasion, he invited the European Churches to participate in this debate. Affirming that Europe needed a soul, Delors did not mean that Europe merely needed to find some kind of spiritual flavour: he addressed a crucial political theme, namely the construction of a shared European identity1. Delors was well-aware that finding a common identity was a necessary step in the newly born European Union’s quest for legitimacy, and a key factor in more effective governance.

In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between Ecumenism and European integration assuming as a background thesis that the Ecumenical Movement has indeed contributed to the creation of a soul for Europe. This does not mean that the Churches and Christian movements involved in this process have become the “chaplains” of European integration; nor does it imply embracing the rather doubtful celebration of the Christian roots of Europe. Rather, this paper stems from the assumption that the Ecumenical Movement has been actively involved in the search for a “Soul for Europe” and that it has significantly contributed to the development of European identity. The Ecumenical Movement has indeed been a crucial example of “European...

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