December 28, 2012. (Romereports.com) Thousands of youths from across Europe and North America began arriving early Friday morning to Rome. For about a week, nearly 40,000 young men and women will assemble in Rome for Taize's European Gathering, described as one of the largest ecumenical meetings in the world.
While half of this year's participants are Catholic, the other half come from Orthodox or Protestant backgrounds.
“It shows that as Christians there's already a certain unity. We all have the same baptism, we all have the same Bible, a lot of our beliefs in Jesus Christ is the same. There are differences but at least we can celebrate our unity and may this gives us the impulse to work for greater unity.”
Organizers have spent the past three months preparing for their arrival. The week long event will take place in more than 200 parishes spread out across Rome.
The annual meeting allows participants to reflect on their faith though a week-long retreat of prayer, workshops and other religious activities.
“We are hoping it will be a real sign of hope. Today people, as you know, are not very hopeful. There's a lot of problems, economic problems, all kinds of problems. Young people often don't have the possibility of a job in the future. And I think that when people come together in a place like this and talk about what really matters and pray a new hope can arise.”
A big draw for many of the participants will be opportunity to pray alongside Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Square on Saturday.
In addition, the conference agenda will allow the young men and women to visit some of Rome's others religious centers, in a bid to spur greater unity among Christians.