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ARGE ÖKUMENE Österreich

The Austrian Group for Ecumenism
(A short introduction)

Our ecumenical working group developed from small groups at grass roots level in the different Austrian regions. A few couples in mixed marriages – from Vienna, Salzburg and the Tirol – wanted to share their hopes and their concerns and looked out for couples in the same situation. Our work centres on relationships and marriage between Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians: because of our history, this is the commonest kind of ‘mixed marriage’.

73% of our population are Roman Catholic and only 5% belong to the Protestant Church, but a few regions in Austria really are ‘mixed’ and in a few areas Protestants even form the majority. So it often happens for a member of the minority group that he/she will meet a member of the other denomination, and if they fall in love – there is another ‘mixed marriage’….(in 6% of all marriages taking place in Austria is one partner Protestant, the other Catholic; or, to look at this from another angle: Protestants are 3 times more likely to marry a Catholic than someone from their own denomination. Source: Statistik Austria, Yearbook 2003).

A few of these couples – who at first had met together only at a local level – discovered each other (we are sure, with the help of the Holy Spirit!) and this led to the founding of the interchurch couples’ (konfessionsverbindenden as we call ourselves) ‘ARGE ÖKUMENE Österreich’ in 1992.

Our annual meetings take place at Diocesan level and we have visited almost all of the nine Austrian regions: we have invited the Diocesan bishop and the Protestant superintendent of each and have discussed with them what we aim for and what forms our vision. We discuss all the things that touch our faith lives: naturally the main topics depend on the age of the couples (whether, for instance, there are children to be baptised) and on the local situation with individuals’ local churches (the support and the understanding of the clergy). Our yearly meetings have always served as a ‘top up’ of mutual encouragement for one another!)

How we understand ourselves:

The ARGE ÖKUMENE is a fellowship of interchurch couples, families, and others who are affected by the situation of partners belonging to two churches.

We meet regularly in small groups at the local level, but we form a network across Austria: we share our experiences, work on ecumenical questions together, celebrate together and enrich our own parishes in their turn.

On the national level we meet each year and should like to be a part of the international network: already members from AIF England and from the German Ecumenical circle have taken part in our meetings. We have sent written contributions to our French friends from ‘Foyers Mixtes’.

We take up our shared concerns and interests and represent them to the church leaders.
We should like, through dialogue, to reach a point where our theological insights (for example, the Joint Declaration on the teaching on Justification) were applied in practice in the pastoral situation.

We should like to raise awareness of the enriching experiences which we have in our life – and also of the difficulties which are associated with mixed marriage.

We have no wish to start a new denomination, but to live in ‘reconciled diversity’ in the traditions of our churches.

The new Archbishop of Salzburg brings a ‘freshening wind’ for Vatican II and for ecumenical dialogue, saying in his opening statement: “for me an over arching duty is to translate the spirit of the Council and the words of its documents into life today and tomorrow. Whoever does not recognise the work of the Holy Spirit in the great councils of the Church, is resisting the Holy Spirit and running the danger of being trapped in the purely human traditions of particular times.”

Our target groups:

  • Couples of any age whose life is in two churches
  • All who are interested in ecumenical questions and in ecumenical progress

Our visions:

• We have the vision, that our churches will recognise one another as equally valid sister churches, meeting one another in mutual concern mutual appreciation
• We have the vision, that our churches will recognise their differences from one another as something to value: differences transformed from an expression of separation to signs of fulfilment
• We have the vision, that our experience of sharing in the Eucharist may be a sign of reconciliation
• We have the vision, that Christendom, through the reconciled diversity of its churches, may pass on to the world the delightful taste of the Gospel we enjoy

“If we experience in our lives the things that unite us, then the things which divide us have the power to separate us no longer!”
This is one of the hopeful things we have recognised in the past ten years, which gives strength to our lives.

The Themes of our annual meetings (usually the end of October)

1992 ‘For the written letter kills, but the spirit gives life’ (2 Cor: 3,6)
1993 Worship
1994 Growing in faith together
1995 Life together as Church
1996 What do we know of one another?
1997 Are we ‘One’ Church?
1998 Loss of vision?
1999 Two churches – one way to salvation?
2000 Sin, forgiveness, remission of sin
2001 Marriage – a sacrament?
2002 Baptism – Body of Christ – Church
2003 Charta Oecumenica (planned); this document of the ‘Conference of European Churches’ contains guidelines for the increasing work together between the churches in Europ

If you would like additional information, please ask:

Erika & Gerhard Grösswang: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Heide & Wolfgang Hinker: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.