Tens of thousands of young adults from throughout Europe and beyond are expected in Geneva between Christmas and New Year for five days of prayer and reflection organized by the Taizé community.
The programme includes moments of prayer, silence, song and testimonies from the ecumenical community of Taizé, founded in 1940 in France by Brother Roger, who remained its leader until his death in August 2005.
Taizé has developed its own style of music for meditation, using simple phrases, usually lines from the Psalms or other pieces of Scripture, repeated and sometimes also sung in canon. The repetition is intended to aid meditation and prayer.
About 40,000 young adults will converge on Geneva on 28 December for the five-day meeting, which lasts until 1 January, and at which Brother Roger's successor, Brother Alois, will offer meditations.
A highpoint will be a televised evening prayer on 30 December at Geneva's Palexpo exhibition centre, but there will also be smaller meetings at churches throughout the city as well as at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches.
It is the 30th such Taizé gathering of young adults from Europe. The first was held in Paris over the 1978-1979 New Year, and the last before Geneva was held in the Croatian capital, Zagreb.
In a 19 December message to participants, Archdeacon Colin Williams, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, underlined the importance of participation by young people in the ecumenical movement.
"I pay tribute to all that the Taizé Community continues to do to encourage individuals of all ages to deepen their own fellowship with Jesus Christ," said Williams. "Your coming together is a powerful sign of your commitment to the significance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our complex world of the 21st century."
Pope Benedict XVI said in a message, "May your trust in God foster hope in you and help you to change the world by rooting you in gospel values."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of the need to rebuild bridges and engage in a sustained intercultural dialogue in the face of rising interreligious tensions.
"As young people of faith, you are all ideally placed to contribute to this process," he said in his message to participants. "As rising leaders in your communities, you can stress the core beliefs common to all the great faith traditions: compassion, solidarity, respect for life, and kindness towards others."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]