We Are Church Intl.


Hello Matthias

By Martha Heizer

Am I glad that I can believe in the resurrection! I would find it hard to bear the thought that all that remains of Matthias are the ashes in the urn, our memories of him, his texts and his compositions. That is a lot - but too little.

There are people who think that this is what is called "lying the dreary reality into hope". But I say: Why should I resign myself to the dreary reality of having to say goodbye, when there is well-founded hope for a reunion?

I believe that he lives - differently and beyond our imagination, beyond our sight. But when I am plagued by the question of what his last days and hours might have been like, sick and alone, I believe I hear him say to me: "This need no longer bother you. Whatever it was like - it's over." And I see his small, modest smile, which he often had when he tried to explain to me something I didn't understand.

I believe that Matthias is alive, free and unburdened and happy, beyond all the troubles that plagued him during his lifetime, but with all the beauty and joy he experienced in life - and with the laughter with which he so often infected us.

Matthias was with us from the beginning of We Are Church. At that time, he was in his early 30s, worked for Siemens and flew around the world on business. He was an important part of our Vienna group and was also present at all events throughout Austria, always including our summer days, where we were able to get to know him better. In 2014 he was elected 2nd chairman of WsK and from then on he was a regular at our board meetings.

In the meantime he was no longer with Siemens and wrote on an adventurous PhD thesis. As far as I understood, his research question was how to bring psychoanalysis and artificial intelligence together, that is, in my completely abbreviated understanding, how to bring Freud into the computer. He spent years doing basic research on that: How do concepts arise? What is a helpful terminology for feelings? Can they be operationalized so that they are unambiguous? How could they then be broken down into small units of information without distorting them? In the process, he experienced many, many setbacks, developed programs himself, which were then overwhelmed again at some point, and so on. His sister Christine told that he, however, still recently reported a breakthrough. How to wish him that! And how it would be to be wished above all, if someone would start now to the continuation of his research...

Despite all this work, he always made time for us. He contributed creative ideas and wrote texts. He was, as Harald described it, a lateral thinker who often challenged us. But his inventive mind didn't stop him from being meticulous, even on such dry matters as the bylaws. He was something like our legal counsel, and in matters of statutes we could simply rely on him.

Matthias was also very involved internationally. The many letters of condolence from all over the world show how much he was appreciated. Mauro calls him the "natural chairman of our meetings", which refers especially to the European network "Churches on the Move", where Matthias always represented WsK-Ö.

And there, of course, was his core topic: still in our last newspaper he writes against the episcopal constitution of our church. It was unbearable to him that there is no separation of powers in the church, that those affected are not involved in the respective decisions, that the people at the levers of power are not accountable to anyone. He was deeply convinced that we need a church constitution in which the separation of powers is laid down in writing and can be enforced.

The fact that we already held a conference on this topic in 2010 with international experts is due to his constant urging. He also played a decisive role in the current version of a church constitution, which was submitted to the synod office in Rome with the support of many organizations. Our last Church People's Conference in October on the subject of the Church Constitution shows that he was finally able to convince all of us that there can be no profound reform in our Church without a Church Constitution. It took a lot of effort for him to come to this conference, he was not well, you could see that, but he was still very involved in the discussion - and we have a last photo of him where he is laughing heartily, and a last cafe visit afterwards.

I believe that Matthias is alive. It can't be that Matthias can't think now, that this mastermind no longer works. On the contrary, he will be happy to finally find answers to the many riddles of this world with which he has struggled. He will now find confirmed that he was not wrong with his great love for logic, but probably he will also see that it is not everything - or it is, but just divine logic.

Or his heart, which has stopped beating, but which lives on with all the love that Matthias had in him. "To be the face of love for one another," as he wrote in his We Are Church hymn, he really lived that and it cannot possibly have stopped. For this he will continue to have a heart, but just not this muscle, which is so central to our earthly life.

Also his friendly view of the world and the people in it, his sparkling humor, which in recent times has become quieter, a bit more restrained, more profound, all this lives on with him. Thank God!

Matthias probably raises both eyebrows now, as he often does when he has started to talk. I hear him very clearly: "I am alive. I am well. Better than I've ever been. Don't worry!"

The life of Bishop Jacques Gaillot, whose memory we honour, was singular.

The life of Bishop Jacques Gaillot, whose memory we honour, was singular.

By walking with him, we were able to measure what Jesus of Nazareth really expects from each one of us: peace, joy and attention to those who suffer, whatever their nature, whether physical, moral, social or even identity-related.

In 1995, despite the revocation of his office as Bishop of Evreux, Jacques Gaillot remained an active member of the Catholic Church. A tireless apostle of Christ, he has magnified his function as bishop of Partenia by resurrecting the diocese lost in the sands. In 2015, his fraternal meeting with Pope Francis, who put an end to his canonical relegation, did him justice. We know that Jacques Gaillot was sanctioned for his freedom of speech so far from the official right thinking, and for having created a supposed division inside his diocesan community. It should be remembered that Christ was certainly not easy to follow either, since, for example, he spoke to the Samaritan woman or affirmed a Sabbath made for man and not man for the Sabbath, acts which certainly shocked the society of his time.

Several movements were then formed to recognize themselves in Jacques Gaillot's message, to support him and to lead actions of opinion. The first of them, Partenia 2000, is happy to have accompanied Jacques Gaillot for 25 years by programming conferences and producing nearly 100 bulletins "La lettre de Partenia", open to his writings.

Being the last president of the Partenia 2000 association and with all its former members, we would like to thank Jacques Gaillot for his authentic commitment to the service of the Gospel and "the ones without home, job, resources, legal dcocuments…" and equally for his freedom of thought. We hope that his life, his way of being and his example will be definitively credited to the Catholic Church in order to erase what looks like a 20 year purgatory and to recognize that he was a true man of God.

Jean-Pierre Maillard
Former Chair Partenia 2000


The little flame that Jacques Gaillot gave us will burn for the rest of our lives.

We did not call him "Monsignor" but "Jacques" as he wished. Since January 1995, when Rome dismissed him from the See of Evreux to assign him "in partibus infidelium" to that of PARTENIA, his image and his word have spread throughout the world: his messages via the Internet translated into seven languages made the Gospel of Jesus known to the ends of the earth. Always close to the poorest, after leaving Evreux, he lived in a squat and then lived with the Spiritans for many years. Free of all ties, he moved around a lot, went to see prisoners with whom he established a lasting relationship. How many hospitalized friends did he visit: he accompanied some of them to the end. He welcomed everyone without asking if they were Christians or not. He was a brother, a true brother. From these messages, from his books, from his words, many groups called "PARTENIA" have lived for more than 25 years.

Some of them are still alive, gathered around the Gospel and - for most of the participants - animated by the concern for the poorest: people on the street or in prison... All this we owe to Jacques Gaillot, to the example of his life, to the peace that radiated from his person. Since that evening when we learned that he had entered into eternal PEACE, messages have been arriving from all over the world expressing the gratitude of people and groups who, often far from the Church, have set out on the road thanks to him, thanks to his testimony .... far from the incense, mitres and other distinctive signs of the princes of the Church, far from the pomp of the cathedrals and the processions organized by the most retrograde and reactionary fringe of our unfortunate Church which seems to be running towards its own demise!

What will remain is the little flame that Jacques Gaillot transmitted to us for the time that will be given to us.

Helene Dupont
Partenia Toulouse


Vittorio! Getting to know you was lucky. Thanks for everything!

by  Mauro Castagnaro  

Mauro and Vittorio in 2008


Vittorio enjoying springtime in Freising

Today we are sad. Vittorio was taken from us too suddenly. And I, who for the last 20 years have been perhaps his closest collaborator inhis main commitment, the association Noi siamo Chiesa, and I have certainly shared with him many trips abroad, for the meetings of the international networks to which we belong and for the World Social Forums, I am very sad. I was not prepared for his death!

However, a part of me tells me that I shouldn't be sad, we shouldn't be. Not only because, for those who are Christians, as Vittorio was in a passionate and profound way, he is now in the fullness of God's love, but because his earthly life was intense, fruitful, rich in encounters, relationships, dreams, projects, in short, it was a beautiful life! I dare to believe that Vittorio was a happy person.

First of all, because it was a life entirely spent on the right side, that of the last, the oppressed, the excluded and the struggles for their liberation, for their emancipation, starting from the faith lived with such naturalness that it should never be flaunted or ever denied, in a coherent and tireless civil and political commitment. Then because she was led into a family that made one think of that of the blessed of Psalm 128: "Your bride as a fruitful vine in the intimacy of your home; your children like olive shoots around your table": Pinuccia, the right life partner, those he called, with a term for me a bit curious or, "my children" and the grandchildren to whose thought he let himself go to smug laughter "without ifs and buts" or of whom he spoke to me at length (I remember in particular of Miriam in I don't know which airport anymore a few years ago). Finally, because it was studded with so many passions she enjoyed, the mountains and the marathon tell me, I know botany or the ancient editions of the Bible.

Vito Nocera in these days has used for Vittorio words that seemed very apt: "His was a tolerant, inclusive radicalism. To an absolute rigor he combined an innate common sense". This is how I met him too, in the many meetings in which he always said and defended his thoughts, but without ever letting himself go to the angry reaction and even less to lapse into personal attack, even when he was the object of ungenerous or unjustified criticism; it was consistent, but not intransigent; Heseemed to go against the tide, but with meekness. And it struck me that on April 12 Jacques Gaillot also died, the courageous and humble bishop of Evreux removed in 1995 whom Vittorio himself had invited to Milan and hosted at home.

Vittorio and Mauro in conferenceVittorio has a deep culture, which allowed him a robust intellectual elaboration, with a great organizational capacity, which translated into a little visible and patient work of weaving relationships; He had a broad and long gaze, which allowed him to propose daring projects, but he did not disdain concrete work, so while preparing detailed analyses on the ecclesial reality he literally carried on his shoulders the books and pamphlets of the movement to be disseminated.

All this, added to the sobriety and personal generosity, made Vittorio a natural leader, but nothing seemed aliento him or as much as promoting himself. Vittorio has been a protagonist of ecclesial and political history of the last 60 years, but exempt from any form of personal protagonism, often in leadership roles, but always assumed out of a sense of responsibility, without even a hint of that rather frequent narcissism even in small organizations. I never saw him do anything (a gesture, a word, an intervention) that could even remotely be aimed at obtaining recognition, a role, an assignment, any personal advantage. The struggle for power (big or small) not only did not interest him, it was completely foreign to him! His commitment was the result of authentic fidelity to his ideas, to the cause (Vittorio Agnoletto spoke affectionately of "naïvetà", I like it better thanking "clarity"), which in the final analysis was for him that of the Gospel. And it is precisely this way of exercising leadership in terms of disinterested service that has been for me a great Christian witness, a living example of that "but among you it is not so" that Jesus teaches his disciples about evangelical power, opposed to the ruler of the "leaders of nations", as well as, it is worth recalling today, an indispensable precondition for overcoming the crisis of politics.

Hello Vittorio! Getting to know you was lucky. Thanks for everything!


Oggi siamo tristi. Vittorio ci è stato tolto troppo repentinamente. E io, che negli ultimi 20 anni sono stato forse il suo più stretto collaboratore nel suo principale impegno, l’associazione Noi siamo Chiesa, e certamente ho condiviso con lui molti viaggi all’estero, per le riunioni delle reti internazionali cui aderivamo e per i Forum sociali mondiali, sono molto triste. Non ero preparato alla sua morte!

Tuttavia una parte di me mi dice che non dovrei essere triste, non dovremmo esserlo. Non solo perché, per chi è cristiano, come Vittorio era in modo appassionato e profondo, egli ora è nella pienezza dell’amore di Dio, ma perché la sua vita terrena è stata intensa, feconda, ricca di incontri, di relazioni, di sogni, di progetti, insomma è stata una vita bella! Io oso credere che Vittorio sia stato una persona felice.

Intanto perché è stata una vita tutta spesa dalla parte giusta, quella degli ultimi, degli oppressi, degli esclusi e delle lotte per la loro liberazione, per la loro emancipazione, a partire dalla fede vissuta con tale naturalezza da non dover mai essere sbandierata né poter essere mai negata, in un impegno civile e politico coerente e instancabile. Poi perché è stata condotta in una famiglia che faceva pensare a quella del beato del salmo 128: “La tua sposa come vite feconda nell'intimità della tua casa; i tuoi figli come virgulti d'ulivo intorno alla tua mensa”: Pinuccia, la giusta compagna di vita, quelli che chiamava, con un termine per me un po’ curioso, “i miei figlioli” e i nipoti al cui pensiero si lasciava andare a compiaciute risate “senza se e senza ma” o di cui mi parlava a lungo (ricordo in particolare di Miriam in non so più quale aeroporto qualche anno fa). Infine perché è stata costellata di tante passioni di cui godeva, mi dicono la montagna e la maratona, io so la botanica o le edizioni antiche della Bibbia.

Vito Nocera in questi giorni ha usato per Vittorio parole che mi sono parse molto azzeccate: “La sua era una radicalità tollerante, inclusiva. A un rigore assoluto coniugava un innato buonsenso”. Così l’ho conosciuto anch’io, nelle molte riunioni in cui sempre diceva e difendeva il proprio pensiero, ma senza mai lasciarsi andare alla reazione irosa e men che meno scadere nell’attacco personale, anche quando era oggetto di critiche ingenerose o immotivate; era coerente, ma non intransigente; sapeva andare controcorrente, ma con mitezza. E mi ha colpito che il 12 aprile sia morto anche Jacques Gaillot, il coraggioso e umile vescovo di Evreux rimosso nel 1995 che proprio Vittorio aveva invitato a Milano e ospitato in casa.

Vittorio univa una profonda cultura, che gli consentiva una robusta elaborazione intellettuale, con una grande capacità organizzativa, che traduceva in un poco visibile e paziente lavoro di tessitura di relazioni; aveva uno sguardo ampio e lungo, che gli permetteva di proporre progetti arditi, ma non disdegnava il lavoro concreto, per cui mentre preparava dettagliate analisi sulla realtà ecclesiale si caricava letteralmente sulle spalle i libri e gli opuscoli del movimento da diffondere.

Tutto ciò, sommato alla sobrietà e alla generosità personali, faceva di Vittorio un leader naturale, ma nulla gli risultava alieno quanto il promuovere se stesso. Vittorio è stato un protagonista della storia ecclesiale e politica degli ultimi 60 anni, ma esente da ogni forma di protagonismo personale, spesso in ruoli di direzione, però sempre assunti per senso di responsabilità, senza neppure un accenno di quel narcisismo piuttosto frequente anche in piccole organizzazioni. Mai l’ho visto fare qualcosa (un gesto, una parola, un intervento) che potesse anche lontanamente risultare finalizzato a ottenere un riconoscimento, un ruolo, un incarico, un qualsiasi vantaggio personale. La lotta per il potere (piccolo o grande che fosse) non solo non gli interessava, gli era del tutto estranea! Il suo impegno era frutto di autentica fedeltà alle sue idee, alla causa (Vittorio Agnoletto ha parlato affettuosamente di “ingenuità”, a me piace di più dire “limpidezza”), che in ultima analisi era per lui quella del Vangelo. E proprio questo modo di esercitare la leadership in termini di servizio disinteressato è stato per me una grande testimonianza cristiana, esempio vivo di quel “ma tra voi non è così” che Gesù insegna ai discepoli sul potere evangelico, opposto a quello dominatore dei “capi delle nazioni”, oltre che, vale la pena richiamarlo oggi, un’indispensabile precondizione per superare la crisi della politica.

Ciao Vittorio! Conoscerti è stata una fortuna. Grazie di tutto!


We Are Church Austria speaks for all

With Martha and companions, planning for the first Global Council 2015

The news of Vittorio's death reached us during our journey through Armenia and Georgia. We experienced Easter twice this year - once according to the Gregorian calendar (Armenia) and one week later according to the Julian calendar (Georgia). So these ancient Christian chants carried us very much at the thought of Vittorio, who was now "guided by angels to paradise."

For so many years Vittorio was a friend and companion in all our efforts for a more just Church. As a lawyer, he saw very clearly where the Church violated its own canon law - and where canon law itself produced injustice and hard-heartedness, where the practice of Church leadership contradicted the Gospel mandate. Against this, Vittorio fought with vehemence, with clear analyses and sharp words.

His love for people materialized also in his social commitment. How often he told us about Chiesadituttichiesadeipoveri and about his participation in international congresses on the social situation of the world! We also felt this philanthropy through the kindness with which he treated us all! I have clearly in mind, as I write this, his smile.

Because of Corona, that darn Corona, we haven't seen each other in person for some time. But whenever he was present at our Zoom conferences, I had the impression that his life was becoming increasingly burdensome. All restrictions have stopped for him now.

Now the "triumvirate" of Noi siamo chiesa (Vittorio - Mauro - Basilio), so familiar to us, no longer exists, not in this form. That makes for sadness. In the last months we in Austria have lost two members of our board, Matthias and Helene, we can appreciate how big the gap must be for Noi siamo chiesa. On the other hand: Mauro spoke of "Vittorio's Easter" - and we believe in our own resurrection and in living on. Seen in this light, we can be sure that our community of people who care about the renewal of the Church, while experiencing losses here on earth, will continue to exist and grow larger in heaven....

We wave to you, Vittorio, and know that you continue to be with us!

By Martha and Gert Heizer