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Monday, March 9, 2015

The Pope on the sixtieth anniversary of Communion and Liberation: “Keep alive the call of the first encounter with Christ, and be free”

Vatican City, 7 March 2015 (VIS) – More than seventy thousand people, belonging to the movement Communion and Liberation (CL) participated in a mass meeting with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square this morning, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the creation of CL and the tenth of the death of its founder, the priest Luigi Giussani. The movement was established in Italy in 1954, when Giussani (1922-2005), on the basis of his experience in the “Berchet” classical lyceum in Milan, developed the initiative of Christian presence that used the already existing name of “Gioventu Studentesca” (GS). The current name Communion and Liberation (CL), which appeared for the first time in 1969, summarises the conviction that the Christian event lived in communion, is the foundation of authentic human liberation.

After listening to greetings from the priest Julian Carron, president of the fraternity, the Holy Father thanked all those present for their warm displays of affection and gave the various reasons for his gratitude to Don Giussani. “The first, and most personal, is the good that this man has done for me and for my priestly life, through reading his books and his articles. The other reason is that his thought is profoundly human and reaches the deepest yearning of the person. You are aware of how important the experience of encounter was for Don Giussani – not with an idea, but with a person, with Jesus Christ. So, he educated in freedom, leading to the encounter with Christ, as Christ gives us true freedom”.

“Everything in our life begins with an encounter”, he continued. “Let us think of the Gospel of John, in which he narrates the disciples' first encounter with Jesus. Andrew, John and Simon felt as if they were seen in depth, known intimately, and this generated surprise in them, a stupor that immediately made them feel linked to Him. … This was the decisive discovery for St. Paul, for St. Augustine, and many others: Jesus Christ always precedes us; when we arrive, He is already waiting for us. He is like the flower of the almond tree, the first to bloom and to herald the spring”.

However, this dynamic of encounter that arouses stupor and adhesion without mercy, as “only he who has known the tender caress of mercy truly knows the Lord. The privileged locus of encounter is the caress of Jesus Christ's mercy towards my sin. It is for this reason that, at times, you have heard me say that the privileged locus of encounter with Jesus Christ is sin. It is thanks to that merciful embrace that the wish to respond and to change emerges, and from this there springs a different life. Christian morality is not a titanic and voluntary effort on the part of those who decide to be coherent and achieve it, a sort of solitary challenge before the world. No. Christian morality is the answer, it is the touched response when faced with the surprising mercy, unpredictable, even 'unjust' according to human criteria, of One who knows me, Who knows my betrayals and loves me all the same, … who calls me again, has hope in me. ... Christian morality is not about never falling, but about always getting up again, thanks to His hand that reaches out to us”.

“And the way of the Church is also this: letting God's great mercy be shown”, he exclaimed. “The road of the Church is that of never condemning anyone eternally; of effusing God's mercy to all those people who ask for it with a sincere heart; the road of the Church is precisely that of leaving behind one's own yard in order to go and seek those in the distant peripheries of existence; that of fully adopting God's logic. The Church too must feel the joyful impulse of becoming almond flowers, like Jesus, for all humanity”.

Returning to the celebration of sixty years of Communion and Liberation, the Pope emphasised that after this time the “original charism” has lost neither its freshness nor its vitality. “But, always remember that there is only one centre: Jesus Christ. When I put at the centre my spiritual method, my spiritual path, my way of putting it into practice, I stray from the road. All the spirituality, all the charisms in the Church must be decentred: at the centre there is only the Lord!”.

He continued, “Charism cannot be conserved in a bottle of distilled water! Loyalty to the charism does not mean 'petrifying' it – it is the devil who petrifies – does not mean writing it on parchment and framing it. Reference to the legacy that Don Giussani has left you cannot be reduced to a museum of memories, of decisions made, of norms of conduct. It certainly involves faithfulness to tradition, but as Mahler said, this means 'keeping the flame alive and not worshipping the ashes'. Don Giussani would never forgive you if you lost your freedom and transformed into museum guides or worshippers of ashes. Keep alive the memory of that first encounter and be free! In this way, centre in Christ and in the Gospel, you can be the arms, hands, feet, mind and heart of an outbound Church. The path of the Church takes us out in search of those who are far away, in the peripheries, to serve Jesus in every marginalised and abandoned person, without faith, disappointed in the Church, prisoner of his or her own self-centredness”.

“Reaching out also means rejecting self-referentiality, in all its forms; it means knowing how to listen to those who are not the same as us, learning from all, with sincere humility. When we are slaves to self-referentiality we end up cultivating a sort of branded spirituality: 'I am CL'. This becomes your label. And in this way we fall into the myriad traps set by self-referential complacency, that gazing at oneself in the mirror that leads to disorientation and our transformation into mere impresarios of NGOs”.

The Pope concluded his discourse with the words of Don Giussani, from one of his first writings, in which he affirmed that Christianity cannot be realised in history as fixed position to defend, that relate to the new in terms of pure antithesis, and from his letter to John Paul II in 2004 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Communion and Liberation: 'I never intended to “found” anything. I believe that the genius of the movement that I have seen come into being is that of having grasped the urgency of proclaiming the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity, meaning passion for Christianity as such, in its original elements, and nothing more'.”

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