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Pope Francis Saturday addressed thousands of members of the Communion and Liberation Movement, who travelled to Rome from across the world to mark the 60th anniversary of their founding, and the 10th anniversary of the death of their founder, Italian priest Fr. Luigi Giussani.
Addressing a packed St. Peter's Square amid heavy winds, Pope Francis said: “After 60 years, the original charism [of CL] has not lost its freshness and vitality.”
But he urged CL members, both lay faithful and clergy, to remember that their true center and goal is not a charism, but a person: Jesus Christ. “The center is one alone: Jesus Christ!,” he said. “When I put my spiritual method, my spiritual journey, and my way of realizing it at the center, I get off track.
“All spirituality, all charisms in the Church must be ‘decentralized’: only the Lord is at the center!” he said.
In the colorful language so characteristic of the Argentine Pope, he also reminded Communion and Liberation members that “one doesn't preserve the charism in a bottle of distilled water!”
No, he said: “Fidelity to the charism doesn’t mean ‘turning it into stone’ — it is the devil who ‘petrifies’. It doesn’t mean writing it on a parchment and putting it in a frame. Reference to the legacy that Don Giussani has left you cannot be reduced to a museum of memories, decisions, and rules of conduct.” In fact, he said: “Don Giussani would never forgive you if you lost your freedom and turned into museum guides or worshipers of urns.”
He therefore urged them to “keep alive the flame of the memory of that first meeting and be free!”
Communion and Liberation (CL) began in Italy in 1954, at the Berchet Classical High School in Milan, when Fr. Giussani (1922-2005) launched an initiative under its former name “Student Youth”.
The movement used the name Communion and Liberation for the first time in 1969. It sums up the movement’s conviction that the Christian event, lived in communion, is the foundation and man’s authentic liberation.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI told CL members: “Today Communion and Liberation … offers a profound way of life and actualizes the Christian faith, both in a total fidelity and communion with the Successor of Peter and with the Pastors who assure the governing of the Church, and through spontaneity and freedom that permit new and prophetic apostolic and missionary achievements.”
Giussani summed up the purpose of the movement in this way: “From my very first day as a teacher, I’ve always offered these words of warning to my class: ‘I’m not here so that you can take my ideas as your own; I’m here to teach you a true method that you can use to judge the things I will tell you. And what I have to tell you is the result of a long experience, of a past that is two thousand years old.’ From the beginning, our educational efforts have always stood by this method, clearly pointing out that it was intended to show how faith could be relevant to life’s needs.
“As a result of the education I received at home, my seminary training, and my reflections later in life, I came to believe deeply that only a faith arising from life experience and confirmed by it (and, therefore, relevant to life’s needs) could be sufficiently strong to survive in a world where everything pointed in the opposite direction, so much so that even theology for a long time had given in to a faith separated from life.
“Showing the relevance of faith to life’s needs, and therefore — and this ‘therefore’ is important — showing that faith is rational, implies a specific concept of rationality. When we say that faith exalts rationality, we mean that faith corresponds to some fundamental, original need that all men and women feel in their hearts.” (Luigi Giussani, The Risk of Education, New York 2001, pp. 11-12).
Pope Francis' meeting with the Communion and Liberation Saturday came one day after an audience with another ecclesial movement, the Neocatecumenal Way.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.