The Sant’Egidio Community is a “public association of the faithful” that has three principal aims: prayer, the poor and peace. It was first founded in Rome and has since spread to 72 different countries around the world.
What is a “public association of the faithful”?
The Community was born immediately after the Second Vatican Council in 1968. It was the initiative of an Italian layman, Andrea Riccardi, who started to gather a group of high school students together to put the Gospel into practice. The idea soon caught on and began to attract adults as well who wanted to help the marginalized of the city. By 1973 the Community began to hold meetings in the Church of Sant’Egidio and in 1986 it was officially recognized as a public association of the faithful.
According to the international directory, “The spiritual benchmarks of the Community have always been the first Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles, the Church’s preferential love for the poor, and the primacy of prayer. A pronounced sense of God’s mercy for the sick and for sinners, Jesus’ compassion for the crowds, his invitation to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and to heal all manner of disease and sickness — this all nurtures the life and personal spirituality of the members as they listen daily to the Word of God and persevere in personal and community prayer.”
The poor are the constant companions of the Community and members always seek to help those on the margins of society. Furthermore, “It is precisely this friendship that has given Sant’Egidio a clearer understanding of the way that war is the mother of all forms of poverty, and hence their explicit commitment to working for peace.”
Being a group primarily composed of lay people, members of the Community live in the world and gather on a regular basis for evening prayer. In particular, the Community is inspired by the prayers and spirituality of Eastern Christians, which point back to the faith of the early Christians.
According to their website, “The days guided by prayer are oriented towards the day that knows no sunset, when, together with the angels, the disciples will sing the Trisagion, which concludes the ‘Prayer of Light’ of Sunday evening. The ‘Prayer of the Holy Spirit’ reminds the Community to open its heart to the breath of God so as to fight the spirits of evil and increase the works of mercy upon earth. The Memory of the Apostles and their task of announcing the Gospel, sustains and encourages the commitment of the Community to follow the first witnesses of faith to the end of the earth. The icons, present in every church of the Community, introduce us to the riches of the spiritual tradition of the Eastern Church and help us to direct the eyes of our hearts towards the Lord and to place all our trust in Him.”
Pope Francis recently visited the Community, recognizing the 50th anniversary of its foundation and encouraging them in their mission.
A mission to patiently weave together again the human fabric of the peripheries that violence and impoverishment have torn apart; a mission to communicate the Gospel through personal friendship; to show how life truly becomes human when it is lived beside the poor; a mission to create a society that considers no one a foreigner. It is the mission to cross borders and walls, to join together. Today, more than ever, carry on audaciously on this path.
This group spreads mercy through devotion to the Blood of Christ