CL began in 1954 in Italy, at the Berchet classical high school in Milan, when Father Luigi Giussani (1922-2005) started an initiative of Christian presence which uses the pre-existent name Gioventù Studentesca (GS; English: Student Youth).
Its current name, Communion and Liberation (CL), appeared for the first time in 1969. This name brings together the conviction that the Christian event, lived in communion, is the foundation of man’s authentic liberation. As Benedict XVI declared, Communion and Liberation “today … 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” (Address to CL, March 24, 2007).
Giussani summed up the content and purpose of his effort in these words: “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).
Communion and Liberation is present today in roughly ninety countries on all the inhabited continents, and is guided by Father Julián Carrón, who succeeded Father Giussani after his death in 2005.
No form of membership enrollment is involved, but only the free participation of individual persons. The basic instrument for the formation of those who belong to the Movement is a weekly catechesis which is called the School of Community.
The Movement’s official publication is the international monthly magazine Tracce-Litterae Communionis, published in English as Traces.