(Photo: Archivio Meeting)

Prosperi: "A place of friendship that experiences the love of God”

Science and faith, the Meeting's title, the need for teachers... An interview with Davide Prosperi in Avenire on this year’s Rimini Meeting.
Paolo Viana

Translated from the original Italian, published in Avvenire.

Professor Prosperi, the first question is trivial for those who know Communion and Liberation, but not for everyone else. What is a chemist, an expert in nanobiology, doing at the head of a religious movement? And allow me to be curious: how can a chemist believe in God?
The answer may seem trivial: it just happened. I simply gave my availability when asked, in gratitude for the gift of encountering the movement. Moreover, I consider this responsibility a service to the Church. I am a chemist and biologist, that is true; I am a layman, married and have four children. The chemist observes reality in its microscopic depths, continually marveling at the perfection with which the elements are rationally related to each other. The experience of this rationality, and at the same time of the mystery that governs it, leads me to reverse your question: how can a chemist not believe in God? Then, of course, it is one thing to believe in the existence of a higher entity, another to encounter a human reality in which God's presence is a living experience...

A passion for the person: this is not only the title of this year's event, but is also the common thread of a movement that, without losing sight of theology, has always embodied within a human story. The Meeting itself speaks of a faith imbued with a body and history, emotions and thought, experiences and ideas, through the behavior that best summarizes them, namely friendship. Do you not think that we live in a time when it is difficult, and not only because of the pandemic, to combine all these dimensions of the human?
“Christianity was not born to found a religion, it was born as a passion for the person!": the title is taken from this sentence, uttered by Fr Giussani at the Meeting itself in 1985. We have got to perceive God's passion for man in our friendship with Fr. Giussani and today we live it within the companionship born from that friendship within the Church. What originated all this? The desire to look at others as we have been looked at, to continually experience God's love for us. ‘Meeting’ after all means encounter: "The word 'encounter' indicates the original way in which the proposal God makes of himself, in Christ, becomes persuasive and operative for man. An encounter remains a function of man's participation in the total plan" (Fr. Giussani, Meeting 1983). As you say, man does indeed have different dimensions, but they all structurally point toward unity, they demand a "totality." The Meeting tries to offer, especially in these very difficult times, a place of friendship to share this tension.

One of the most interesting moments will be the reading of Giussani's thought a hundred years after his birth. In your opinion, was he more of a theologian or a teacher?
Fr. Giussani was many things, but he was above all an educator. In the highest sense of the term: a man who by encountering the other helped them (and still helps them through the history he has generated) to grow toward their Destiny. No one was a stranger to him and he never imposed his own vision. He sought to provoke the heart of the other to reveal a glimmer of the "beautiful path," in relationship with everything. If I had to define the charism received from Giussani, I would say that it is the charism of the human. He looked at the whole person, valuing to the full the demand for the infinite (he in fact loved Leopardi!), but also the openness to the event of Christ's grace that reaches us through someone who strikes us and fascinates us, thus generating movement.

Do we need good teachers?
The person always needs people who know how to keep the desire of the heart awake. This was Fr. Giussani for so many of us. Like others in the history of the Church, he became fascinating as a witness to the initiative of the true and only Master. Fr. Lepori, general abbot of the Cistercian Order, said this at the spiritual exercises of CL: the relationship with Him, with the Master, "makes life grow, makes the heart swell and overflow, introduces the truth of everything, from relationships, work, affections, and human frailties to death," so that we can "live with fullness." Comparing yourself with such a presence makes you seek people out, or rather friends, who can show you the way to "live with fullness." This ideal tension also transforms the way you look at everything you have.

Do you think that people still want to learn something and put it into practice, or is it enough for us to live as Tv watchers and viewers of social media?
Nobody wants to be a mere spectator of their own life. Everyone wants relationships that take seriously the need for happiness, to experience the good. Of course, this desire is annihilated, diminished today. We are often defined by our fear of failure, as if our destiny depends only on us. Pope Francis said to young people, "The screen can easily become a mirror, where you think you are looking at the world, but in reality, you are all alone before a virtual world full of appearances. Yet how beautiful it is simply to be together with other people, to discover the newness of others. Cultivate the mystique of togetherness, the joy of sharing, the enthusiasm of serving." We need to help each other to bring God back into the screens of our lives. A life without God is a life without a future.

A final and inevitable question: what will happen to Communion and Liberation in the coming months?
It is a delicate time for CL, but one of great renewal. For us it is exciting, as you will see at the Meeting. The Church is guiding us and all the other movements towards a maturation, and we are grateful for that. Moreover, our gratitude to the Pope is even greater for the Audience he has granted to CL at St. Peter's on October 15, the very date of Fr. Giussani's birth, whose centenary we are celebrating this year. It will be a fundamental step on our journey and I hope for a great turnout: to reaffirm our following Christ in the Church and to renew our contribution of faith and the building of common good that we can offer to the Church and to the world. That is our only reason for being.