(Photo: Daniel Ibanez)

Rimini Meeting: The creativity of relationships

Opening with Cardinal Zuppi and closing with Sergio Mattarella, the presentation of the program of this year’s Rimini Meeting (August 20-25) at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See.
Filomena Armentano

The first day will address fraternity, social friendship and peace, following Pope Francis' recent calls, with Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, president of the Italian Bishops' Conference. The last, with Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic, will focus on the Italian Constitution with its need for solidarity and active participation, required of every citizen and civil society, for the construction of the common good. Two great figures will open and close the 44th edition of the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, in Rimini August 20-25, entitled "Human Existence is an Inexhaustible Friendship," whose program was presented in Rome at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See.

"We want to focus on friendship, good and creative relationships, positive and constructive relationships. We are convinced that this focus is urgently needed in world marked by growing existential loneliness, in a world that is increasingly individualistic and conflictual, with a geopolitical situation characterized by old and new oppositions and atrocious wars even at the center of our continent," stressed Bernhard Scholz, president of the Fondazione Meeting. Along with him, and the Italian ambassador to the Holy See, Francesco Di Nitto, the others who intervened included Maria Tripodi, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Micol Forti, Curator of the modern and contemporary art section of the Vatican Museums, and Sabino Cassese, judge emeritus of the Constitutional Court, each defining the meaning of the word friendship. In attendance were journalists, diplomats, political and cultural figures.

"The strength of the Meeting is the people," Di Nitto stressed. "Each edition is made possible by the passion of thousands of volunteers and I want to emphasize this. The effort and commitment of so many generations one after the other is incredible.” Significantly for the ambassador, the official presentation of the 2023 Meeting took place on July 11, the feast day of St. Benedict: "One of those saints who evoke so many things dear to us diplomats for Europe, but equally dear to culture." The ambassador ended by recalling "the daily commitment that you put into building the Meeting every year. A commitment made of silence, made of industriousness, made of building future on the basis of roots."

"Inclusive and multidisciplinary, the format of the Meeting is in line with our ministry's public diplomacy efforts," Undersecretary Tripodi began. "Diplomacy is indeed a set of actors and institutions." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will return with an entire pavilion entitled "There is an Italy that cooperates." Some of the themes that will be addressed include "Roads of Friendship," these are the routes that ensure emergency and food supplies to countries that need them most, which provide protection and security to those fleeing wars and conflicts. "Africa" will be the focus of the meeting, which will be attended by Vice Premier Antonio Tajani, foreign minister. "We want to establish agreements with African countries with a view to what we call the Italian 'Mattei Plan,' within a European Marshall Plan," Tripodi reiterated. The meeting will take place August 23 and has been titled "Our common challenges with Africa: food, water."

Space will be given to young people and art with one of the most eagerly awaited exhibitions of Meeting 2023, "The Shape of Words. The dreams of the young generation through the eyes of masters of contemporary art." It is an exhibition that arose from singer-songwriter Giovanni Caccamo's project "Word to the Young." The curator, Micol Forti, emphasized that "the centrality of the role of art and culture in our society is the stimulus for the search for beauty and truth. It invites us to question our certainties, not to sit back, not to settle. Nothing is taken for granted, everything is risky, but only thus can culture keep humanity and mystery, beauty and the sense of the sacred alive."

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The friendship that the Meeting speaks of can also be understood by looking at the establishment of the National Health Service or public education. "I was struck by the word ‘inexhaustible’ in the title of this year’s Meeting," confessed Professor Cassese. "In what sense is it inexhaustible?" A peculiarity of friendship is that, if desired, "it radiates out to other people who in a strict sense do not even know each other.” We are friends with the people we live with, and that is why "we built the National Health Service. What is this Service if not a demonstration of the friendship each of us has for people? People we cannot technically say are our friends because we do not know them." For Cassese, the same applies to the school system, "a social understanding of friendship." The health service and public education are "proof that we live in systems that care about society." And that is how the nation also becomes a form of friendship. "I found this twofold aspect of the question posed by the Rimini Meeting this year interesting," concluded the jurist. "On the one hand, an understanding of friendship in a broader sense in which there is also friendship with respect to someone whose face we do not know. And on the other, this concept of the inexhaustibility of friendship, that is, of a friendship that can be extended from the individual to the collective level. And this is what explains the very rich program that has been presented to us, and which we all hope to be able to enjoy.”

The program of the event can be viewed here