(Photo: Archivio Meeting)

Prosperi: "What makes the impossible possible"

A Rimini Meeting dedicated to friendship, Communion and Liberation and that "companionship guided by destiny" of which Fr. Giussani spoke. From Avvenire, an interview with the President of the Fraternity.
Paolo Viana

In CL everything has always revolved around friendship. Giussani's pedagogy is founded on friendship. It is not by chance that the Rimini Meeting is called "of friendship among peoples". This year's theme is dedicated to the "inexhaustible" friendship of God. And it is precisely a theological friendship that is the key to CL's unity and relationship with the Church, as the president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Davide Prosperi, confirms in this interview.

Why did you choose to talk about friendship?
The Meeting is autonomous in its organisation and proposals but, as everyone knows, it is an expressive form of the movement and therefore we have always shared its titles, this one in particular. This year, this choice was also made with the desire to give a judgement on the historical moment that the movement is experiencing. Friendship is in fact the form within which Giussani's teaching has developed and from which the communities, the public presence and the works of the movement, including the Meeting, have taken shape. Moreover, friendship as a criterion for dealing with reality also contains a judgment, in some ways revolutionary, on the time in which we are living, marked by an individualism that, as Cardinal Zuppi rightly pointed out at the Meeting, leaves people profoundly alone.

How do you explain this friendship based on embraces, discussions and encounters to the digital generations?
Our young people are children of their time, and rightly so. But the purpose of a movement like ours does not change: it is and continues to be an education in the faith according to the method of knowledge based on witnesses. Today, the dynamic of knowledge has changed, we want to have everything and immediately. Superficiality has thus become the hallmark of every relationship. We propose to young people to follow a concrete human presence, which is fundamental to have an authentic relationship with reality. Otherwise what prevails is the projection that each of us makes on things. This is why friendship is central: Christ communicates Himself through participation in a companionship that recognises Him as present.

The term "companionship" recurs often in this discussion, but what does it concretely mean?

Giussani spoke of "a companionship guided by destiny". "Companionship" means gratuitousness, that is, each person has the destiny of the other at heart, and vice versa, that is, each person giving their life for the other understands that in doing so they also fulfil their own. Then this companionship is 'guided': one follows someone who shows the way. And finally, it is a companionship guided "to destiny", that is, it has within it that "forever" for which the heart yearns. The friendship of Christ within such a companionship offers all men and women the certainty that they are not alone and a true liberation from evil and fear. That is why we call ourselves 'Communion and Liberation'. It seems to me an interesting proposal for anyone, believers or not.

What is Communion and Liberation today?
An ecclesial movement with a strong missionary vocation, like all post-conciliar movements. We exist because a certain particular charism has been able to fascinate generations of young people, restoring their fire and enthusiasm in adhering to the Christian experience. And Giussani taught us not to keep this beauty to ourselves.

Why is it that movements often manage to reach the hearts of young people and the Church does not?
I do not agree with that distinction because the movements are part of the Church. Since the 1950s, people, young people in particular, have progressively moved from 'Christian' social places by definition, such as oratories or parishes, to other environments. The characteristic, indeed the vocation of movements is precisely to be present in these 'new' environments. Moreover, in a time of profound existential uncertainty, Giussani was able to communicate certainties. Not dogmas to which one must adhere, but an integral humanity, a Christian friendship made up of words, action and community life, thanks to which it is also possible to rediscover the beauty and necessity of tradition and doctrine. So there is no opposition: if a charism is authentic, that is, generated by the Holy Spirit, it bears fruit for the whole Church. It seems to me that the recent Popes have widely recognised this.

How difficult is it to maintain the unity of the movement?
It would be impossible if it depended on us, on our ability to 'make' unity. It cannot be the result of balance or compromise. Unity is at the origin, it comes before any personal vision. What unites us is the fact of Christ. When we recognise this, then a journey together is made possible. And, as Pope Francis reminded us in his message to the Meeting, it is Christ himself who chose this method: he entrusted his mission to the unity among the disciples, he bet everything on the friendship between those who recognised him, making it "inexhaustible". It is up to us now to "bet on it" every moment, building a people, as Bishop Baturi said today when speaking of the title of the Meeting, capable of going out to meet everyone. Recognising Christ present in life together really makes the impossible possible...

For example?
On 15 October there were 70,000 of us in St Peter's Square. The movement was coming out of a period of suffering and few would have bet on such a turnout. Instead, the awareness of our origin led us all to respond, each with their own freedom at stake, to the Pope's call. We have thus borne witness to the fact that what really interests us is being attached to Christ, the meaning of life and reality, within the path of the Church.

What will become of CL?
We are taking important steps in terms of awareness. After the great flowering of the movements, which culminated in the famous gathering with John Paul II in 1998 with the main founders, the ecclesial movements – not only CL – have been facing challenges in recent years comparable to those faced by religious orders centuries ago. The attempt to give a stable form to our experience and to recognise the essential factors of the charism that will remain and bear fruit is underway, and involves us all. I think the steps we are taking at the moment are helping us to renew our awareness of this task. This is not only projected into the future as we are asked to respond to the questions of the contemporary person: how does Christ today respond to the questions of our heart?

Originally published in Avvenire