01-04-2006 - Traces, n.4

Mitteleuropa CL Responsibles Assembly

CL in the countries of central Europe

by Paola Ronconi

While the Movement first became present in Austria through Cardinal Schönborn and the university students who started going to Vienna in the mid-1990s with the Erasmus Project, a place of absolute prominence in the history of CL is surely held by Fr. Francesco Ricci and Fr. Scalfi (with the publication Christian Russia) and their dialogue with the Church of Eastern Europe. As early as the mid-1950s, they worked to create contacts with figures behind the Iron Curtain and to support the clandestine Church. There were many trips of young students carrying hidden Bibles and holy cards. In fact, it was shortly before the Prague Spring (1968) that some young CL members realized that a guide of the State Tourist Agency with whom they had organized their trip to Czechoslovakia was Christian. They met her again in Prague together with a group of her friends. Through these new encounters, the CL students met Fr. Jozef Zverina, a theologian who became a great friend of the Movement, and who entrusted to them his Letter to the Christians of the West. The contacts with Prague and Bratislava also continued through the 1980s, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, through university students who periodically went to those countries to meet the young people and adults fascinated by CL’s free, day-to-day approach to living the faith (something absolutely distant for those who, like these faithful, had to pray in secret) and to do School of Community with them. The first contacts with the Hungarian Church came through members of the “Regnum Marianum” movement. To recount just one of many episodes, a Hungarian girl from this movement and some Italian CL members attended the 1976 vacation of Austrian Catholic Youth. Before returning home, one of the CL girls gave the Hungarian girl a copy of Robi Ronza’s interview with Fr. Giussani in German. She read it all night to decide whether it was worth the risk of crossing the border with it. She managed to bring it into Hungary and gave it to Fr. Miklos Blackenstein, the leader of “Regnum Marianum,” who “was convinced that the Movement was a good for the Church of Hungary and, though he did not become a member formally, did everything possible so CL could spread in his country.” (For more information on the history of CL, see the second and third volume of Communion and Liberation by Massimo Camisasca, San Paolo Publishing House.)