|01-02-2007 - Traces, n. 2
The work of the Movement
Living the Memory of Christ in Every Setting
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State for His Holiness, willingly agreed to comment for Traces on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the pontifical recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.
“The experience born of the charism of Fr. Giussani is striking first of all because it testifies to how the faith makes man passionate about reality”
edited by Roberto Fontolan
Benedict XVI wanted him at his side for the most delicate office, that of Secretary of State of the Holy See. In his letter to the faithful of the diocese of Genoa, announcing that their Cardinal would be leaving them for Rome, the Pope described him as a pastor who is “particularly capable of combining pastoral attention and doctrinal preparation,” and spoke of the “reciprocal knowledge and trust, matured over the years of service together in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that induced me to choose him for the high and delicate task of service to the universal Church.” In fact, before being nominated Archbishop of Genoa, then-Monsignor Bertone had served seven years as the Secretary of the Congregation led by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Born in Romano Canavese, in the diocese of Ivrea, the fifth of eight siblings, a Salesian priest, Cardinal Bertone today heads the dicastery that, according to the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus, “more closely assists the Sovereign Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme mission.” A few months into his work as Secretary of State, he willingly agreed to comment for Traces on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. He once defined Fr. Giussani as “the Don Bosco of the third millennium,” which, coming from a Salesian, is saying a lot.
When the Fraternity was recognized twenty-five years ago, it was still principally an Italian reality. Since then, the Fraternity, which Fr. Giussani defined as “the more mature fruit of the experience of CL,” has flowered and reached thousands of people in many different countries; in addition, its members are workers and retired people, married and consecrated, people of every class and background. What do you feel are the most lively concerns, the needs to which the attention of a reality like the CL Fraternity should be called, in its service to the Church?
The challenge for the Fraternity of CL, as for every other ecclesial reality that is born of the unexpected gratuitousness and creativity of the Spirit, is first of all that of offering the richness and the vivacity of its own charism in the service of building the Church, thus testifying in facts to that profound and originary unity that exists among all the charisms and ecclesial institutions.
To express this, I find no better words than those used by our Holy Father Benedict XVI on the Vigil of Pentecost last year: “Multiplicity and unity go hand in hand.” Multiplicity and unity are both gifts of the Spirit, of the Spirit–the Pope said–that “does not lessen our efforts to learn the way of relating to one another; but He also shows us that He works with a view to the one body and in the unity of the one body. It is precisely in this way that unity obtains its strength and beauty.”
The Church is called to witness, in the living heart of human history, that this multiform unity–already inscribed in the design of Creation, and that the world gropes to find–is realized only in Christ and in the docility of His Spirit. The purpose of the Church is to testify in the heart of history that this multiform unity among men is first of all a gift of God. So I make the Pope’s exhortation my own: “May you take part in the edification of the one body! … so that the person’s life, a fairer order in society, and peaceful coexistence among the nations may find in Christ the cornerstone on which to build the genuine civilization, the civilization of love.”
Opening before the Fraternity of CL are the horizons of every sphere and place where today’s man lives, works, studies, builds, rejoices, and suffers, so that in these places Christ may be testified to, known, and loved. It is not by chance that from an experience like CL there should come forth the Memores Domini, lay people who–in virginity, poverty, and obedience–dedicate their lives to living the memory of Christ in every sphere where man lives and works, in the heart of the world. To use an expression I know was dear to Fr. Giussani, “Make Christ the heart of the world!” This is a demanding and fascinating task in which your Movement is already engaged on various fronts and in various places, and in the name of the Church, I am grateful to God and to the Movement for this.
Over the years, you have gotten to know Communion and Liberation on various occasions and in many places. What has impressed you in these encounters? What do you think makes this experience interesting in today’s world?
The experience born of the charism of Fr. Giussani is striking first of all because it testifies to how the faith makes man passionate about reality, all that exists, all that man experiences, all of reality. I think the Meeting of Rimini beautifully documents this passion for the whole of reality that the faith generates where it is lived in all its profundity.
It seems to me that this is also an important contribution to testifying to the rationality of the faith. Faith exalts reason, broadens its horizons, and presses it to plumb reality, leading it ever onwards toward unexplored horizons. In this way, the faith also demonstrates all its capacity to valorize what is human, what is humanly true. This is why the expression of Vittorino is very dear to me, as it was to Fr. Giussani: “When I encountered Christ, I discovered my humanity.” Actually, I would add that since I encountered Christ, all that is truly human has become familiar to me.
Precisely for this reason, one can say that your experience also testifies to a great passion for man, a passion for man and for all his needs, from material ones to those of the heart. Some of the works of your Movement–and I’ve had the opportunity to see them up close–demonstrate a moving solicitude for man. I’m thinking, for example, of many of your families who welcome many children to their homes as the normal dimension of their lives, especially foster children and adoptions. Or the reality of the Food Counter, which helps thousands of families who struggle to find their daily bread. If I’m not mistaken, Fr. Giussani was the one who wanted this work. And Fr. Giussani did not fail to plumb the depths of the hunger of the human heart–I’m thinking, for example, of The Religious Sense–reminding us that this hunger is no less concrete than that of the stomach.
A few days after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the recognition of the Fraternity, we also observe the second anniversary of the death of Fr. Giussani. During a meeting in his memory, held in Rome on Capitoline Hill two years ago, you defined him as “the Don Bosco of the third millennium.” Why?
It came to me spontaneously, mostly because, since I’m a “child” of Don Bosco, I recognize some similarities between Fr. Giussani and Don Bosco–first of all in their passion for young people, and then in their intuition, or, in other words, their educative genius. Don Bosco, encountering young people through their concrete needs for companionship, paternity, play, and help in study and work, offered them the parish youth club as an educative place that pulled them off the streets, making them Christians, authentic friends of Jesus. Similarly, it seems to me that Fr. Giussani, especially in the schools, was able to meet thousands of young people, reawakening them to all the richness of their hearts, sharing their most profound needs with them as a precious resource that leads to Christ, and teaching them to live the Christian community as the place of a never-ending maturation in their faith and humanity.
Both, because they were true fathers in the faith, were able to generate many children. Both of them, because they were authentic friends of Jesus, introduced the hearts of many men to friendship with the Lord. The hearts of both overflowed with love of the Church, a love for the Church just as she is, with all her beauty, which even shines through her wounds.
I’ve always been struck by the fact that Fr. Giussani bet on the freedom of man, considering it a possibility rather than a problem to solve and stem, even though this did not preclude a realistic gaze on human misery and weakness. It was precisely this positive gaze full of hope and paternity for all that belongs to the human that likened Fr. Giussani and Don Bosco. Finally, I would say that their human features likened these two great men, the gladness of their faces, the gladness of men who know they belong to Jesus. I wish for this same gladness to be a daily experience for all those who are the “children” of Fr. Giussani.