|01-02-2007 - Traces, n. 2
The work of the Movement
The Greatest Grace
in the History
of the Movement
We offer here excerpts from the “Historical Notes” published in Fr. Giussani’s book, The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation (Società Cooperativa Editoriale Nuovo Mondo), in which the Vice-President of the Movement reviews the time leading up to the Holy See’s official recognition of the Fraternity on February 11, 1982
by Giorgio Feliciani
Starting in 1978 and up to the moment of official recognition of the Fraternity, on numerous occasions Father Giussani made an effort to clarify and deepen the concept of confraternity, attributing to its enactment a crucial role in the future of the entire Movement. Among the many definitions and descriptions, varying in depth, offered in numerous meetings, the most synthetic is perhaps that of “a reality of friendship and communion” (see p. 41 of the book), whose origin is the full responsibility of the adults who create it, whose all-encompassing motive is “the love for Christ, the mystery of Christ which exists among them,” and the result of their commitment to Christ is “industriousness; for this reason, the central factor of the confraternity is vocation (family and work).” Thus, the confraternity is simply “the lay concept of a convent” (see page 43).
The idea was adopted so enthusiastically that within just a few months “myriad ‘confraternities’” (see L. Giussani, Il movimento di Comunione e Liberazione. Conversazioni con Robi Ronza, Milan, Jaca Book, 1987) grew up, and the “confraternities movement” was pointed to as “the ideal, or ‘utopia,’ the outcome of our whole Movement, which aims at being a movement of adults, i.e., of persons who create with total responsibility.”...
But just this extraordinary vitality of the confraternity movement posed a serious problem. It was something that simply existed as a fact, but without a formally defined structure or any kind of legal recognition from ecclesiastical or civilian authorities. This was a decidedly inadequate situation for an association of adults who proposed, under their complete responsibility, to be an industrious presence in the Church and in society....
Despite the lack of any kind of organized promotion, adherence to the Fraternity was growing rapidly, to the point that within a year the number of members went from the original 12 to almost 2,000. ...
The Abbot of Montecassino was certainly aware that his decree would provoke harsh criticism from those bishops who did not view CL with a favorable eye. One of the leading figures in the Italian Bishops Conference went so far as to state that the decree had been illegally extorted from him. And, realistically, an attentive Canon lawyer noted, “The Abbot of Montecassino was brave (some would say bold) to approve an association that is not diocesan, but evidently multi-diocesan.” In this situation, the recognition generously and courageously granted by the Abbot of Montecassino was no longer sufficient to give the association a juridical form that corresponded with its actual reality. By now, the approval of a higher authority was needed, which could only be the Holy See, and more specifically the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the dicastery set up by Pope Paul VI to handle matters concerning the participation of the laity in the life and mission of the Church.
Consequently, as early as April 7, 1981, less than a year after the decree issued by the Abbot of Montecassino, Father Giussani, with the continued encouragement and advice of Monsignor Lobina, sent the President of the Council, at that time Cardinal Opilio Rossi, a formal application for pontifical recognition of the Fraternity. ...