LAlbacete4 May 13 2010.jpgMonsignor Lorenzo Albacete, the ecclesial assistant for Communion and Liberation in the USA, published in the Italy-based online magazine, Il Sussidiario, an appreciative article on this coming weekend’s New York Encounter, a faith and culture festival.

The program: NY Encounter Program 2011.pdf

A few years ago, I accompanied Peter Beinart, then editor of The
New Republic
to the “Meeting for the Friendship Among Peoples” in Rimini,
Italy, the event inspired by the charisma of Msgr. Luigi Giussani, founder of
Communion and Liberation. The New Republic has been and is still the journal of
intelligent liberalism in the United States. As editor, Peter was, in a certain
way, the voice of American progressive thinking. After we returned to the
United States, I asked Peter to write down his impressions of the Meeting so we
could publish it in Traces. He agreed, and wrote a piece in which he concluded
that such an event was not possible in the United States because of the
cultural clashes taking place in our country.

The Meeting struck him as a coming together of three dimensions that in America are presently considered incompatible.

First of all, he said, the Meeting was a clear and unabashed expression of faith, in particular, the Roman Catholic faith. In the United States, he explained, such proclamations of faith are associated with evangelical and charismatic “revivals,” or with political movements like the Christian Coalition or the Moral Majority and others committed to rescuing the Christian identity of this country.

The Meeting in Rimini, however, displayed a faith that was at war with no one. On the contrary, at the intellectual and academic level, the Meeting reminded him of a gathering of scholars passionate about literary analysis, deconstruction, and hermeneutics. In this context, the Catholic faith showed itself to be totally unafraid of modernity and post-modernity. In the United States, because of the Protestant version of Christianity, such a harmonious coming together was impossible.

Finally, Beinart commented, the atmosphere of the Meeting reminded him of the festive, family-oriented theme parks like Disney World in Florida. At the end, Peter concluded that if we succeeded in doing something like in the United States, we would be truly making an important contribution to American culture.

Peter’s “if” has become a fact. It is called the “New York Encounter,” and it begins on Friday of this week.

The New York Encounter is indeed unlike any other cultural event in the United States in its approach and content, totally transcending the cultural divisions that threaten the future of our society. It also escapes the search for a “common ground” that maintains and feeds the relativism that is paralyzing us. The purpose of its discussions, exhibits, concerts and theatrical performances is to build new friendships, to learn, and to celebrate life’s beauty. All of its events are open to the public and are free, with the exception of the theatrical performance (this year it will be Paul Claudel’s play The Tidings Brought to Mary on Saturday night).

The opening keynote speech on Friday will be given be the president of The Catholic University of America. The subject will be “Education and Freedom in Contemporary America.” It will be followed by a live Jazz concert performed by the band of a Catholic school in Brooklyn.

On Saturday there will be a presentation by the daughter of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the French geneticist and passionate defender of the right to life. The current economic crisis will be discussed by distinguished panelists on Saturday afternoon, and the theatrical performance of Claudel’s play will take place Saturday night.

On Sunday afternoon, Msgr. Giussani’s book The Religious Sense will be presented by Fr. Julian Carron, Don Giuss’ successor as head of Communion and Liberation, followed by a commentary by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston. This event will be followed by a discussion of science and faith between a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, a professor of Biology at Brown University, and myself. Saturday night there will be a presentation of images and voices from the heart of New York City, and the Encounter ends Sunday with a discussion about Giacomo Leopardi by distinguished panelists from different backgrounds and experiences.

It is not exactly Rimini, but it is the beginning of an answer to Beinart’s challenge. At the very least, we hope to light a candle of hope in an America trying to make sense of the tragic shootings in Arizona.

The New York Encounter Cultural Festival runs from Friday, January 14 – Monday, January 17, 2011 Manhattan Center – Hammerstein Ballroom 311 West 34th Street at 8th Avenue – New York, NY 10001