Tag Archives: Communion and Liberation

Pope Benedict on Religion and Politics: the influence of Communion & Liberation

November 26, 2008
Michael Sean Winters

America Magazine

Pope Benedict XVI greeted a group of pilgrims this past weekend with a short discourse on the Feast of Christ the King that has an obvious application to the political circumstance of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States in the wake of President-elect Obama’s decisive win among Catholic voters.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope told the pilgrims, “this is what interests God. The kingship of history is of no importance to him — he wants to reign in people’s hearts, and from these, in the world: He is the king of the entire universe, but the crucial point, the place where his reign is at risk, is our heart, for there God finds himself encountering our freedom.” Reign in the heart, then in the world. That is the proper order for political influence by the Christian Churches.

Unfortunately, political power inevitably invites that deadliest of the seven deadly sins, pride, and it is always tempting for those of us whose involvement in politics grows out of our religious motivations to conflate the two, to think that politics is about the Kingdom not the kingdom, to collapse our eschatons into our exit polls. And, this happens on both left and right.

But, Benedict is right. The primary means by which the Church should influence the realm of politics is by converting hearts and generating culture. This insight was the principal reason Don Luigi Guissani founded his movement, Communione e Liberazione and distanced himself from the Christian Democratic Party of his day. And, the Holy Father’s reliance on the insights of Don Guissani is well known.

So, as we Americans prepare to celebrate the quintessential American holiday, so soon after a tumultuous election, let us all remember that the kingship of history is less important than breaking bread with our friends. And, for those of us who are Catholic Americans, let us commit ourselves anew to the wonderful adventurous drama of the human heart where, as Pope Benedict said, “God finds himself encountering our freedom.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! back on Monday with more analysis of the transition.

Communion & Liberation, in brief

Here is the description of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation which appears in the Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity (Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted], 2006).


Official name: Fraternity of Communion and Liberation; also known as: Communion and Liberation (CL)


Established: 1954


History: At the beginning of the 1950s, realizing the need to rebuild the Christian presence in the student world, Father Luigi Giussani, a professor at the Theological Faculty at Venegono, dedicated himself to teaching religion in schools.


The experience of a small group of students from the Berchet classical high school in Milan, which gathered around him, led to the establishment of Gioventù Studentesca (Student Youth). With the strong encouragement of the archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, Gioventù Studentesca spread to other Italian cities, and after 1968 it also began to involve undergraduates and adults.


This led to the establishment of Communion and Liberation which, in 1980, was to be canonically recognized by the Benedictine Ordinary (Bishop) Abbot of Montecassino, Martino Matronola. The first fraternity groups were set up in the latter half of the 1970s by CL graduates who, using a method based on communion, wished to strengthen their membership in the Church as adults, along with the responsibilities that this entails.


It was through their spread to various countries that the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation came about. On Feb. 11, 1982, (Our Lady of Lourdes) the Pontifical Council for the Laity decreed recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation as an international association of the faithful of pontifical right.


Identity: The essence of the CL charism is

the proclamation that God became Man; in the affirmation that this man — Jesus of Nazareth, who died and rose again — is a present event,

whose visible sign is communion, that is to say, the unity of a people led by a living person, the Bishop of Rome

in the awareness that it is only in God made Man, and hence within the life of the Church, that man is more true and humanity is truly more human.


In the educational proposal made by CL, the free acceptance by the individual of the Christian message is determined by the discovery that the needs of the human heart are met by the annunciation of a message that fulfills them.


It is the reasonableness of the faith which leads men and women who have been transformed by their encounter with Christ to commit themselves with Christian experience to affect the whole of society. This commitment strengthens their awareness of their own identity, enabling them to see their life as a vocation, and is supported by the experience of communion which makes the memory of Christ’s coming a daily reality.


The educational process,

nurtured by proclamation and catechesis

by attendance at retreats and spiritual exercises

and by the celebration of the sacraments,

gives pride of place to the dimensions of


1.   cultural work, as a means of deepening and expressing their faith and as a condition for having a responsible presence in society

2.   charity work, as education in service to be freely given to others and social commitment

3.   and the mission, as education in the sense of the catholicity of the Church and as a vocational choice.


Bearing witness to Christ

  • in schools and universities
  • in factories and offices
  • in the local neighborhood and in the city
  • takes place above all through work, which is the specific way in which adults relate to reality.


Organization: The life of the fraternity is lived through the free formation of groups of men and women of ail conditions and states of life, whose friendship and communion are based upon their common commitment to move forward together toward holiness, which they acknowledge to be the genuine purpose of human existence.


The association is guided by the president and by the Central Diakonia, of which all the international leaders are members.

[There are also] the officials in all the various areas in which it is present, and representatives of the other entities that have emerged from the CL charism:

·         the Memores Domini Lay Association (The life of its members (lay men and women who normally live in houses made up of either men or women, following a rule of group living and personal ascesis) is governed by the call to contemplation, understood as the constant memory of Christ, and of mission, especially in the workplace. The life is committed to the conception of virginity is based on St. Paul’s call to “possess as though not possessing.” It is not in order to give up something that one makes a sacrifice, but rather to possess reality completely analogous to the possession of Christ);

·         the priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo;

·         the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Assumption;

·         Fraternity of Saint Joseph (dedicated their lives definitively to Christ and the Christian life, while remaining in their current life situations; members of this fraternity are free of marriage bonds, because widowed or unmarried, according to the Gospel tradition: in obedience, poverty, virginity, which are dimensions of faith, hope, and charity).


ln the dioceses, the diocesan leader is assisted by a

Diakonia and by a spiritual assistant appointed by the local bishop acting on a proposal by the fraternity president.


Since 1997, the Communion and Liberation International Center has been operating in Rome, as the liaison center linking all the parts of the movement worldwide.


Membership: The fraternity has 47,994 members in 64 countries. More than 60,000 people share the CL experience.


Works: Individuals and groups belonging to the fraternity have taken the responsibility to establish cultural, charitable and entrepreneurial works linked together in the Company of Works which has offices in Italy and abroad.


These works of CL include

·         shelter homes for the mentally ill, drug addicts, the disabled, AIDS patients and the terminally ill

·         companies to provide employment for the disabled

·         nongovernmental organizations (AVSI in Italy and CESAl in Spain) to provide assistance and foster the development of poor countries

·         foundations such as the Food Bank, which provides daily food to more than 1 million poor people in Italy,

·         and the Pharmaceutical Bank

·         solidarity centers to assist the unemployed in seeking a job

·         welfare facilities in children’s prisons in Africa and America

·         and aid for needy families and finding homes for people in difficulty.


The initiatives that have emerged in the field of culture have become a special place for ensuring that the pooling of different experiences is an opportunity for every individual to communicate their own “proprium” regarding the Christian event:

·         cultural centers

·         schools (often established by parents’ cooperatives)

·         publishing houses, publishing and newspaper initiatives

·         foundations and academic institutions

·         and international conferences, such as the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples.(Rimini)


The Sacred Heart Foundation in Milan is directly dependent upon the Fraternity, as a nonprofit entity which manages schools, and works for the promotion and protection of free education, consistent with the Christian tradition and the teaching of the Church.


Publications: Traces Litterae Communionis, a monthly magazine in Italian, French, English, Polish, Portuguese/Brazilian, Russian, German and Spanish; Piccole Tracee, a magazine for children published every two months


Web site: www.clonline.net

Lorenzo Albacete to present “God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity”

GR.jpgGod at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity: A Priest-Physicist Talks about Science, Sex, Politics and Religion
by Lorenzo Albacete


Trained as a physicist and a Roman Catholic priest, Albacete has written a fine book of short reflections on religion, its place in our world, its at-times troubled relationship to its own truth claims, the meaning of suffering, and the experience of pluralism and liberalism. Albacete cites the thought of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, to be sure, but he also engages with Germaine Greer, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Paul Ricoeur. Albacete’s profound sense of the religious leads him not to dogma but to a series of sensitively framed, sincere questions that should catch the attention and empathy of many readers.

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, National Director, Communion and Liberation; Chairman, Board of Advisors, Crossroads Cultural Center; former President, Catholic University of Puerto Rico; former Professor of Theology, St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York.

Wednesday, November 12th, 6:00-7:30pm

Columbia University

Davis Auditorium, Schapiro Center (116th & Broadway)


RSVP here.


Read Christopher West’s review of God at the Ritz

How a Community is Born

Traces November 2008

Traces Oct.jpg

Los Angeles


by Paola Bergamini

Work and life in the parish, barbecues on the beach and weddings. Everyday circumstances which, for an Italian transferred to California, became opportunities for meeting people, and for risk. In the capital of the ephemeral, a curious presence emerged.


Los Angeles. In the offices of the Disney movie department, the air is heavy. It’s official: the company has decided to shed 300 jobs. Guido is at his desk waiting for his turn to be called by the boss. He is sure that he is on the list to go because he is the last to have arrived. He has been working for Disney for four years, but he has been working in this section for only six months, and only those six months count. At the end of the day, his boss calls him; he is the last. “I’m sorry, Piccarolo, I’m really sorry…,” and his eyes are wet. “I’m sorry, too. Not only do I have to find another job. For me, my work is the expression of what I love most, and here this was possible.” “It could be seen. Working with you was different. That is why I have managed to keep you on for another year [instead of the usual two weeks] and I’d like to give you a hand in finding another job.” The personnel manager, present at the interview, is astonished-nothing of this kind ever happens; at most, there are one or two tears, an expletive, and negotiation about the weeks to be paid. The logic of profit, of power, is unhinged. Another factor has come into play: affection for reality, for the other person, the echo of a greater Love that has embraced you and that changes relationships astonishingly. “It has always been this way for me, since 1994, when I graduated in Economics and Commerce and, at the suggestion of Memores Domini leader Carlo Wolfsgruber, left for New York, where Fr. Marino had asked for the opening of a house of the Memores Domini [the association composed of people of CL who follow a vocation of total dedication to God while living in the world]. I knew nothing, not even the English language. I said ‘yes’ to a look of love towards me.” He told me this at La Thuile, during the CL International Assembly, where we met again after 15 years. As he was speaking, I saw that he had a purer, more likeable look about him.


Behind the circumstances

Guido spent two years living with Fr. Marino, and then he got a job in a telecommunications firm “with younger colleagues who bossed you around. But life passed through there, and through the photocopies I had to make, sometimes all day long,” he remembers. After six months, the director called him: “I need a man I can trust in Los Angeles. I’ve seen how you work, I believe in you, but here you have no future. Do you want to go?” There was nothing in Los Angeles: no community, no Memores Domini house. Giudo wrote to Fr. Giussani, asking to go for two reasons: 1) The chance to learn a job; 2) to take along the beauty of the experience he was living. After a few days, the answer came through Giorgio Vittadini: “This is something great. Fr. Giussani thanks you. There will soon be a Memores Domini house.” Every weekend for a month, accompanied by Salvatore, he flew to Los Angeles to look for a house and to find out about the job. Then he set off. The first three months he was alone. “In that period, I always asked for the companionship of Christ for my life, and the simple fact of asking for it means you are not alone. It was not an expectation that blocked life. One day after another proved to be rich with occasions to be beside Him.” It is a new way of approaching reality that can be seen-on the job, in the parish that Guido begins to attend, in everyday relationships. After three months, Carlo came to live with Guido for eight months, to write his thesis, and then Mauro came to stay indefinitely. So Fr. Giussani was right: the Memores house was founded. After one year, Guido changed his job so as to stay in Los Angeles. He worked in a firm that was expanding frenetically. He worked twelve hours a day, including Saturday and Sunday. How did he survive it? He laughs. “It’s not a question of survival, but of living seriously. I never thought, “What interests me is outside; it’s a pity I have so little time to spare.” Being there was total. So, in the evening, when it got late, I would go to get food for everybody, to take my break while talking. And someone would ask about your friends, what you do at home, or what you think of the poor in the Third World, and you answer… that you do charity work Sundays with some kids; you speak of what’s dearest to you. Then you invite him home to eat Italian.” In this way, unexpected relationships sprang up, and this is how the community in Los Angeles was born-without inventing anything, without making speeches.

This was the case with Jennifer. Mauro got to know her at a wedding and he invited her home for lunch. She told him of her difficult situation, being divorced with two children. They offered her company. When he can, Guido crosses the city to help the children with their schoolwork. They invited her to School of Community, but who would stay at home with the kids? She can’t afford a babysitter. They take turns babysitting so that she can go. When the problem of changing schools comes up, and Jennifer cannot afford it, Guido called his friends in the Fraternity in Italy, asking if they could help out. Now there is a bridge linking Milan and Los Angeles. Jennifer writes to Laura, telling her about her children, the School of Community, the difficulties in her job… about her life. Why would you do all this, if not out of recognition of a Presence that touches life’s circumstances? And it changes life. This is also the case with Brenda, whom Mauro got to know at work and invited to School of Community. “She is an astrophysicist who struck our friend Marco Bersanelli in Liege, Belgium, because of the way she approached her work.” [See Traces, Vol. 10, No. 7 (September) 2008.] The parish priest, Fr. Roddy, in contrast, was rather doubtful about these Italians. One day, they threw him an invitation: “Why don’t you come on vacation with us?” He has been with us ever since because, “at the age of 70, the encounter with the Movement helped me rediscover the origin of my vocation.” Then, there is Nancy. “I met her at Disney,” Guido tells us. Another change of job? “In Italy, you are not accustomed to it, but in America this turnover is quite normal. In the case of my firm, they went bankrupt.” Nancy was a Protestant. She and Guido became friends, and after three years she came to a gesture of the Movement, the charitable work. After another year, she attended the School of Community for the first time. Last April, she became a Catholic. “In the past, I thought I was the author of my destiny, but now I live rooted in an Other,” she commented, some days later.


From bonfires to surfing

It was the pastor of San Sebastian Parish who invited Claudia. She is from Salvador, and she escaped from there during the ’80s because of the civil war. “There is a group of Italians who get together every Wednesday; why don’t you go to meet them?” Along with her husband, Edwino, she came one Wednesday. These Italians are different: they use words like Mystery, reason, Fr. Giussani. These new friends from Salvador have never left us since: “It was impossible to stay away. The desire to come back to them was to come back to that Presence that was beginning to reveal itself in our lives,” Claudia wrote.

After a few years, there are now two houses of Memores Domini and the encounters have multiplied-with Beth, Paul, Christine, and many others, people you meet at a party, at work, or in a thousand other circumstances of life. “You invite them to eat, to your home, to a bonfire on the beach, or to go surfing. Los Angeles is the city of the ephemeral, of appearances. You can either stop short at a moralistic contempt or you can embrace these appearances in an encounter. Then, since we have the finest beaches in the world, why shouldn’t we enjoy them?” Right you are, Guido!

How did things turn out at Disney? “I quit.” And now? “That is another adventure.” He laughs and even his eyes are smiling-as if embracing the world.


Cardinal Paul Cordes: can we defeat evil?

Today I had the opportunity to hear Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes deliver an address at

seton-hall.jpgSeton Hall University, “To Defeat Evil–Possible?” at a ceremony which bestowed an honorary doctorate of humane letters on him. The 71 year old prelate hails from the Archdiocese of Paderborn, Germany, though he has worked at the Vatican since 1980. Pope Benedict made him a cardinal in November 2007.


Cardinal Cordes is the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (One Heart) for Human and Christian Development established by Pope Paul VI in 1971. The work of Cor Unum, virtually unknown to many Americans, demonstrates in concrete ways “the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ.”


The Cardinal said that sentimentality is unhelpful when it comes to religious and concrete reality; sentimentality allows us to slumber and therefore overlook evil. Look at the well known events of human history to see the effects of the human capacity for evil. The one bomb that still needs to be defused is that of the all-consuming anger in the heart of men and women. Today we continue to demand an answer that promotes real peace. The UN and other socio-political organizations can’t do the heavy lifting in eradicating evil: we need a concrete proposal that unveils the many sources of injustice, the psychological problems faced by man and woman and false religion. To zero-in on the serious issues of life that are born of the heart. What often happens and is rather unsatisfactory is dealing with life from the angle of empirical data alone. The Christian needs to step up to the plate approach these questions, particularly evil, from the approach of divine revelation.



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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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