A Key to Understanding the Thought of Pope Francis?
After hearing his first few homilies and speeches, something struck me about our new Holy Father’s manner of speaking. It wasn’t exactly what he said, or even the way he said it – it was something more than that. To be frank, it’s hard to describe exactly what I detected, but I could tell Pope Francis was familiar with Communion and Liberation and the thought and spirituality of Don Luigi Giussani. So, I did some digging, and my hunch was correct.
First, for those who don’t know (at this is presumably most American Catholics) – what exactly is “Communion and Liberation” (often referred to in the abbreviated form “CL”)? It is a lay ecclesial movement begun in Italy in the 50′s by Fr. Luigi Giussani. Since it’s humble beginnings, it has gained official Church approval and has spread to all corners of the globe. It is particularly strong in Europe and Italy, where the annual Rimini Meeting gathers over 8oo thousand people from every continent. CL claims some strong allies in the Church – men such as Bl. John Paul II, Pope Benedict (who preached Giussani’s funeral in 2005), +Scola, +Ouellet, and Pope Francis.
The truth is, I find it hard to describe the charism of CL or explain what the movement is really all about. Fortunately, the Vatican recently published a Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, and it gives a succinct but thorough description of CL.
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: cultural work, as a means of deepening and expressing their faith and as a condition for having a responsible presence in society; charity work, as education in service to be freely given to others and social commitment; 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, and 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.
The purpose of this post however is not to explain what CL is, but instead to point out the connection between CL and Papa Bergoglio. Here are several resources that can be found around the internet on that topic. I think these are great places to start for those trying to get a better understanding of the mind of the new Pope. I’m sure we’ll discover more as his papacy progresses.
- Articles on or about Bergoglio in 30 Days (a CL publication)
- Pope Francis wrote the introduction to the Spanish edition of Giussani’s classic The Religious Sense (which I do suggest people read)
- An article he wrote in 2001 for Traces (another CL publication)
- Another article he wrote for a CL book
I am not a member of CL, but I was taught by a number of people who were very involved in the movement. I’ve read some of Giussani’s works and have really enjoyed them (although he does write in typical “flowery” Italian, and it can be hard to grasp at times). For those who want to learn more about Don Giussani and CL, this book is a fine introduction. I think it is exciting to know that Pope Francis is a friend of CL and hopefully it will help him to more effectively proclaim the transforming power of the experience of the encounter with Christ.
What’s interesting is that others have also picked up on this connection – most noticeably the National Catholic Reporter. The NCR tends to have a very “progressive” take on things, and from the tone of the article, you can see that they are not that impressed. Popular Catholic blogger Fr. Zuhlsdorf points this out in a blog post from today.