Russia Warms to Communion-and-Liberation Founder´s Book

New Edition of «The Religious Sense» Presented in Moscow

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MOSCOW, MAR. 2, 2001 ( A new edition of a Catholic catechetical work was unveiled in Moscow, yet another sign that the country continues to open up to religion after the communist era.

Monsignor Luigi Giussani´s book, «The Religious Sense,» was presented at Moscow´s Humanistic University on Thursday. It is the first volume of an introduction to Christianity, written by the founder of the Communion and Liberation movement.

«The Religious Sense» first appeared in Russian somewhat clandestinely, at the end of the 1980s, with the collaboration of the Russian Christian Center (the Russian publishers of Giussani´s books) and Orthodox Father Aleksandr Men. The latter, who was killed in 1990, was one of the fathers of country´s religious rebirth in Soviet times.

Amazed by the timeliness of the text, Father Men wrote a preface to the book, dedicated especially to Russian readers, which has been reprinted in the new edition. The new edition´s introduction is written by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Jurij Afanasev, rector of the Humanistic University, called the book an extremely useful instrument for university students to study Christianity.

Two Russian Orthodox intellectuals, professor Sergej Averincev and poetess Olga Sedakova, were on hand for the event Thursday.

Averincev emphasized the sharpness that characterizes the text, akin to St. Paul´s, and the strength of conviction it proposes for life. It is a proposal, he said, that is «patient but relentless, obliging one to remove the ideological masks and take the matter seriously.» Sedakova described «The Religious Sense» as the way to return to reflection on oneself, and on one´s authentic energies.

Giancarlo Cesana, one of the leaders of Communion and Liberation, spoke on behalf of Monsignor Giussani. He described the monsignor´s charism, which stresses the attraction of Christ as the response to man´s most urgent questions.

The meeting was arranged by two Russian organizations, the Cultural Center´s Religious Library and the Center for the Study of Religions.

The first, established in Moscow in 1993 and headed by Jean-François Thiry, is an international institution attended by both Catholics and Orthodox. Among other things, it distributes important religious books in Russian.

The second, founded in 1992, in the framework of cultural programs of the Humanistic University, is a center for the study of religions from a more scientific point of view, but respecting the religious phenomenon as such. It regards religion as one of the most representative expressions of human culture — in stark opposition to communist-era propaganda.

Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement that arose in Italy in 1954, when Monsignor Giussani initiated a Christian presence, known as Young Christian Students, in a Milan high school. Today the movement is active in 64 countries.

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