Communion and Liberation's Years of Rebirth

Interview With Author, Monsignor Massimo Camisasca

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ROME, APRIL 8, 2003 (ZENIT.orgFides).- The second volume of the history of the Church movement Communion and Liberation has been published in Italian.

«La Ripresa» (The Revival, St. Paul Editions), which covers the years 1969-76, will soon appear in other languages.

The author, Monsignor Massimo Camisasca, is former vice president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Rome, and founder and general superior of the St. Charles Borromeo Priestly Fraternity of Missionaries.

He describes in the volume the path of the movement’s rebirth under the guidance of its founder Luigi Giussani and its definitive affirmation in the Church in an Italian society marked by upheaval and shaken by bombs and attacks.

Q: If you were to use an image to describe this second stage of the history of the Communion and Liberation movement, which would you choose?

Monsignor Camisasca: If I were to express with one image the path described in this volume, I would choose the wandering in the desert.

We think of the people of Israel: The years spent between Egypt and the Promised Land, under the guidance of Moses, allowed its formation and represented also the definitive discovery of its vocation in the world. Years marked by adversity, but also by many gifts. And by no few rebellions against their leader.

At times the Jewish people had the impression that it would all end there; then the journey resumed as if a miracle. The years 1969-76, only seven, represent, under the guidance of Don Giussani, the path of the movement’s rebirth, after a period of crisis in which its numbers were reduced to the minimum, and its definitive affirmation in the Church and in Italian society.

Q: What are the main differences between this volume and the previous book?

Monsignor Camisasca: The atmosphere, the tones of this second volume are profoundly different compared to the first.

The latter was concerned with the happy infancy of an adult; with the laborious and fruitful years, of meetings and prospects, which Giussani lived in the seminary; with the glorious decade of the G’s [Student Youth].

Here, instead, there is the fatigue of rebirth, a new start, in a Milan and an Italy characterized by demonstrations, shaken by revolutionary slogans, by bombs, by the dead.

Don Giussani in these years draws gradually closer to the official leadership of the movement, from which he had been divided in June 1965, when he was sent to study in the United States from where he returned a few months later.

The American months really represent for him a pause: although in actual fact he never ceased generating the movement, it is also true that he was only gradually to take in hand again the effective leadership of Communion and Liberation.

Q: What were the most interesting and demanding challenges posed by those terrible years? And how did the CL position fit in with the Church and the world?

Monsignor Camisasca: First of all, one question shook the Church in those years: from whom will salvation come? Much of Italian Catholicism, although necessarily without denying in theory that Christ is the Savior, trusted concretely in the Marxist analysis as a path to liberation, when not in the revolutionary praxis.

Here lies the center of the teaching of Don Giussani — the reply to the question: Who is the Savior, who can free us from evil?

In those years there was confrontation on the one hand between human wisdom and human morality, intensely and at times violently proposed by those who preached salvation through revolution, and on the other, Christian communion lived as an absolutely original way of understanding human existence, which comes from on high, is born of faith and from faith draws its vision of men and the world, constituting a unique rule of life.

For Giussani it remains supremely true that «God is everything and is within the human» because the eternal has become the modality of life for the human. «The great Christian word is the Incarnation, but what this God, who is within all things, brings to the surface is not human wisdom, it is lived communion.»

In these years he struggles for «a new city which must be born.» But the city is an absolute gift, a gift born of conversion. These are the terms of the tremendous question, a question of life or death for Christianity, which poses itself in those years. For Don Giussani the decision is absolutely not ideological or partisan. Again in those years he said: «The decision we must make is to be within the one Christian tension we know, tension between cross and resurrection.» Immanence in the world, then, but immanence of Christian communion, presence of man conscious of the novelty he carries.

Q: In that period, what answer does Don Giussani suggest for the question of evil, violence and injustice in the world?

Monsignor Camisasca: The problem of evil and how to face it was the central problem of those years. It is also today. Here lies, in fact, the profound present day importance of this volume.

Today, as 30 years ago, men, in the face of injustice, poverty, discrimination, ask themselves: Is war and violence all we have left? In March 1969, Don Giussani said: «We are vexed, inevitably wounded by evil, in its most clamorous version, the social, which is injustice. But we must not forget another type of evil, which is structural to our life, such as, for example, death, disease, betrayal. How is the problem of evil usually faced? With analysis and historical action. We feel the need to analyze situations and structures and then to act, we come together because alone we can do little or nothing, and what we cannot do together will be done by history and posterity.»

But Don Giussani adds: «I see that all the positions assumed by man with the will to eliminate evil in the world start out from the presupposition that evil is in the structures, they are unilateral, they are forced to affirm themselves to forget or renounce something, and one violence is followed by another.»

Evil is in the man of today and alone he cannot free himself: This was the cry of Don Giussani in those times and the heart of his educational method. Evil has its roots in human liberty. [He says:] «The concept of original sin is at the basis of all this and clarifies it. Evil in me can be won only by another, by another who is like me but greater than me, by God made man, who died and is risen.»

Hence, Don Glissandi’s insistence that the event of Christ, the new man, must be recognized. «The problem is one,» he says on another occasion, «that we take that event seriously.»

Only when Jesus comes again will evil be completely taken way. But the life of the Church, at the same time, is an anticipation of this liberation from evil. In this life, continuity of the Risen Christ, man is granted to live in time the experience of life finally and definitively liberated.

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