Sant'Egidio Projects Run Gamut From Poverty to Peace

Rome-based Movement Marks Its 36th Anniversary

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ROME, FEB. 9, 2004 ( The Community of Sant’Egidio has been characterized by a strong spirit of solidarity joined to profound faith, said Cardinal Camillo Ruini on the movement’s 36th anniversary.

The Pope’s vicar for Rome made that comment when he presided last Thursday at a Mass of thanksgiving in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, for the anniversary celebration.

Representatives of the Eastern and African communities, European delegations, and leaders of the Italian political realm gathered for the anniversary for Sant’Egidio, which numbers 50,000 members in 63 countries.

John Paul II sent a message for the occasion, published over the weekend by the Vatican press office, in which he mentioned, as the Sant’Egidio Community also does, that the poor are «our teachers, as they make us understand that before God we are all beggars of love and salvation.»

At the end of the Mass on Thursday, the founder of Sant’Egidio, historian Andrea Riccardi, said: «With the passing of the years, we have increasingly understood that there is no lasting and profound solidarity without genuine spirituality.»

The Sant’Egidio Community has a number of commitments, from assistance to the poorest, to the pursuit of peace.

It has fostered campaigns for the struggle against AIDS in Africa, the defense of human rights, and interreligious dialogue.

In 2003, the group collected «300,000 signatures of young people against ‘Afro-pessimism,'» and consolidated its Dream program «for the treatment of AIDS in Mozambique, which assists 7,500 people.» To date, Sant’Egidio has collected 5 million signatures calling for a global moratorium on capital punishment.

Sant’Egidio president Marco Impagliazzo said the Dream project this year will be «extended to many other countries in Africa. Thanks to this initiative, 300 healthy children have been born to mothers infected with AIDS.»

«The elderly are another of our priorities, especially after last summer, with so many deaths caused by the heat in Italy, in France, and in other countries of Europe,» he added.

Last year, Sant’Egidio and the French government helped to consolidate the peace process in Ivory Coast in the wake of its civil war.

In the area of dialogue among religions, Sant’Egidio organized the Interreligious World Meeting held in Aachen, Germany, last September.

The group has within it a longing for that «unity that corresponds to the testament Christ left us: ‘I pray that you may be one,'» said Cardinal Mario Pompedda, prefect of the Apostolic Signature, the Church’s supreme court.

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