Monsignor Giussani Fondly Remembered

Founder of Communion and Liberation Is Praised

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ROME, FEB. 24, 2005 ( The death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation, has given rise to expressions of unity and shared grief and affection among other ecclesial movements.

Monsignor Giussani, 82, died in his Milan residence early Tuesday.

In a letter written for the movement’s golden anniversary, John Paul II said Communion and Liberation can «justly be considered» as «one of the shoots of the promising ‘spring’ inspired by the Holy Spirit during the last 50 years.»

Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, recalled a meeting she had with Monsignor Giussani in Milan, in November 1998, shortly after the historic meeting of movements with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square on the eve of Pentecost that year.

«It is one of the few times I had the impression of having met a saint, a holiness won with not a few sufferings,» Lubich said, according to a statement from the Focolarini sent to ZENIT.

«In that Vigil of Pentecost, the Pope asked us for ‘communion and commitment,'» Lubich stated. «This is why I went to Milan. That meeting was for all of us, as Monsignor Giussani wrote later in a letter to his fraternity, ‘the greatest day of our history.’ And he added: ‘I also said it to Chiara and to Kiko [Argüello, founder of the Neocatechumenal Way], who were next to me in St. Peter’s Square. How can we not cry out our unity on these occasions?'»

Lubich continued: «I have in my heart an immense gratitude for his life spent without measure in the service of a charism which has introduced in the Church a new current of intense spiritual life, opening wide for thousands and thousands of men and women worldwide the personal encounter with Jesus, and giving rise to many concrete works in response to the expectations of our time.»

Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, told Vatican Radio: «I remember Don Giussani as a man who took Christ and the Gospel seriously, a man in whom dwelt profound spirituality.»

Riccardi also recalled the 1998 meeting of new communities and movements at the Vatican, when Monsignor Giussani said to the Pope: «We are all beggars.»

«In these words is, I think, much of the spirit of Don Giussani,» said Riccardi. «This man who searched all his life and witnessed to having found Jesus.»

He added that Monsignor Giussani «realized that faith is something that transpires in the depths of men’s lives, in man’s encounter with man, and in man’s encounter with the Lord Jesus.»

On the day of the priest’s death, Italian Catholic Action said in a statement: «We wish to remember the harmony with which we began together a new path directed to witnessing … the communion that must characterize believers in the Risen One.»

Paola Bignardi, national president of Italian AC, spoke on Vatican Radio of Monsignor Giussani’s «faithfulness to the Gospel, which led him to recognize in the service of man, and in the promotion of man, life and culture, the appropriate ways to proclaim the Gospel in the present context.»

On Wednesday, Opus Dei Bishop Javier Echevarría expressed sorrow when hearing of Monsignor Giussani’s death, the prelature’s press office told ZENIT.

«His death implies a great loss for the Church,» Bishop Echevarría said. «I am thinking especially of the innumerable young people who have discovered the face of Christ through his illuminating words, and of all of those who owe him the discovery of their own Christian vocation.»

The prelate recalled that «his passing to heaven took place in the early hours of the feast of the Chair of St. Peter: It seems like a symbol of a life totally dedicated to the service of the Church.»

«With the certain hope that the Lord must have rewarded his generosity,» the Opus Dei prelate expressed «to all the spiritual children of Monsignor Giussani his most sincere affection and union in prayer.»

Today, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was to preside on the Pope’s behalf at the monsignor’s funeral in Milan’s cathedral.

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