Italy Needs a 'Reawakening of Hope'

Cardinal Bagnasco Opens Italian Bishops General Assembly

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By Luca Marcolivio

ROME, MAY 23, 2012 ( The Italian crisis is very profound and Catholicism alone can give the country the adequate answer. This was the central message of the introductory lecture of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), at Monday’s opening of the conference’s General Assembly.

Recalling the victims and those affected by the earthquake that on Sunday hit Emilia-Romagna, the cardinal exhorted:  “We are very close to those communities. We embrace them, we pray for the dead and the wounded, we are in solidarity with their relatives, and we commit ourselves to do all we can so that normal life can be taken up again as soon as possible.”

However, the “general condition” of the Italian people is something that gives “anguish,” precisely because of this, we all “want to be able to perceive the first flashes of something new, which must then mature through a patient, far-sighted service.”

“Life is too great a gift not to apply oneself to relish it always, even in the roughest phases, from which, however the whispers of the new can seep through,” he added.

In the face of signs of “pronounced resentment,” if not of “declared hostility and bloody violence,” it is necessary to react “with all determination” to leave “cracks for that future which is the right of every community,” said Cardinal Bagnasco.

The social and economic crisis and the “difficulties of living,” today as in the past, drive people to “look at the Church as a close and concrete interlocutor,” observed the cardinal.

Italy has faced no less harsh trials in the past and has yet won “the place it occupies today among the most developed nations of the planet.”

Today the crisis has attained such levels that no one can allow himself to minimize them. Rather, it is necessary to respond “with a somewhat epochal change,” especially mental, in as much as the mind is “the slowest in letting itself be modified,” said the cardinal.

Not neglected besides the economic and political crisis is the crisis of the world of information. Alluding to the recent scandal of the publication of documents reserved by the Vatican, Cardinal Bagnasco recalled that journalistic ethics cannot “be used for one’s pleasure according to circumstances and interests” in as much as it has “precise rules, duties and limits.”

Hence, it is not licit to violate the “right to liberty and to that reservation that enters the statute proper of man and of the foundations of civilization” in the name of the right to inform.

“We are pained, and very much, to see flourish here and there a sort of gusto to hit the Church, as if some advantage cold be gained: the truth is the contrary; these are criminal acts that weigh on everyone and certainly do not procure glory or honor to the protagonists, known or unknown as they may be.”


In the second part of the introductory lecture, CEI’s president exhorted to a “reawakening of hope,” whose absence, as the illustrious theologian Piero Coda reminded, “is the closest symptom to biological and spiritual death.”

Hope is closely linked to the first of the theological virtues: it is no accident that Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed, beginning next October, the Year of Faith, without which, commented Cardinal Bagnasco, “there is nothing.” The Year of Faith together with the institution of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, constitutes “a very important boost, which is impossible to ignore.”

A subsequent reflection was dedicated by Cardinal Bagnasco to the crisis of Europe. ”If Europe does not become a “cultural and spiritual adventure,” in addition to an economic one, “it will not succeed in molding the sentiment of belonging, and it will never be a community of destiny.”

The whole community, Italian, European and global must rediscover “the great lesson of service,” of “gratuitousness” and of “gift” through all possible means, beginning with volunteer work. Given the disillusionment with politics, Cardinal Bagnasco admonished that Italians now no longer tolerate “demagogy and wiliness, or mediocre use of tactics.” “Rather, they must wager on the intelligence of the citizens, now disenchanted and tired,” he added.

In the workplace young people in particular must “finally receive concrete signs, which go beyond precariousness, discrimination and arbitrariness.” At the same time, however, “parasitical temptations” must be avoided and the inclination to indebtedness.

CEI’s president then expressed his support to priests that – whether in the North or the South – are facing the Mafia, and its threats and intimidations. He promised that the Church’s commitment against evil ways of life will not fail and that the logic of violence and of fanaticism will not prevail.

Referring to the imminent World Family Meeting at Milan (May 30-June 3), Cardinal Bagnasco said the family is the only anthropological structure “to protect us in the future.” Concluding, he mentioned the recent beatification of the economist Giuseppe Toniolo, an event that represents a genuine impulse for all the Italian Catholic laity at a moment of profound changes.

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