By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, NOV. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- St. Paul is a guiding light for the new groups of faithful forming within the mystical body of Christ, according to the conclusions of a conference held to mark the Pauline Jubilee Year.
The conference, held Monday at St. Paul Outside the Walls, included addresses from exegete Monsignor Rinaldo Fabris, president of the Italian Bible Society, and two founders of new ecclesial movements: Kiko Argüello of the Neocatechumenal Way and Andrea Riccardi of the Sant’Egidio Community.
Despite the cold, wet Roman autumn evening, thousands of faithful participated in the event, particularly members of the two movements.
“We came to show our gratitude and fidelity to our founder because thanks to him, I have been able to discover the Lord in my heart, and I want to announce him in the midst of this de-Christianized society,” Franco Contardi, of the Sant’Egidio Community, told ZENIT.
After a musical performance from members of the Neocatechumenal Way on passages from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Monsignor Fabris offered an exegetical reading of the biblical text.
He began speaking of the need to “live the spirit of baptism” that is “the only spirit that communicates gifts.” The exegete affirmed that the Eucharist should be “the font of truth where we make ourselves one body.”
Monsignor Fabris also emphasized that every charism should be nourished with the essential element of charity, as the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians affirms. “Without charity, the charisms are nothing,” he added.
For his part, Andrea Riccardi spoke of how “the seed of the word grows in communion.” He explained how in the midst of the weakness of the Corinthian community, the Word of God encouraged conversion.
The great enemies of conversion, he continued, are “pride and arrogance that make us weak and fearful.”
Riccardi pointed to St. Paul as a model of strength in the midst of weakness and recalled that “the Pauline year is not the celebration of a superman.”
“He was weak like everyone,” the founder said, because “he was pervaded with the word of Jesus. He was a disciple of Jesus, clothed in the strength of weakness.”
In this sense, Riccardi concluded, being a good Christian “makes you more human.”
Argüello highlighted that “each time the good news is proclaimed, it is fulfilled.”
The founder of the Neocatechumenal Way took a bronze cross from the stage and asked the crowds: “Why has he died? So that man does not live for himself but for him who has died and risen for him.”
Argüello reflected that in the world, many people die because of violence and suicide — whenever man “lives for himself.” Because of this, man is frustrated, because “we have been created in the image of God and God is love.”
And true love, he said, is written in the Sermon on the Mount, which “describes the new man, the heavenly man, as Christ has loved us.”
Marco Rivolta, a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, told ZENIT that “Kiko’s words invite me to know and announce the Word more in the midst of a world that has forgotten the value of generosity.”