Vatican City, Mar 7, 2015 / 13:49 pm
What's so important about an encounter? Pope Francis thinks one encounter is key to everything.
"Everything in our life, today as at the time of Jesus, begins with an encounter," the Pope said at a March 7 audience. Christ is always there first: "when we arrive, He is there waiting."
He reflected on the life of Monsignor Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion and Liberation movement. His life was not an "encounter with an idea," the pontiff said, but "with a Person, with Jesus Christ." It was in this context of encountering Christ that Msgr. Giussani taught about freedom, since "Christ gives us true freedom."
Around eighty thousand Communion and Liberation members from 50 countries gathered in St. Peter's Square Saturday morning to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Msgr. Giussani. The papal audience also coincided with the 60th anniversary of the movement's founding.
Fr. Giussani was born Oct. 15, 1922, in the Italian city of Desio, located just north of Milan, the country's second most populous city.
Upon his death on Feb. 22, 2005, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was a close friend and confidant of Giussani, delivered the homily at his funeral.
Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for the priest known as Don Giussani, praising his writings and the positive impact they made on him and his own priesthood. He also praised the priest's "deeply human way of thinking" which reached the "most intimate yearning of man."
Pope Francis said the Communion and Liberation movement "has not lost its freshness and vitality" after sixty years, but he reminded those present to remember always that Jesus Christ is its only center. "All spiritualities, all charisms within the Church, must be 'decentralized': at the center, there is only the Lord!"
The Pope cited St. Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts, called charisms, in the First Letter to the Corinthians. The apostle says that love that comes from God is "proper" and "allows us to imitate him."
The Pope said that a charism is not meant to be "preserved in a bottle of 'distilled water'," or "turned to stone." Nor can it be "reduced to a museum of memories, decisions, rules of conduct."
Pope Francis reflected upon Christian morality, describing it as a response to God rather than a force of its own.
Christian morality is not "a titanic, voluntaristic force" or a "solitary challenge facing the world," the Pope said. Rather, morality is the response to a mercy that is "surprising, unpredictable, even 'unjust,' according to human criteria."
This mercy is from God, "who knows me, who knows my betrayals and loves me all the same, who esteems me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, awaits me."
The Communion and Liberation movement traces its roots back to Msgr. Giussani's close ties with the Catholic "Gioventù Studentesca" ("Student Youth") group that was born in 1954 at Milan's Berchet High School, where he was a teacher.
The movement is composed mainly of lay persons. It also has members who are priests, religious, and consecrated lay men and women.
Pope Francis concluded his address by imploring God's blessing and Mary's protection, reminding the faithful to remember him in their prayers.