By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While many Catholic movements go through a period of confusion after their founder dies, the key to continued flourishing is to remember with gratitude the founder’s gifts and to be open to new ways or new places the Holy Spirit wants them to grow, Pope Francis told members of Communion and Liberation.
More than 60,000 members of the movement filled St. Peter’s Square to overflowing Oct. 15 as they celebrated with Pope Francis the 100th anniversary of the birth of Father Luigi Giussani, a Milan priest and educator who began laying the foundations for Communion and Liberation in the 1960s. He died in 2005.
As a religion teacher in a public high school, Father Giussani saw his mission as helping students have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship that would be strengthened in communion with others and would give meaning to the students’ involvement in society and culture throughout their adult lives.
After the death of Father Giussani, the movement experienced “no shortage of serious problems, divisions,” Pope Francis said. But such “times of crisis” are a call to rediscover and reaffirm the movement’s “extraordinary history of charity, culture and mission,” honestly evaluate what has hindered the movement’s flourishing and what the church and the world need from the movement given “the needs, sufferings and hopes of contemporary humanity.”
“Crisis makes for growth. It should not be reduced to conflict, which undoes,” the pope said. “Crisis makes one grow.”
Father Giussani “was certainly a man of great personal charisma, capable of attracting thousands of young people and touching their hearts,” the pope told them. But if they look at his life and what he himself said, they will discover that his charisma came from his personal relationship with Christ and his understanding — “not only with his mind but with his heart — that Christ is the unifying center of all reality, is the answer to all human questions, is the fulfillment of every desire for happiness, goodness, love, and eternity present in the human heart.”
In sharing that conviction with students and helping them use their hearts, their intelligence, their culture to come to their own personal relationship with Jesus, Father Giussani left “a great spiritual legacy” to Communion and Liberation.
“I urge you to nurture in yourselves his educational passion, his love for young people, his love for the freedom and personal responsibility of each person in the face of his or her own destiny and his respect for the unrepeatable uniqueness of every man and woman,” Pope Francis told members.