EACH day between 18 and 24 August, about 100,000 participants
arrived for the annual meeting of the Roman Catholic movement
Communion and Liberation, in Rimini, Italy. Not for the first time,
it looks set to be the largest cultural event in Europe this
Despite the serious line-up of 103 panels of speakers and 12
exhibitions - and the logistics of co-ordinating 3611 volunteers -
the event had a festive, holiday atmosphere. This characteristic
goes back 34 years, to when a group of friends decided one evening,
over a pizza, to hold a small Christian festival on Rimini's
The founder of the movement, Fr Luigi Giussani, wanted to build
on the opportunities offered by a holiday for making friends and
taking stock of life (or exploring our freedom and discerning our
destiny, in Giussani's characteristic language).
This history explains the full name of the event: "The Meeting
for Friendship among Peoples". The Italian for "meeting",
incontro, carries connotations both of meeting new people,
and of "encounter": an encounter, Giussani hoped, with something of
what Christianity offers and suggests.
For Fr Stefano Alberto, a leader of the movement in Italy, the
purpose of the Meeting remains the same today: "to create a place
where people who are already friends, or not yet friends, can
encounter again the beauty and reasonableness of Christianity".
Over the past decades, Anglican theologians have featured among
the speakers. This year, they included the Revd Professor John
Milbank and the Revd Dr Alison Milbank, and Baroness Cox of
Fr Alberto described the presence of Anglicans at the meeting as
"an extraordinary thing", and "a foretaste of full unity". This
friendship and common witness to Christ between Anglicans and RCs
constitutes "the discovery of a true ecumenism which is neither
political, formal, nor clerical, but based on common enthusiasm and
the evident action of Christ."