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Rimini: ‘a foretaste of unity’

06 September 2013

by Andrew Davison


Coming together: mass at the start of the 34th Rimini Meeting of Communion and Liberation, entitled "The Human Person: A state of emergency", celebrated by the Bishop of Rimini, the Most Revd Francesco Lambiasi

Coming together: mass at the start of the 34th Rimini Meeting of Communion and Liberation, entitled "The Human Person: A state of emergency", celebr...

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 year.

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 beach.

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 Queensbury.

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."

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