Communion and Liberation
Communion and Liberation (Italian: Comunione e Liberazione, often shortened to CL) is an Italian Catholic movement founded in 1954 by Fr. Luigi Giussani. The official name is the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. Its aim is to present the Christian event in a way which is in tune with contemporary culture, making it a source of new values for the modern world. The name Communion and Liberation first appeared in 1969 and it synthesizes the conviction that the Christian event, lived in communion, is the foundation of man’s authentic liberation.
Comunione e Liberazione
|Founded at||Milan, Italy|
|Julián Carrón (leader), Luigi Giussani (founder)|
Communion and Liberation finds its origin in the educational and catechetical methods of Luigi Giussani who, in 1954, abandoned his teaching position at the Venegono seminary to teach Catholic religion at Berchet High School in Milan. Following daily encounters with his students, Giussani soon became assistant to Catholic Action via the Gioventù Studentesca (Student Youth) branch. Within a few years, GS widely spread within and well beyond the Milanese diocese.
Though GS was part of Catholic Action, differences in approach caused internal tension and an eventual schism. In 1968, various members abandoned the group. The ones who remained faithful to Giussani organized themselves in what they eventually named "Communion and Liberation". The name derived from a flyer distributed by some university students in 1969 with the aim to respond to the time's common mentality: while the world affirmed that man's freedom rested in revolution, they believed that in Christian communion was liberation.
Giussani said that he never planned to found a Catholic movement. In a letter to Pope John Paul II, he wrote, "Not only did I never intent to 'found' anything, but I believe that the genius of the movement whose birth I witnessed was the perceived urgency to proclaim the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity. That is, passion for the Christian fact as such, in its original elements. That's it." The pope was said to have been an ardent advocate of the movement, maintaining that it is a vanguard in "the work of overcoming the division between the Gospel and Culture". John Paul II has also supported the work of the Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione, a member of the Communion and Liberation, particularly those that confirmed his European and American views. The pope's attitude was influenced by his papacy's focus on moral issues as well as the movement's anti-liberal orientation.
Giussani's former students from high school and university began to express their desire to live the experience of the movement in a more stable way. Their desire was fulfilled on February 11, 1982, when the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation was recognized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity as a lay association of pontifical right.
After Giussani's death on February 22, 2005, responsibility over Communion and Liberation was passed on to Spanish priest and theologian Fr. Julián Carrón.
The Life of CL
The experience of life proposed by Communion and Liberation revolves around what Giussani considered to be the dimensions of Christian life: culture, charity, and mission. CL continues to be represented in secondary schools under the name of GS, while Communion and Liberation - University (CLU) informally encompasses the University students involved. Different forms of consecrated life are also present in the movement: Memores Domini, the Fraternity of St. Joseph, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, and the Sisters of Charity of the Assumption.
School of Community
A recurring activity in Communion and Liberation is catechesis though School of Community (SoC), typically focusing on a text by Giussani or the Magisterium, organized by individual communities and open to the public.
Since the early stages of GS, Giussani had established his primary goals to be education to Christian maturity and collaboration in the mission of the Church in every aspect of life. The School of Community aims to be a method to verify the presence of Christ in one's life, delving into the relationship between faith and reason and, more specifically, how human reason can approach the mystery of God and of the Incarnation. Participants help each other grow in awareness of how communion with Christ can give birth to a new humanity.
Prayer and the Liturgy
Giussani always followed the Catholic Church's prayer and liturgy. He recommended the Liturgy of the Hours, which Communion and Liberation prays in recto tono. In the early Seventies, a condensed version of the Ambrosian breviary was compiled; this version follows a weekly cycle, rather than a four-week one, and is still used today in Communion and Liberation communities. The consecrated religious within the movement, however, use the official Catholic breviary for prayer. The rosary is recited frequently, and praying the Angelus, the Regina Coeli, and the Memorare is often encouraged, as is the use of the invocation to the Holy Spirit, Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam.
Giussani's desire to encourage readership of both Catholic and secular writers who could aid in further comprehension of the Christian experience led to the "Book of the Month," a series of texts regularly recommended by Communion and Liberation. Music proposals are instead compiled in the Spirito Gentil collection.
Members of Communion and Liberation are educated to charity through "charitable work," a recurring time to serve those in need. Charitable work might constitute of activities such as assisting the elderly and the disabled, tutoring immigrant children, or providing support for families in need.
The movement of Communion and Liberation is, in its essence, a missionary movement, meaning its adherents dedicate themselves to bringing the living presence of Christ to all men. Its consecrated men and women live out the missionary life as missionary priests and sisters.
Cultural and Social Presence
Communion and Liberation communities regularly engage in local cultural initiatives, occasionally giving life to events that have become popular in time. The largest and most famous of these cultural initiatives is the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, an international cultural festival that takes place annually in Rimini, Italy. Among other smaller recurring events inspired by the Rimini Meeting are the New York Encounter, Encuentro Madrid, Rhein Meeting, Meeting Lisboa, and the London Encounter.
Until the 1980s, Communion and Liberation's official publishing house was Jaca Book. Since then, publications tied to the movement have been published by various publishing houses, including Notre Dame Press, McGill-Queen's University Press, and RCS MediaGroup.
Controversies and Criticism
Members of Communion and Liberation in positions of power in Italy have faced criticism for allegedly surrounding themselves with persons affiliated with Communion and Liberation or with sympathizers, thus excluding individuals of different or opposing social, political, or religious views.
La Cascina and the Mafia Capitale Investigation
In 2015, La Cascina, an Italian coop with some ties to Communion and Liberation, was involved in a Mafia Capitale investigation due to the corruption of some of its managers. The company was placed under judicial management until July 2016. Fr. Julián Carrón responded to the scandal in an interview with the Italian newspaper Repubblica. "It is a burning disappointment. The ideals of the movement of Communion and Liberation are far from the corruption surfacing in the Mafia Capitale investigations. And seeing that among those being investigated are people of the movement is cause of profound sadness for us."
In December 2016, Roberto Formigoni, ex-governor of Lombardy and former unofficial Communion and Liberation political spokesperson, was sentenced to six years in prison for bribery and corruption after four years of investigations. In 2012, when Formigoni resigned as governor due to scandals, Fr. Julián Carrón released an interview in which he stated, "There may have been people who used CL in a certain way ... we don't intervene in the documents or acts of those with political responsibilities. There are no CL candidates, there are no CL politicians. The sooner this is made clear, the better."
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