Andrea Riccardi: “Living together for a fraternal world, among peoples, in the suburbs and in the city, is the possible revolution if we start with heart and Gospel”

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Address to the Holy Father on his visit to Sant’Egidio for the 50th anniversary of the Community

Holy father,

Thank you for your presence among us.
For the 50th anniversary of the Community, as you know, we preferred not to look backwards with a celebratory style to rejoice for some success, rather to look forward. It is not the case to plan projects that history punctually upset but to look at those who are coming towards us, those in need of our help today, while listening to the open questions. Which is to recognize from where life and history are coming from.
Times have changed since the ’68 where our origins lays. Whole words have disappeared, like the easts regimes and the revolutionary powers of utopia; the new words of the south lost their hopes of being new and have experienced war. Everything has become global, like a large and waste market. Nevertheless, it seems that very little has changed in the powers holding history – like money, as You often mentioned.
Is it impossible to change the world today?
Someone says that our global age is complicated. First of all we have to survive, protecting ourself from the others, particularly for the poor.  That is the logic of thinking on oneself shifting from personal egocentrism to national selfishness.  Every country needs to lock itself in to be save from the ton of the word.
One can feel afraid as if he/she was a victim. We are experiencing forms of widespread rage: against the others, the different ones, the poor, the assumed enemies. We live in a painful age with endless violence and wars: like in Syria and South Sudan. Violence is crouched at the door of every society. So is the temptation of pessimism which comes with closure and indolence.
Is it really possible for the friends of the risen one to be pessimistic? St Augustine says: “And you say. These are difficult times … Live well and, with a good life, change the times: change them and you will not have to complain any longer!” (Sermo 311,8).
From the ’68 and surroundings years, we cherish the certainty that everything can change – depending on us too.
The Vatican Council gave us the Word of God, which enlightens hearts and minds. It lights up the path, while increasing our faith. Even when it’s dark. We can move forward even in the darkness! This frees us from the risk of reverence turning men and women into little ones: frightened, greedy, clerical and conservative.
Judith, the woman who weakened the arrogant with her beauty, taught: “whoever fears the Lord is always great” (16:16). To be great: it is accepting the challenge of making the world a better place. With bare hands and the Word: these are the most excellent tools we can possibly have, the one of the Gospel: “Then my poor raised the cry of war – says Judith – … my weak raised the cry and those were upset” (ibid. 11). It is the strength of the humble and the poor.
What I wish to say now – not to congratulate but to tell you the truth – is that since you urged us, with the Evangelii Gaudium, to get out on the street and to overcome institution, sacristies, pastoral plans, self-referentiality, egocentrism, leaving our purity at the side, well since then a great people has set off. We found many people wanting to do good. We came across resources and energies; not anger alone, on the contrary a lot of love. And this gives us hope and joy.
With this prospect, Sant’Egidio does not feel as a community of perfect ones (how could we?), rather as a community of people, maybe small but with no borders thanks to profound connections with both the near and distant sorrows. Anger and self-love can be healed. It happens when we go towards the others with sympathy, justifying hope and promoting the encounter with the poor, who are real masters of the truth of life. This is the joy of the Gospel that we experience. The age of anger can turn into the age of fraternity and spirit.
You told us in Assisi in 2016: “we believe and hope for a brotherly world”.A simple but decisive dream. You added: “Our future is to live together. This is why we are called to free ourselves from the heavy burdens of mistrust, fundamentalism and hatred “. Not an impossible agenda but a request that comes from the groaning of the poor, the peoples and the earth. Our prayer is harmonized with these moans, here in this basilica and in every place where we are. Living together for a fraternal world, among peoples, in the suburbs and in the city, is actually a possible revolution, if we start from the heart and the Gospel. As our orthodox theologian friend Olivier Clément once said: “the only creative revolutions in history arise from the transformation of hearts”.
The Church, mother of hope, strengthen us. And you too, Holy Father, with your teaching since five years.
Christ, who from the top of the mosaic is looking at us with his tender eyes while embracing his Mother, makes all of this possible. Thank you!