The Community of Sant’Egidio began in Rome in 1968, as the initiative of a young man, Andrea Riccardi, who at the time was then less than twenty. Inspired by the first Christian communities of the Acts of the Apostles and Francis of Assisi, Andrea believed that by reading and living the Gospel it would be possible to change the world. And so the Community started as a group of high school students who gathered to listen to and to put the Gospel into practice.
The small group immediately began going to the outskirts of Rome to visit the slums, then crowded with many poor people. There they began an afternoon school program for children: “Scuola Popolare” -People’s School. The movement has continued and has now become “The School of Peace.”
Since then, the Community has increased not only in the services it provides, but also in size. It has grown to be a Community of more than 60,000 members across more than 73 countries and four continents. The Community is a Community without borders or walls; committed to living international fraternity through friendship among people of different nations and cultures. Living this global dimension of life together means both to be open to the world and to belong to one family, the family of disciples. In a world that is raising barriers and emphasizing national and cultural differences, the communities of Sant’Egidio testify to the existence of a common destiny not only for Christians, but for everybody.
While spread throughout the world, the different communities all share the same spirituality and principles, which characterize Sant’Egidio:
Prayer is an essential part of the life of the community in Rome and Communities throughout the world. Prayer is central to the overall direction of Community life.
Communicating the Gospel is the heart of the life of the Community. It is offered to all those who seek and ask for a meaning for their life.
Friendship with the poor is lived as a voluntary and gratuitous service, in the evangelical spirit of a Church that is the “Church for all and particularly the poor” (Pope John XXIII).
Ecumenism is lived as friendship, prayer and search for unity among Christians of the whole world.
Dialogue, was recommended by Vatican II as a way of peace and co-operation among religions, and also a way of life and as a means of resolving conflicts.