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Posted May 19, 2003

Thoughts from a paper Andrea Riccardi presented to the Congress conducted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Rome



Born in Rome in 1950, Riccardi is the founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio,, he is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Rome III.

N.B. Please take a look at the website for the Community of Sant'Egidio that the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood for the Renewal of the Priesthood has linked to. It can be found in the "Links" section of the Institute.

How can the movements perform the mission of the Church on the threshold of the third millennium? How can they do so in the world of the next century, which promises to be globalized, but at the same time characterized by the rebirth of a sense of identity by fractures, and by conflicts between different cultural and religious areas? How can the movements perform the mission of the Church in the face of the terrible poverty that persists and indeed is spreading in a world that is otherwise experiencing the highest levels of development and the greatest accumulation of technology and affluence ever achieved in the history of mankind?

These are questions that the Church has constantly posed about her mission throughout her two-thousand-year-old history. But today they are acquiring a new dimension in response to unprecedented scenarios. Besides and this too is something new information now brings us into direct and personal contact, in real time, with many forms of major deprivation and contradictions in our world. It is the global village. The mass media are active everywhere. Millions of TV viewers can see for themselves the poverty and injustices of so many parts of the world. The viewing of such scenes often becomes a daily rite of impotence. Seeing images of war and violence, we ask ourselves: what can we do? Seeing such scenes provokes less and less indignation, arouses less and less sense of responsibility. We become inured to them; and this process is translated into a general lowering of social and moral responsibility. A new sense of responsibility, therefore, needs to be instilled among millions of people: how is it possible "not" to love the fellowman whom I see suffering, albeit at a distance? How is it possible to remain passive and impotent when faced by his image?