success stories

Posted May 25, 2003

Provoking Thoughts on Reaching Out to the Suffering

by Andrea Riccardi — Founder of the Community of San’ Egidio

In: Laity Today: Movements in the Church
Pontificium Consilium Pro Laicis, Piazza San Calisto, 16 (Trastevere Rome)
Palazzo San Calisto
00120 Vatican City

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 globalised, but at the same time characterised 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 here 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. 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 fellow man whom I see suffering, albeit at a distance? How is it possible to remain passive and impotent when faced by his image?