Rorate Caeli

The enlightened one

The new President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of the Italian Republic, an unelected man handpicked for the job by international institutions (this is not meant necessarily as any kind of support for his predecessor), named as new Minister for International Cooperation a very famous Italian Catholic: Andrea Riccardi, the founder and leader of the greatest and most influential community dedicated to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, the Community of Sant'Egidio

More on the mysterious Sant'Egidio sect, the main organization behind the Assisi meetings, from this 1998 article in English by Sandro Magister (who says, in this note in Italian, that Riccardi, also unelected, is somewhat disappointed because he modestly thought he should have been named head of the Farnesina, the Italian Foreign Office):

[T]hey are like the legendary group Opus Dei: impenetrable. Not even the Vatican knows much about what they do among themselves. Not even the Pope knows them, although he is friendly toward them. If he knew that the members of Sant´Egidio have practically abolished the sacrament of Penance, practicing general confession instead in their group meetings, he would rebuke them severely. If he knew about their abuses in matters of matrimony and procreation, he would leap up into the cathedra. If he knew that during their Masses the homily is always given by their founder and head, Andrea Riccardi, who is not a priest and is therefore not permitted to preach the homily (an absolute prohibition just recently restated in a Vatican instruction), he would immediately recall them to obedience.

Are these the Church´s internal affairs? Yes and No. Because what is now referred to as "The U.N. of Trastevere" is not a secular organization like "Doctors without Borders," but emerged as an essentially Catholic community. And it still presents itself this way: as a citadel of God in a world invaded by barbarians. It is by virtue of this identity and with the Pope´s blessing that Sant´Egidio offers itself "to the city and to the world" as a peacemaker in war zones - apart from offering itself as a bridge for dialogue among religions.

The members of Sant´Egidio were the ones who organized the interreligious meeting in Assisi in 1986, with the Pope praying side by side with the Dalai Lama, Orthodox metropolitans, Buddhist monks, Jewish rabbis, Muslim muftis, and gurus and shamans of every creed. Since then, Sant´Egidio has recreated the model of Assisi each year: the last time in Padua and Venice; on other occasions in Rome, Florence, Milan, Bari, Warsaw, Brussels, Malta, and Jerusalem. And there has been a crescendo of spectacular choreography, with ceremonies broadcast worldwide, with a whirl of distinguished guests, summoned from five continents, paid and pampered. The cost of each meeting runs to at least a half million dollars, covered by government and private subsidies.


Then came the monastic phase, with a dash of orientalism. The members of Sant´Egidio went on vacation in Belgium and stayed at the monastery of Chevetogne, which celebrated sophisticated Byzantine liturgies.

But the monastic phase came to an end quickly. During the summer of 1978, at a group retreat in the hermitage of Macereto in the Marches, everyone began to open up and admit to having a rather too animated sex life among themselves. From that point on the "new monasticism" was no longer discussed, and the first marriages began to take place. There remained only the absolute obedience to the undisputed de facto abbot, Riccardi.

But they´ll get their way. The members of Sant´Egidio are few in number. It´s difficult for them to make new recruits, and many leave. But they think of themselves as "the ant capable of doing great things with modest resources." They are a powerful lobby. They will influence the conclave that elects the next Pope. No Church leader wants to have them as an enemy. Riccardi frequently says to his followers: "We must seem to be more than what we really are. That is our miracle: the great bluff."