By Seàn-Patrick Lovett
The Sant’Egidio Community describes itself as “a worldwide movement of lay people, based on prayer, solidarity, ecumenism and dialogue”. It currently numbers some 50,000 members in over 70 countries.
On Saturday, the Community celebrated half a century of activity with a Mass in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, presided over by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Healing the leprosy of exclusion
Commenting on Mark’s Gospel that recounts Jesus’ healing of the leper, Cardinal Parolin said Jesus does more than cure him: He frees the leper from the “segregation and loneliness” he suffers as a result of his affliction. Drawing a parallel with the work of the Sant’Egidio Community, the Cardinal described how "children, women, men, the poor, and the elderly" sometimes see their lives reflected in that of the leper. But the story of Sant’Egidio is one of liberating from the "leprosy" of exclusion, he said. In the peripheries you have communicated the Word of God and fed those who hunger for dignity and solidarity. Today "this story continues in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas".
The many activities of Sant’Egidio
The Vatican Secretary of State went on to describe the many areas where members of Sant’Egidio are active throughout the world: from treating AIDS sufferers in Africa, to creating humanitarian corridors for refugees from Syria and the Horn of Africa. He praised their commitment to peace initiatives as well: “You believe that peace is possible, that people are never condemned to be hostage to violence and you try to provide concrete hope for liberation from conflict to grow”.
Compassion, passion, and patience
“Patience is the ability to work in faith and expectation…and can never be separated from compassion and passion”, said Cardinal Parolin. The Community of Sant'Egidio has never been deterred by “the wall of what seemed impossible", he added. "When you looked at the dream of a world in peace you did not accept the abyss inherited from the past" and so "the dream began to become reality in daily service to the poor", and continued in your "commitment to peace" and your "fight against war, the mother of all poverty".
The Cardinal concluded by connecting this "passion for reconciling peoples, for weaving bonds of fraternity between Christians and believers of various religions”, with the “Spirit of Assisi” – a spirit that still characterizes and inspires the Community of Sant'Egidio.