When Father Luigi Giussani died in 2005, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the mourners at his funeral that “the centrality of Christ” in the life of the founder of Communion and Liberation gave him a particular “gift” for “deciphering correctly the signs of the times” in a difficult age “filled with temptations and errors.”
“Yes, I am convinced that Don Giussani has been a gift of the Holy Spirit for this past century,” agreed Father Ignacio Carbajosa Pérez of Communion and Liberation during an Aug. 23 conversation with EWTN News. “After all, it was a century with the danger that faith had nothing to do with reason.”
The 45-year-old from Madrid was only a teenager when he first met Fr. Giussani during a visit by the Italian priest to Spain. But the impact the priest had was instant.
“For me the most striking thing was to hear this man with this love for my humanity,” he remembered, “finally, to find someone who knew very well what is my humanity and then looked upon it in a sympathetic way.”
Three decades later, Fr. Carbajosa is now responsible for Communion and Liberation in his native land as well as being a professor of Old Testament at the University of San Dámaso in Madrid.
This past week he was also a keynote speaker at the movement’s Rimini Meeting. The international event draws over 800,000 visitors from across the world to the Italian seaside resort for seven days filled with faith and culture.
The grand event all began, recalls Fr. Carbajosa, with a railway journey in 1950s Italy.
“Don Giussani was one day travelling on a train when he began talking to a group of young people, and he was struck because they did not know anything about what faith really was,” he said.
“For them, faith had nothing to do with love, for example, nothing to do with politics, it had nothing to do with culture, it was only a devotion.”
The result was that Fr. Giussani asked if he could take leave from his academic position at seminary and instead to teach school children. From 1954 to 1964 he did just that at the Berchet Classical High School in Milan.
The scale of the task before him, though, was clear his first day.
“He tried to begin the first lesson when a young boy put up his hand and said, ‘excuse me Professor Father, you can say whatever you want but we know that reason has nothing to do with faith,’” Fr. Carbajosa said.
“And I think that this was the beginning of the movement,” he added.
Out of that moment grew what is now “Communion and Liberation,” an ecclesial movement whose stated purpose “is the education to Christian maturity of its adherents and collaboration in the mission of the Church in all the spheres of contemporary life.”
Over the years, Fr. Giussani’s approach led to friendship with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – because the two men, suggested Fr. Carbajosa, “came from this common point of view, that is, a love for humanity and a preoccupation about how to use reason.”
Fr. Carbajosa sees this common approach reflected in several of Pope Benedict’s most significant speeches since he was elected in 2005, including his address in Regensburg, Germany in 2006, Westminster Hall in England in 2010 and the German parliament in 2011.
“There is a battle against a use of reason that is ‘positivist,’ and that had a dramatic consequence for human life, for people,” the priest said, linking this trait to “Don Giussani from 50 years ago when he began teaching at the school and also to Pope Benedict XVI.”