Report from Palermo

Report from Palermo

Report from Palermo

Report from Palermo

Excerpt

Without charity, knowledge is apt to be inhuman; without knowledge, charity is foredoomed, all too often, to impotence. In a society such as ours -- a society of enormous numbers subordinated to an ever-expanding and almost omnipresent technology -- a new Gandhi, a modern St. Francis needs to be equipped with much more than compassion and seraphic love. He needs a degree in one of the sciences and a nodding acquaintance with a dozen disciples beyond the pale of his own special field. It is only by making the best of both worlds -- the world of the head no less than the world of the heart -- that the twentieth-century saint can hope to be effective.

Danilo Dolci is one of these modern Franciscans-with-a degree. In his case the degree is in architecture and engineering; but surrounding this central core of specialized knowledge, there is an aura of general scientific culture. He knows what specialists in other fields are talking about, respects their methods and is willing and eager to take advice from them. But what he knows and what he can learn from other specialists is always, for him, the instrument of charity. His science is applied within a frame of reference whose coordinates are an unshakable love for his fellows and a no less unshakable faith in and respect for the objects of that love. The love inspires him to use his knowledge for the benefit of the weak and unfortunate; the faith and respect keep him constantly trying to encourage the weak and the unfortunate to become self-reliant, to help them to help themselves.

When, seven years ago, Danilo Dolci came to Sicily from the North, it was on an aesthetic and scientific pilgrimage. He was interested in ancient Greek architecture and had decided to spend a week or two at Segesta, studying the . . .

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