Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Enigmatic Martini Makes Bold Ecumenical Moves

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Enigmatic Martini Makes Bold Ecumenical Moves

Article excerpt

OXFORD, England - Next year in Jerusalem!' was the cry at the end of an interfaith meeting at the Catholic University of Milan last month. The invitation came from Jerusalem's Ashkenazy chief rabbi, Israel Meir Lau.

Later Rabbi Meir Lau met Pope John Paul II in Rome and invited him, too. But, he reported, "the pope just smiled and said the time of the visit was drawing near.'

His hosts in Milan were more forthcoming. They will be in Jerusalem next year: Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini archbishop of Milan, who wearies of being tipped as John Paul's successor, and the Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community. The Sant'Egidio Community is a lay organization that grew out of a modest Catholic Worker-type soup kitchen in the dolce vita Rome of the 1970s. Its lay leader is Andrea Riccardi, professor of the history of Christianity in Rome University.

Its chaplain is Don Matteo Zuppi, a priest famed throughout Italy for his help to immigrants and AIDS sufferers. Part prayer group, part voluntary organization, it counts 8,000 members in Rome and almost as many in Belgium, San Salvador, Argentina, Mozambique and Lithuania.

Among Rome's homeless were many refugees from the southern Sudan, Somalia and Mozambique. These contacts led Sant'Egidio - named after the ancient church in Rome's Trastevere quarter where they meet every evening - to broker peace in Mozambique between the Marxist government and Renamo rebels. They brought an end to the civil war through fax messages sent by satellite to the bush.

Remarkably, this freelance, unofficial peacemaking succeeded - in great measure because it was unofficial. The business of the Sant'egidio Community, says Riccardi, is dialogue, and dialogue leads to reconciliation.

After Martini was named archbishop of Milan in 1980 - an astonishing and unprecedented appointment for a Jesuit - he worked with the homeless cared for by the Sant'Egidio Community. …

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