ROME — Italy’s upcoming “Meeting of Friendship Among People” organized by the ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation has set its sights on the “peripheries” spoken of by Pope Francis.
The event has taken place in the Italian city of Rimini every year since 1980 and often attracts international interest because of the prominence and quality of its participants.
The theme of the 2014 gathering is “Toward the peripheries of world and existence: Fate has not left man alone.” Scheduled for Aug. 24-30, it’s program — including 14 exhibitions and more than 100 conventions and shows — was presented at a press conference in Rome July 1.
Italian political figures will also be highly represented at the Rimini meeting. Attendees include Italy’s Minister for Labor Giuliano Poletti and the Minister for Economic Development Federica Guidi.
“The crucial issue for changing history is the change of a man’s heart, not power,” said Giorgio Vittadini, president of Communion and Liberation’s Foundation for Subsidiarity.
Vittadini explained that “all the shows, the conventions and the exhibitions have the common aim of going out and going towards others,” adding that other people are “always a good we must be provoked by.”
Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva for the last 10 years, who will be a special guest of the meeting, underscored that there are two possible responses to “the other.”
“We can welcome the other as a gift, or we consider him a menace, and so we will build our wall,” Archbishop Tomasi said. “History, however, teaches us that walls cannot stand. Only [by] starting from the fact that the other is an opportunity for our good will we be able to tread a new path.”
Vittadini stressed that the way toward “the other” is that indicated by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land and the subsequent meeting of prayer for peace held in the Vatican Gardens June 8.
This is the reason why Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Holy Land and a main organizer of the June 8 meeting, has been invited to address attendees in Rimini. Father Pizzaballa will also speak about the current situation facing the Middle East.
Aleksandr Filonenko, a professor of philosophy at the University of Kharkiv in Ukraine, will speak about the changes that marked Ukraine in the past year.
Among the major events of the meeting will be an exhibition and several debates on Syria moderated by Giorgio Bucellati, a professor emeritus of near Eastern languages and cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. There will also be debates about Brazil, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Pope Francis has on occasion stressed the need for Christians to go to the “peripheries.” The Italian Minister for Education Stefania Giannini underscored that peripheries are “not only geographical. There are anthropological peripheries, which deal with education.”