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More than 300 speakers and nearly 800,000 people participated in the 30th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini, Italy.
BY Edward PentinREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples was the largest of its kind this year,
with an attendance of nearly 800,000 and a lineup of speakers looking like a
“who’s who” of the Church and international politics.
Among the 300 speakers at the Aug.
22-29 event hosted by Communion and Liberation were Cardinals Carlo Caffarra of
Bologna and Antonio Maria Ruoco Varela of Madrid, presidents Joseph Kabila of
the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, the former
governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Harvard law professor Mary Ann
Glendon, Robert George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton
University, and Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, also
delivered speeches, along with many Italian politicians, including Finance
Minister Giulio Tremonti.
All spoke on a subject related to
“Knowledge Is Always an Event” — a theme that pointed to the need to recognize
“the profound relationship that exists between one’s experience and culture,”
according to Alberto Savorana of the Italian Foundation for Subsidiarity, a
The event, he said, aimed to help
participants “reawaken a journey toward knowledge, not with abstract
explanations, but through an encounter with people who are familiar with
reality in a different way.”
Giorgio Vittadini, founding
president of the foundation, observed that a major part of the reason for the
financial crisis was that knowledge in the form of economic theories was too
abstract and far removed from reality.
Economics professor Stefano Zamagni,
a contributor to Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Caritas
in Veritate (Charity in Truth), argued in the context of the meeting
that the principle of subsidiarity (the idea, originating in Catholic doctrine,
that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only
those tasks that cannot be performed at a more local level) should evolve into
a “principle of fraternity.”
Glendon spoke of “elementary
experience” as the root of human rights, while Nobel Prize-winning scientist
John Mather and others showed the importance of “widening reason.”
Many speakers referred to the Holy
Father’s social encyclical, with Tremonti saying its political merit lay in its
emphasis on the diversity of society and the centrality of the human person,
which could represent “a political road map” for the future.
On Aug. 27, former British Prime
Minister Tony Blair gave a keynote speech to a packed auditorium of several
thousand people who gave him a rousing reception.
In a speech filled with rhetorical
flourishes, he spoke of how, as prime minister, he tried to roll back the state
to empower individual enterprise and volunteer groups. He called on European
Catholics to stand up for their Judeo-Christian heritage, and he praised the
role of faith groups in bringing about peace.
He also credited his wife, Cheri,
for his recent conversion. However, he avoided mentioning life issues, perhaps
because he supported policies on abortion, fatal research on human embryos and
same-sex unions when he was prime minister. The fact was noted by George.
“The policies enacted by Tony Blair
pertaining to the right of every human being to the protections of the law were
reprehensible,” George said after Blair’s speech. “It is shocking that Tony
Blair did not renounce these policies and express regret for them before being
publicly received into the Catholic Church.
“It is even more shocking that he
has, since being received into the Church, given every indication that he continues
to support policies that result in the destruction of innocent human beings in
the embryonic and fetal stages of development in vast numbers.”
George also was “a bit shocked” at
the movie-star reception Blair received, attributing it to the audience
supposing that Blair accepted the Church’s teaching at his reception ceremony.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s
speech was less rhetorical, but all the clearer and direct for being so.
He issued a strong attack on the
spending proposals of the Obama administration, warning that the government’s
policies will enlarge the role of the state at the expense of personal freedom.
He then suggested subsidiarity as the alternative to high fiscal spending and
gave as examples three highly successful faith and community-based initiatives
he developed when he was governor of Florida from 1998 to 2006.
He also cited the family as a better
welfare system than the government’s trillions-of-dollars spending plans. “An
alternative approach recognizes that the family is the most important political
organization ever created,” he said to loud applause. “In fact, if wholesome
family life were the norm in the U.S., a significant amount of the demands
placed on government would evaporate.”
Bush, also a convert, said the
meeting had been “amazing” and an honor to attend, adding that it would be
“wonderful” to have a similar Communion and Liberation event in the United
“There are people there who are
starving for a higher purpose in their life, so I congratulate the founders of
this movement and this meeting, and I hope the United States plays a greater
role,” he said.
It was put to him whether his
brother, former President George W. Bush, might appear at a future meeting, and
perhaps as a Catholic.
“That would be a great thing, but
you won’t see him here as a Catholic — he’s pretty comfortable with his
Methodist faith,” he said. “I’d like him to come here, though. It would be
Communion and Liberation announced
that the theme for 2010 will be “That Nature Which Moves Us to Desire Great
Things Is the Heart.”
The meeting’s organizers called the
event an “authentic miracle” in a final communiqué, and they paid tribute to
the nearly 4,000 volunteers who made it possible.
The organizers said the event served
to show that “the journey of knowledge is not initiated by abstract speeches
and explanations, but in the meeting of persons who know the real in a new and
attractive way, because such a meeting is charged with a promise of truth and
Edward Pentin writes