Milan (AsiaNews) - The effort to promote a personal encounter with Christ : this is the most significant trait of Father Giussani's personality, work and life. With these words, Pope John Paul II recalls the founder of Communion and Liberation in a letter for Fr Giussani's Funeral Mass. Father Giussani's coffin was placed on the ground as a sign of humility. Placed on it were a surplice and a white stole, as symbols of the priesthood.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and Papal Representative, and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, presided over the funeral mass.
The Pope's message was read by Archbishop Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Here is the complete text of the Pope's letter (AsiaNews translation):
I was overcome by emotion when I learned of the death of our dear Monsignor Luigi Giussani, which arrived at the end of a long period of illness, which he had accepted with a spirit of serene abandonment to divine will and generous sharing in the mystery of Christ's cross. His passing is a cause of great sorrow for his family, for the presbytery of the Archdiocese of Milan, for the Communion and Liberation Movement which he founded and for all those who admired and loved him as a fervent minister of God. I feel spiritually close to everyone in this moment of painful parting.
I had various occasions to meet with Monsignor Luigi Giussani and to admire his fervent faith, which translated itself into a Christian witness which was able to inspire so many, and especially the young, to welcome in a broad and convinced way the Gospel message. I thank the Lord for the gift of his life, which he lived in full and coherent adherence to his priestly vocation, in constant attendance to the needs of contemporary man, and in courageous service to the Church. The entirety of his apostolic action can be summarized in the candid and determined invitation, that he was able to extend to all those who approached him, to a personal encounter with Christ, as his work was the full and definitive answer to the most profound expectations of the human heart.
Fr Giussani proposed Christ's "company" to many young people, who today, as adults, consider him as a spiritual "father". Putting aside all prospects for an academic career, he dedicated himself to teaching students in need of inspirational reference points and models. He gave rise, in the 1970s, to his evangelizing activity by presenting the truth of faith as an open and unending dialogue, together with a coherent docility to the teachings of the Church and, above all, living an exemplary life. Thus it was that the Communion and Liberation Movement was born and grew over the years thanks to the apostolic zeal of this fervent Ambrosian priest, who was able to involve so many disciples along an exciting missionary path.
Christ and the Church: here is contained the synthesis of his life and his apostolate. Never separating one from the other, he expressed to those around him a true love for the Lord and for the various Popes he met personally. He was also profoundly attached to his Diocese and his Pastors.
A defender of human reason, Father Giussani was an expert in literature and music, and a determined advocate of art as a path that leads to the Mystery. Looked to by the followers of the Movement he founded, which has spread to many countries in the world, listened to, with respect, by people of different faiths and different professional responsibilities, the memory I hold dear of Father Giussani is that of a teacher of humanity and defender of the religiosity that is inscribed in the human heart.
As I earnestly pray for this faithful servant of the Gospel, whom I entrust to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, I ask God that those who knew and met him on their way, experiencing the wonders that the Lord carried out in them through the expression of his witness, follow faithfully in his footsteps and keep alive his charismatic intuition. With special affections, my thoughts at this moment are with his spiritual sons and daughters who make up the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation and the Memores Domini Lay Association.
May Mary, gentle Mother of the Redeemer, watch over each and everyone. With this hope, I give my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, to the prelates and priests in attendance, as well as to all those who are mourning the loss of dear Monsignor Giussani and to all those attending the funeral Mass.
IOANNES PAULUS II