02/22/2005, 00.00
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Father Giussani, a father who inspired a commitment to mission

by Bernardo Cervellera

I met Father Giussani when I was 17. Meeting him was like meeting a father who opened the door to the truths of life and to a commitment to the world. Back then I lived my faith in a pietist way and my commitment to the student movement was communist in the typical craziness of the Christianity of the 1960s.

I owe it to Father Giussani if I rediscovered the Church not as a set of moral rules and emotions but as the stirring presence of the living Jesus Christ. I owe it to him if I discovered that faith deals with what man is and does, with his individual and social needs.

Father Giussani turned by innate curiosity into an interest in the world and my half-hearted faith into a passion for Jesus Christ as the heart and destiny of the world. 

A few years later, John Paul II would set out the Church's programme for the third millennium in his first encyclical: Jesus as the centre of the cosmos and of history. Such a programme was similar, if not identical to that Father Giussani proposed.

From all this came my missionary vocation in the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). Thanks to him, I started my journeys to meet the persecuted Churches of Eastern Europe, journeys that I pursued in Vietnam, Cambodia and China.

Before making my first trip outside of Europe, in India and Bangladesh, I went to see him. He told me: "When you meet these people, always ask yourself: Who is the man in front of me? And who is Jesus Christ for this man?"

Reaching out and sharing the highs and lows of life with other men and women and other peoples, one rediscovers in a new way how, through our witness, Christ means salvation for everyone.

Father Giussani's method of missionary work, so similar to that of PIME, led to a long-lasting cooperation between PIME and Communion and Liberation. Together we served where there was hunger, in Lebanon, in Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee camps, wherever young were willing to receive an ideal that was not only an ideology or a trip into the past.

When I was in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, he was already ill. He wrote to me a few lines, a thank you note, "because you bear witness of our faith among these peoples. All of us want to take part in any way possible in you mission, a mission which is ours as well".

Actually, my dear Father Giussani, it is we who must thank you. Because of your witness, we are more certain of the riches we bear and of the tasks that await us in the third millennium.

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