Musings on Giussani, von Balthasar, and the creation of a “people”

Crux | 3/17/2019 | Staff
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DENVER - In January 1971, during a set of spiritual exercises in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, the great Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar met Italian Father Luigi Giussani, who founded the Comunione e Liberazione movement in 1954 and oversaw its rapid development into a global Catholic “brand.”

Von Balthasar had been invited by then-Father Angelo Scola, a young adept of Giusssani’s movement, who eventually would go on to be the Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan and such a strong candidate to be pope that the Italian bishops’ conference accidentally released an email blast congratulating him when the white smoke first went up in March 2013.

Course - Premature - Conclave - Pope - Francis

That, of course, turned out to be premature, since the 2013 conclave elected Pope Francis instead.

As the story is told of that 1971 encounter, Giussani voiced admiration for his older contemporary’s intellectual accomplishments, to which von Balthasar supposedly responded: “Yes, yes, but you have created a people.”

Time - Anecdote - Things - Case - Line

For the longest time, I thought the anecdote was probably apocryphal. It sounded like one of those too-cute-by-half things, a classic case of the Italian line se non è vero, è ben trovato, meaning, loosely, “If it’s not true, it still sounds good.”

Friday night in Denver, however, Alberto Savorana, author of the definitive biography of Giussani, said it’s actually true - von Balthasar really did say that, and it formed part of a friendship and mutual admiration society between the two men, both of whom would figure on any list of influential Catholic personalities of the 20th century.

Occasion - Confirmation - Von - Balthasar - Riposte

The occasion for the confirmation of von Balthasar’s riposte was a panel at the University of Denver Friday night featuring Savorana; Father Jose Media, U.S. coordinator of Communion and Liberation; J.D. Flynn, editor of the Catholic News Agency; and myself, on hand to present the English edition of Savorana’s massive The Life of Luigi Giussani (originally...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Crux
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