Sant' Egidio, Community of

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SANT' EGIDIO, COMMUNITY OF

The Community of Sant' Egidio is a public association of lay people dedicated to evangelization and charity in more than 35 countries around the world. The community has as its center the Roman Church of Sant' Egidio, from which the community takes its name. The community began in Rome in 1968 in the period following the Second Vatican Council at the initiative of Andrea Riccardi, a young man who was then less than twenty. Riccardi gathered a group of high-school students to listen to and to put the Gospel into practice. The first Christian communities of the Acts of the Apostles and Francis of Assisi served as reference points. Thus, the small group of women and men began visiting the crowded slums on the outskirts of Rome and started an afternoon school (Scuola Popolare ["People's School"]; now known as "Schools of Peace") providing tutoring for drop-out children.

From its very beginnings, the community has maintained a continuous presence of prayer and welcome for the poor and for pilgrims in the area of Trastevere and in Rome as it spread throughout the world. The different communities share the following principles: prayer, evangelization, solidarity with the poor, ecumenism and dialogue. The first work of the community is prayer, which is an essential part of the life of the community in Rome and communities throughout the world and central to the overall direction of the community's search for a more authentic Christian living. The communities gather frequently to pray together, and in many cities there is a common prayer open to everybody. The second pillar is communicating the Gospel. The members take personal responsibility to communicate the Good News to others, leading them to a "missionary fraternity" in many parts of the world.

The third fundamental and daily commitment typical of Sant' Egidio that flows from this commitment to the Gospel is the service to the poor, lived as friendship. This friendship widened to other poor peoplethe physically and mentally disabled, homeless, immigrants, the terminally illand to different situations: prisons, homes for the elderly, gypsy camps, and refugee camps. The communities' love for the poor has become work for peace and reconcilation, taking the view that war is the greated of all poverties. Through prayer, meetings, dialogues, and stress on common humanity, the community tries to resolve conflicts and facilitate humanitarian aid to the civil populations who most suffer from war.

The evangelically rooted commitment to work with poor people is at the base of other humanitarian initiatives, addressed to all people of good will, with no regard to their religious belief. These include a campaign against anti-personnel mines; aid to refugees, war, and famine victims; and working against slavery and capital punishment. These activities, rooted in the struggle to affirm the value of life without exceptions, involves the members of Sant' Egidio all over the world.

The community is also committed to serving ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. Since 1987 Sant'Egidio has been committed both at the grassroots and international level to host meetings and prayer gatherings in the spirit of the 1986 World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi. In 1998 the community promoted the 12th International meeting Uominie Religioni, which brought together representative of all the major religions in Bucharest to pray and work together for peace. As Pope John Paul II said in Sant' Egidio on its 25th anniversary in 1993 they have no other limit "but charity."

Bibliography: comunitÀ di sant' egidio, Stranieri nostri fratelli; verso una società multirazziale (Brescia 1989). a. montonati, Il sapore dell'utopia: la comunità di Sant' Egidio (Rome 1999). a. riccardi, Sant'Egidio, Romae il Mondo (Rome 1997).

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