During the final months of the year, the approaching centennial of the founder of Opus Dei gave rise to many different events throughout Italy.
On November 25, a conference was held in Milan’s Colegio Universitario Viscontea to open the academic year 2001-2002. The theme was “The importance of the person in the teachings of Blessed Josemaria Escriva.”
In her brief introductory remarks, the writer Marta Brancatisano highlighted the different activities that were taking place around the world on the occasion of the centennial of Blessed Josemaria Escriva’s birth. Among other events, she mentioned the special commemorative stamps being issued by the Italian postal system.
Marco Vigorelli, senior partner in a well-known consulting firm, recalled that as early as 1931, Blessed Josemaria had expressed the desire that Catholic catechisms have a section dedicated to the social doctrine of the Church, so that from childhood Catholics would learn about their obligations to bring about a just society. He also examined various definitions of globalization and economic systems, contrasting conceptions that place man at the service of the economy and those that place the economy at the service of man. “The egocentric search for selfish interests, which creates exclusion and inequality and puts man at the service of the economy,” are marks of the first system. “The just search for the common good, which creates solidarity and puts the economy at the service of man,” is the system most in keeping with human dignity.
Giuseppe de Lucia Lumeno, a business manager, centered his talk on the founder of Opus Dei’s teachings on the sanctification of work. He emphasized that the message Josemaria Escriva received on October 2, 1928, was a divine message that transcended any particular historical milieu. De Lucia pointed out that the founder began speaking about sanctifying work during the time of the 1929 great recession. If this idea had issued solely from one man’s imagination, it would never have outlived the great crisis that afflicted the economy and the world of work for so many years. After examining the social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II and comparing them with the core teaching of Josemaria Escriva—“to sanctify work, sanctify oneself in work, and sanctify others through one’s work”—De Lucia concluded by affirming that the “crux of what God made Escriva see on October 2, 1928 is the redemptive character of daily work. When done with this intention, work transforms Christians, in a real and not just allegorical way, into alter Christus, ipse Christus, that is, into coredeemers with Christ.”
On November 24, a round table discussion on the importance of solidarity and volunteer work in the teachings of Blessed Josemaria was held at the Delle Peschiere Residence in Genoa. Participants included Umberto Farri, founder and president of the Institute for University Cooperation (ICU), and Alberto Michelini, a journalist and deputy in Italy’s parliament.
Umberto Farri gave a brief resumé of the major stages in the history of ICU, which he began in 1967 at a time when there was great agitation among university students. He was spurred to do so by Blessed Josemaria’s teachings on the responsibility of Christians in the construction of a just social order, and specifically the role of the university in this task.
In his talk, Alberto Michelini spoke about a documentary he made for the centennial of Blessed Josemaria’s birth. The video contains a series of testimonies from all over the world from a wide variety of persons, ranging from a butcher in Hong Kong to a New York business man. In the words of Michelini, all of them “strive ‘to turn the prose of daily life into heroic verse,’ as Blessed Josemaria used to say, by sanctifying their daily work and contributing to create an environment of peace and friendship that can truly change the face of the earth.”
The conference concluded with testimonies by young people who have participated over the years in the programs of volunteer work promoted by the residence both in the city of Genoa itself and in other parts of the world.
On November 17, the AEC association sponsored a conference in Turin entitled “Passionately Loving the World,” with more than 400 people taking part. Hernán Fitte, Professor of Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, gave the opening lecture.
The conference ended with a round table discussion moderated by Gianluca Segre, president of the AEC. Participants included Sergio Benedetto, from the University of Turin, who spoke about teaching as a work of service; Anna Maria Minetti, a business manager, who spoke about working women and their role in society; and Marco Vigorelli, head of an accounting firm, who made some comments on the relationship between work and family, enriched by interesting examples from his own efforts to combines a highly demanding job with a large family.
On October 13, a conference was held in Naple’s Teatro de la Reggia entitled “Blessed Josemaria and the social doctrine of the Church: human and social development.” Taking part among others were Cardinal Michele Giordano, the Archbishop of Naples; Antonio Marzano, Minister of Industry and Commerce; a businessman, Cesare Romiti; and Roberto Panizza, professor of International Economics at the University of Turin.
The meeting began with a brief presentation by Luigi Cuccurullo, president of the Istituto per Ricerche ed Attività Educative, the organization sponsoring the activity, and a conference by Professor Angel Rodríguez Luño, from the Moral Theology Department of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, who discussed forming one’s conscience in social and political matters.
This was followed by a round table discussion, moderated by journalist Giovanni Minoli, that looked at various social activities promoted by faithful of Opus Dei in the Congo, the Philippines, Peru and Italy.
The Campus Biomedico University in Rome organized a symposium on the meaning of suffering in the teachings of Blessed Josemaria. It was held in the Congress Hall of the National Research Center on November 9, with more than 500 people attending.
Following the opening remarks by the rector, Vincenzo Lorenzelli, various professors from Rome’s universities and representatives from government health agencies exchanged experiences and comments in a round table discussion moderated by journalist Fabrizio del Noce. Professor Paola Binetti opened the discussion with reflections on the human and supernatural perspective with which Blessed Josemaria confronted the question of suffering. The undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, Antonio Guidi, Professor Francesco D’Agostino, and the Regional Health Director of Liguria, Piero Micossi, were among the other participants.
The symposium continued in the afternoon with some personal testimonies from students at the Campus Biomedico University about their contact with suffering. Another moving testimony was that of Antonio Ricciardi, director of the course in health management that the Campus Biomedico organizes together with the Milan Politechnical University. In a prenatal test, he was informed that his sixth daughter was suffering from a serious illness. But thanks to the faith and support of many friends, and the help of medical science, he overcame the anxiety the test results had first elicited. Maria, now a few months old, was brought by her mother to the dais and received the most prolonged applause of the symposium.
From November 9 to 11, a meeting for university professors was held at the Calarossa International Center in Sicily. Its theme was “Work and sanctity in the teachings of Blessed Josemaria Escriva.” About one hundred people took part. Opening day speakers included Giorgio Faro, from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, and Franco Poterzio, from the University of Milan. On the following day, Professor José Luis Illanes, from the University of Navarre in Pamplona, made use of various texts of Blessed Josemaria to show that “work is an exclusively and typically human reality” and that it “is not a punishment, but a gift of God.” He also stressed that it was possible to maintain a constant dialogue with God in the midst of one’s daily occupations.
Romana, No. 33, July-December 2001, p. 199-202.