A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Established in Rome in '60s
VATICAN CITY, 28 JUNE 2006 (ZENIT)
Here is the description of the Community of Sant'Egidio which appears in the Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
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Official name: Sant'Egidio Community
Also known as: Sant'Egidio
History: The Community of Sant'Egidio was established in Rome by Andrea Riccardi. In the climate of renewal created by the Second Vatican Council, he began to gather together a group of high school students, of which he was one, to listen to the Gospel and put it into practice.
Within a few years, the experience spread to other groups of students, and they began to work on behalf of the marginalized. In the working-class districts on the outskirts of Rome they began their work of evangelization which led to the establishment of communities of adults.
In 1973 the first church of the community was opened in the Trastevere district of Rome. In the Church of Sant'Egidio, it became the custom to hold evening community prayer, and this has accompanied the life of all the communities throughout the world ever since.
In the latter half of the 1970s, the community also began to be established in other Italian towns, and in the 1980s it spread in Europe, and to Africa, America and Asia.
From the outset, specific features of the community have been service to the very poor and defense of human dignity and human rights, together with prayer and the communication of the Gospel. It has established ways of helping and extending friendship where there is poverty, both in its old and new forms (elderly people living alone and unable to cope, immigrants, homeless people, terminally ill and AIDS sufferers, children at risk of delinquency and social "out-casting," itinerants and physically and mentally disabled people, drug addicts, war victims, inmates and people under sentence of death).
The poor are the daily companions of life and of the work of the members of the community, as their friends and [as] part of their family. It is precisely this friendship that has given Sant'Egidio a clearer understanding of the way that war is the mother of all forms of poverty, and hence their explicit commitment to working for peace.
On May 18, 1986, the Pontifical Council for the Laity decreed the Comunità di Sant'Egidio to be an international association of the faithful of pontifical right.
Identity: The Community of Sant'Egidio is a community family rooted in different local churches.
The term "community" reflects, among other things, a need for fellowship which is particularly deeply felt because the members of the community live fully within the world, in the anonymous life of large modern cities. Friendship is therefore the distinctive feature of Sant'Egidio, both among themselves, and as an attitude of friendship and interest in the world and other ecclesial experiences.
The spiritual benchmarks of the community have always been the first Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles, the Church's preferential love for the poor, and the primacy of prayer.
A pronounced sense of God's mercy for the sick and for sinners; Jesus' compassion for the crowds; his invitation to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and to heal all manner of disease and sickness — this all nurtures the life and personal spirituality of the members as they listen daily to the Word of God and persevere in personal and community prayer.
Its lay character and the fact that the communities are in the large towns and cities has led to the development of a specifically "urban" spirituality, which brings together the people who are scattered by their daily lives and responsibilities (family, professional, civil) around the primacy of evangelization and service.
One essential part of this "recomposition" is the community evening prayer which is open to anyone wishing to attend.
Organization: The community is governed by the president, assisted by a council, and an ecclesiastical assistant. The president and the council are elected every five years by the General Assembly of the representatives of all the community groups. (In countries where there are several communities, if deemed useful, a national president can be appointed.)
Membership: The Community of Sant'Egidio comprises a network of small fraternal life communities, with about 50,000 members in 72 countries, in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
Works: The Community of Sant'Egidio has established various forms of assistance to the poor. In addition to canteens, it runs language courses for immigrants; centers that distribute aid; afternoon schools for children; centers for the disabled; centers for the elderly; outpatient units; and centers for the mentally disturbed.
The community runs an art school for the disabled; homes for children and teen-agers; hostels for the chronically sick and the homeless; homes for non self-reliant elderly people; and sheltered houses for partially self-reliant elderly people.
Sant'Egidio has also set up a hospital in Guinea-Bissau for tuberculosis patients, and a national center to prevent and treat AIDS in Mozambique. In the 1990s the community also established Paese dell'Arcobaleno (Rainbow Land — a movement for children and youngsters); Scuole del Vangelo, for adults and families; Viva gli Anziani, for the [elderly]; Gli Amici, for the disabled and sick; and Genti di Pace, for immigrants.
A number of nongovernmental organizations are also linked to Sant'Egidio, working in the field of development cooperation and solidarity, for example in Kosovo, Albania, EI Salvador and Guatemala.
Web site: http://www.santegidio.org
Comunità di Sant'Egidio
Piazza Sant'Egidio, 3/a
00153 Roma — Italy
Tel. (39) 06.585.661 — Fax 06.580.0197
© Copyright 2006 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]
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