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Martini, between prophecy and the Word. Garzonio: the “fil rouge” with Bergoglio

The city of Milan will devote a set of initiatives to the Biblical scholar-Archbishop on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of his birth. The President of the Ambrosianeum Foundation, very close to the Cardinal, retraced his Magisterium, highlighting the “similarities” with Pope Francis

“The recovery of Cardinal Martini’s spiritual heritage must have a personal key, it ought to reach out to everyone’s consciousness in order to proclaim the Gospel with increased determination. Indeed, it should never be reduced to the mere depiction of a holy figure, for we would be betraying his memory.” Marco Garzonio, journalist for the Italian daily “Il Corriere della Sera”, President of the Ambrosianeum Foundation, is certainly among those who were closer to the Biblical scholar, Archbishop of Milan in the years 1979-2002, with an in-depth knowledge of his contribution. Cardinal Martini passed away on August 31st 2012 at the Aloisianum in Gallarate (Varese), Marco Garzonio was at the bishops’ death-bed. The film by Ermanno Olmi, titled “You see, I am one of you” (“Vedete, sono uno di voi”) whose screenplay was co-written by the director and by the journalist begins with the room on the third floor of the religious Jesuit Institute. It is one of the many initiatives taking place in Milan on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Martini’s birth-date, February 15, 1927: The program is available on the website www.fondazionecarlomariamartini.it

Garzonio, let’s start from the recovery of memory. What’s its meaning? I consider it to be an important initiative carrying historical bearing, but it should be understood especially as an opportunity to assess the continuity of the Gospel teachings conveyed by the late Cardinal, the freshness and the topical relevance of a message that lasts in time, and that continues calling us into question today. At a closer reading, his years in Milan represented a specific phase of the diocese and of the city, deeply marked by Martini’s Magisterium.

You spoke of a “heritage” marked by many points of contact between the two Jesuits, Martini and Bergoglio. Could you mention a few?

Indeed they are many! We could start with Martini’s idea of Church governance through a “collegial dimension.” It was his deep-rooted wish, found in the “sinodality” proclaimed today by Pope Francis. Furthermore, the Cardinal constantly referred to themes related to the family and to affective relationships. Martini recurrently highlighted the importance to hearken to the families in order to meet their needs. Francis devoted two Synods to this theme. Also the young were always present in the thoughts of the Archbishop, since the “School of the Word.” And in fact today the Church is called to hold a Synod on the youths.

What are the further points of contact and shared sensitivites? Naturally, the centrality of the Bible, the beacon guiding the life, actions and speeches of the Cardinal. In this light, the Santa Marta homilies of Pope Francis are veritable Lectio Divinae. Further examples are the ecumenical dimension, the role of women inside the Church, the constant reference to the “dream” (“I dream a Church…”), the special care for the last (“to be the brothers and sisters”, the poor, the prison population, the migrants…).

Martini “dreamt of” a “gentle, affable” Church. Some defined it a prophetic vision. What is your opinion? He called for a Catholic community based on the Word, close to the last, “gentle and affable”, but also the leaven of society, a small mustard sees that welcomes global challenges and is committed in proclaiming Jesus’ message in the folds of history.

Indeed, Martini’s vision can be considered prophetic in that it is prospective and it illuminates today’s Church, envisaging the Church of the future. Let us consider, once more, the “Church that goes forth” of Pope Francis.

In Carlo Maria Martini’s words recurs a constant reference to culture and knowledge. How should it be understood? 
For the Archbishop and Biblical scholar it didn’t consist in mere intellectual knowledge or in the human understanding of reality. There was – and there is – much more, hence the Biblical text constituted the lenses to understand humanity and the world as a whole, in order to shine the light of the faith.

And “being the brothers and sisters”? The conference on charity, dating back to 1986, has represented, in my opinion, Martini’s “conversion” to the city and viceversa. It marked the passage from “the scientist of Scripture” to the shepherd with a big heart. It should be borne in mind that those were the years when Milan was centred on business and politics alone, while the diocese headed by Martini was characterised by the erosion of the social fabric, by widespread poverty, calling for the responsibility of solidarity: the solidarity of individuals and of the community, spawned by a fundamental restlessness leading to the care for our brothers and sisters and to their service.

Martini is considered a good communicator. Do you agree? 
He was an excellent communicator. It is evident when re-reading the two pastoral letters on the subject, “Effatà” and “The hem of the cloak” (Il lembo del mantello”), revisiting the style of interpersonal relations and preaching. It also characterised his understanding of “public opinion” inside the Church, relentlessly invoked: a Church that allows for internal debate, that has something to say to the world, that can and must communicate. Moreover, I would add that Martini was an excellent communicator because he was a true Christian and a true person.

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