Pope's Charismatic Style Cannot Be Imitated, Says Andrea Riccardi

Founder of Sant'Egidio Community Comments on John Paul II's Pontificate

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ROME, NOV. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In his latest book, Andrea Riccardi, founder of the lay Community of Sant'Egidio, says John Paul II will go down in history for his "charismatic" governance of the Church.



On Tuesday, historian Riccardi presented his work "Charismatic Government: 25 Years of Pontificate," published in Italian by Arnaldo Mondadori.

"John Paul II's pontificate is that of a charismatic who became Pope or perhaps that of a Pope who exercises his government in a charismatic way," said Riccardi, who highlighted the "pastoral" aspects of this papacy, such as trips, meetings and episcopal activities.

"After 25 years of papacy, the Church is not the same," Riccardi said. John Paul II's way of governing "is not imitable," as the "exceptional charismatic nature cannot become the norm of the future pope," he added.

"The Pope knows that if his collaborators and the media are not convinced of his ideas, they will not gain ground," Riccardi explained, illustrating what he considers "a modern way of governing."

"For the Pope, government and pastoral concern are the same thing," Riccardi stressed.

"There is in the Chair of Peter a man who has his ideas, but who knows there are other ideas," the historian continued.

There is "a great novelty" in this pontificate, he contended. "The Pope knows that the world will not convert to Christianity or to Catholicism, he knows that it is necessary to live with others, whether they are Jews, Muslims or atheists, and this is radically new in the Church's thinking."

Riccardi said he is certain that his book will "seem cold for John Paul II's devotees, apologetic for his critics, and too synthetic for scholars."

During the presentation, which was held at the Jubilee 2000 Press Center in Rome, journalist Eugenio Scalfari, founder of the La Repubblica newspaper, said that, although he is not a believer, he admits that John Paul II is an extremely "strong and charismatic" personality.

This "very great Pope, out of the ordinary, has canceled many problems with his charism and light." When "he is no longer here, the problems will arise again," Scalfari said.

Speaking about the Holy Father's style of government, professor Giuseppe De Rita, director of Italy's Social Research Study Center, described it as "omnipresent."

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, agreed with Riccardi: "This Pope cannot be imitated, but he will leave enormous fruit."

"His attitude against war and in favor of peace, in addition to his petitions for forgiveness, will force the rethinking of many ways of behavior," the cardinal noted.