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No history without him
An international event on "Jesus our contemporary"
After the major meeting on "God today. With him or without him everything changes" in December 2009, the Committee for the Cultural Project of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) is once again launching a powerful and provocative message at public debate. It is doing so with an international event "Jesus our contemporary", through which it aims to emphasize "the contemporaneity of Jesus, his character as a real living person, the bringer of a light and a hope able to guide the steps of a humanity that has entered a time of great change and choices of enormous potential". "It is just this - says a press release presenting the event - that confers on Jesus an absolute and universal significance, capable of touching our hearts, of making us all feel equally human persons, and of exalting us in our own humanity and uniqueness".
The programme. The second international event, promoted by the Committee for the Cultural Project, will be held in Rome from 9 to 11 February 2012. Introduced by a speech by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the CEI, the first session will open on Thursday 9 February. It has the title: "It happened to God in Palestine", and will comprise an address by Klaus Berger, an interview with Cardinal Joseph Zen, meetings on Jesus and Jerusalem (with Sandro Magister, David Rosen, Romano Penna, and Paolo Mieli), and a round table on representations of the body of Jesus (with Eugenia Scabini, Alain Finkielkraut and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi). Benedict XVI’s book on "Jesus of Nazareth" will be discussed by Massimo De Angelis, Cardinal Angelo Scola, and Thomas Soeding. A photographic exhibition of the work of Monika Bulaj will also be inaugurated in the afternoon; it will be presented by the protagonist herself together with Antonio Paolucci and Dino Boffo. The following session on Friday, 10 February 2012, has the title: "He united all mankind with himself", and will be opened with an address by Pierangelo Sequeri and the presentation of the work Xfiction by the Italo-Argentinian artist Raul Gabriel. In simultaneous events discussion will focus on Jesus and women (with Paola Ricci Sindoni, Emma Fattorini, Liliana Cavani, Ermenegildo Manicardi), Jesus and the poor (with Andrea Riccardi, Armand Puig i Tarrech, Ignazio Sanna, Cariosa Kilcommons) and Jesus in contemporary literature (with Fr. Ferdinando Castelli, Marco Beck, and Franco Scaglia). The afternoon session - "We preach Christ crucified" - comprises addresses by Piero Coda and Jean-Luc Marion, and the testimony of Maydi Bayyat, director of the Centre "Our Lady of Peace" in Amman. The question of Jesus and the suffering of man will be debated by Francesco D’Agostino, Mgr. Rino Fisichella, Manfred Luetz, and Tony Capuozzo. The relation between Jesus and the young will be at the centre of the meeting with Alessandro Zaccuri, Roberto Vecchioni, Armando Matteo, and Alessandro D’Avenia. The programme also includes a discussion of René Girard’s book "Before the Apocalypse", with the intervention of Fiorenzo Facchini, Sergio Belardinelli, Mgr. Sergio Lanza, and Giuliano Ferrara. The final session on "The Risen Lord in history" will be held on Saturday, 11 February 2012. The main addresses will be given by Henning Ottmann and Nicholas Thomas Wright, while the conclusions will be drawn by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
Living person. "The intention - explains the sociologist Sergio Belardinelli, among the main speakers at the conference - is that of emphasizing the contemporaneity of Jesus, his character as a real, living person, capable of encountering man in every age, but especially contemporary man. ’Jesus our contemporary’, in fact. The great theme of the proper relation between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith, the novelty of the Christian way of conceiving God as merciful love and the consequent scandalous rupture with political theology and traditional religion, the great mystery of the Cross and the even greater mystery of the Resurrection: these are the themes that will constitute as it were the framework of the event and of the four sessions into which it is divided. Each session will be opened by one or two addresses aimed at all the participants and then continue with a rich series of simultaneous debates and discussions, eleven in all, in which the public can participate according to their own particular preferences. As for the main speakers, who come from all over the world, they belong to the most diverse cultural backgrounds; there are Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, agnostics, and non-believers. We chose them not on the basis of their faith, but on the basis of their recognized competence and, especially, their capacity to let themselves in some way be provoked by Jesus of Nazareth".
Is history equal to it? "Jesus is inevitably our contemporary, also from an objective cultural and historical point of view", observes the theologian Pierangelo Sequeri, one of the main speakers at the international event: "In the world, in fact, there is no debate on significant religious questions that does not involve Jesus or that does not touch on the question of Jesus, because Jesus is the point of arrival of the revelation of God which also impacts on other religions, since it imposes on each of them the need to seek its real significance within their own faith. In a world where faiths are multiple, other religions too have opened themselves up, to a greater or lesser extent, to an internal debate on their existence, precisely as a consequence of Jesus. The question we need to pose, rather, is whether the world is sufficiently ’contemporary’ with Jesus, i.e. whether history is really equal to this event. My impression is that, today, the history of the West is often unequal to it: perhaps it would need to be somewhat more a contemporary of Jesus...".