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Rimini Meeting: President Guarnieri, “aware of our heritage, recovering hope with at a gaze at the future”

A tree clung to the ground through ancient, sturdy roots from which it draws reinvigorating energy, with its many, multifarious branches extended to the sky: it’s the logo of the 38th Meeting on friendship between peoples that thus reinterprets the phrase from Goethe’s Faust “All that you have, bequeathed you by your father, earn it in order to possess it.” In line with tradition, the city of Rimini is the venue of the event that this year will take place August 20-26. Interview with the Meeting’s President Emilia Guarnieri.

“All that you have, bequeathed you by your father, earn it in order to possess it”: it’s the theme of the 2017 Rimini Meeting, with a rich program of 120 events and world guests, including Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni, who will chair the opening session, Secretary of State Card. Pietro Parolin, Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, the EU Envoy for religious freedom  Ján Figel’, and French scholar Olivier Roy. The Meeting also features an impressive program of shows and exhibitions, notably on labour, on young generations, on the Custody of the Holy Land and on Russia (full program at There is great anticipation for the concert “Madama Butterfly” conducted by musical director Yang Yang with the China national Opera House (Sunday 20, 21:45). Ahead of the opening of the event, we met the President of the Meeting for Friendship Between Peoples, Emilia Guarnieri.

Mrs. President, why did you choose this theme?
We asked ourselves what we need today. Today we need to be aware of who we are, what resources we have, because the present times are times of changes and crises. Today’s challenges don’t require obvious answers. What we already know is not enough to face contemporary newness.

There is need for a gesture of freedom to recover hope, the yearning for what is good,  

solidarity. It is necessary to recover a true experience of Europe, a specific idea of common development, of politics, an authentic interest for the young and their future. Recovering means that something was there before, but we need to recover with a gaze to the future. Ushering in a new beginning requires for each man to know what he inherited and the richness he is a bearer of.

However, we risk viewing the “newness” of the present time only in negative terms, also because of the “flood of information”, whereby true and fake events are equally circulated. There is a need for truth that should not be neglected. How can this be done?
The newness we are facing today is a provocation: be it today’s youths that differ from their peers in previous generations, be it the age-long challenges of immigration, employment, health, the “piecemeal third world war”, politics, democracy.

We ought to make a choice: is all of this something bad we ought to defend ourselves from? Or is it a occasion to dig deeper and learn to know who we truly are? Reality is not my enemy, it’s not hostile to me and I must not fight it. There is need for that positive gaze of tenderness that Pope Francis calls us to have before everything. A gaze that far from being a justification is the initial approach of an embrace to prompt dialogue. Without welcome, everything grows difficult. And a Christian person must not have an approach of this kind.

Is this the common thread characterizing this year’s Meeting?
The common thread of the 2017  Meeting is precisely this gaze of tenderness I mentioned before. All the emergencies listed above require the assumption of responsibilities on the part of men who don’t see them only in negative terms from which we should defend ourselves to the point of erecting walls.

We cannot afford not realizing that we have been “placed” in this world to accomplish ourselves and the good of others.

This is the conscience of inheritance. What I am is not the result only of what I have done for myself but of the One who continues working in me.

The interest shown for various aspects of human life in the past years has turned the Meeting into a coveted political event, not without some criticism… The Meeting has always addressed all aspects of human and political life, and politics is not a marginal aspect of human experience. The Meeting cannot ignore it. Precisely because we tackle issues that involve human life in its multifarious aspects, dialogue and interchanges with the Institutions are necessary. This year, for example, we wanted to give a special role to Municipalities and Regions, institutions that can trigger a new form of politics that is closer to the people.

In line with tradition, also the program of this year’s Meeting features a long list of initiatives…
Indeed, but I wish to draw attention to the organization of the Meeting’s exhibitions, which we have promoted since the first edition. Over the past seven-eight years the Meeting invented a new mode of showcasing that involves the people who live the theme of the exhibition in first person. One such example is the exhibition on labour organized with the contribution of some fifty youths who entered the job market only recently, or the one on the young generations organized with the youths themselves. The exhibition thus becomes a tool and an opportunity to meet people who are active players of those themes.

After 38 years, what can be the Meeting’s contribution to the Church and to Italian society as a whole?

The Meeting can give a contribution only if it continues being a thriving place of experiences and encounter. Attending the Meeting means living through an experience, and experience is what changes us.



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