Something happened in Cairo October 2010: a cultural event inspired by The Meeting in Rimini, as may be seen in the photo slideshow above. Davide Perillo describes the course of events in the #10 issue of Traces. Here's a snippet, but go read the whole account: "You Have Brightened Egypt"
The clear impression is that it is as if the very idea of 'dialogue between religions' has been swept away, leaving room for reality: people who are in dialogue precisely because they are religious–that is to say, zealous for the heart, for the question of meaning, for beauty. One distinguished man, unidentified, during a pause, began a discussion with Emilia Guarnieri: (the English is rather improbable, but the point gets through), 'You spoke of certainties and the fight against relativism; can you explain better?.' She explains, and he nods, and replies, saying something like: 'I understand. Whatever is an obstacle to man’s imagination is to be fought.' In his own way, he sounds like Fr. Giussani when he speaks of 'the category of possibility,' which keeps reason open to the Mystery. Another point made by an Egyptian friend and highlighted was: 'We are looking at things with your eyes.'
The final concert was an apotheosis of what we have in common and of what distinguishes us. The Schubert Trio and classical music inside the walls of Saladin’s Citadel: all eager to hear beauty (Brahms, Paganini, and Dvorak), many ready to acknowledge that it is only a relation of the other music, played by the Sama’a group the previous evening: Eastern chorales and polyphony entwined with 'our' melodies. They, too, are beautiful, but different, without that note of melancholy that echoes, so to speak, in the 2nd movement of Schubert’s Trio, presented as 'one of the pieces that Fr. Giussani loved most.' At this point, we realize how often that name has been quoted continually over these days, on the stage and off it, in both Italian and Arabic speeches, and how alive Fr. Giussani still is, present more than ever.
The editorial in the same issue of Traces notes the remarkable contours of this event:
"For two days, there were assemblies and exhibitions, a demonstration of earthly beauty as the basis for a dialogue, in an Islamic country. It was organized by Muslims, people who live their tradition deeply, but who were struck by a friendship with those who live Christianity deeply, making it flesh and blood–that is, culture."
Although I haven't seen The Meeting in Cairo or The Meeting in Rimini, I will have the opportunity to see the American edition of The Meeting: The New York Encounter. It's happening January 14-17. The presentations are free and open to the public — I hope to see you there!
John Allen points out that the Pope's visit to the UK was helped in part by the openness of Prime Minister David Cameron to a more cooperative relationship between Church and state. The principle of subsidiarity, in the form of the "Big Society" platform, has been adopted by Cameron from a group of British politicians and theologians who have been inspired by the Meeting at Rimini.
Thus as the 83-year-old Benedict warned Britain this week against an “aggressive secularism” threatening to “marginalize” Christianity, he’s found an unlikely ally in the 43-year-old Cameron, an Anglican and the youngest British Prime Minister in almost two hundred years.
All indications are that the message Benedict XVI came to the U.K. to deliver has been music in the ears of the Cameron government.
In remarks today in Birmingham, where Benedict XVI will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, Cameron is planning to thank the pontiff for compelling the British people to “sit up and think,” according to extracts of his speech provided to reporters.
“Faith is part of the fabric of our country. It always has been and it always will be,” Cameron will say, according to those extracts.
“As you, your Holiness, have said ... faith is not a problem for legislators to solve ... but rather a vital part of our national conversation. And we are proud of that,” Cameron will say.
In reality, a meeting of the minds between Cameron and Benedict should not be terribly surprising, given that the “Big Society” has a Catholic pedigree.
British Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh points out that Cameron’s chief adviser is Philip Blond, an English political thinker and Anglican theologian associated with the "Red Tory" school of thought, which promotes a form of capitalism based on the "little guy" which its pioneers see as distinct from neo-liberalism.
In turn, Blond is close to the Anglican theologian and intellectual John Milbank, one of the pioneers of “Radical Orthodoxy,” an Anglo-Catholic theological movement intended to read distinctly post-modern concerns in the light of traditional Christian theology.
Benedict XVI has himself expressed curiosity and sympathy for the "Radical Orthodoxy" movement.
Ivereigh said that Blond is a regular at the annual Rimini gathering of Communion and Liberation, an influential Italian Catholic lay movement, and that recently Blond told the gathering that the thinking behind the “Big Society” had been influenced by attending the Rimini events.