Gaetano Cammarata, Alpha Coordinator for Italy, interviews Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Househould, and a great friend to Alpha…
Next year you will be at the Leadership Conference 2015 in London. What do you think of Alpha?
I have had a relationship with Alpha for a number of years, a profound friendship; we have met many times both with the community in London and with different groups around the world. I have a notable admiration both for the founders and leaders and also for the reality of Alpha. I can only rejoice that Alpha will be starting in Italy as it can do a lot of good. It has a clear purpose. I often say that it is rightly called the ‘Alpha course’, meaning that it is not ‘Alpha and Omega’; it isn’t the end of it all but it’s a beginning. As an introduction for people to faith, Alpha is really effective.
What do you think about evangelisation? Is it in the heart of today’s Christians, thanks to the exhortation of the Pope?
All those who love Jesus love evangelisation, as well as everyone who takes their Christian vocation seriously – and this includes Christians of all denominations. We are no longer a transverse church but we are a people, who throughout all the different confessions of faith have in their heart the Gospel; not so much the affirmation of their particular group or particular church, but the proclamation of the Good News because they love Jesus.
Certainly in the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II and now also Pope Francis are pushing in this direction, and so any initiative in this direction – above all when it is characterised by a spirit like that of Alpha - an ecumenical spirit, a spirit of unity, not of proselytism – should be welcomed as a gift for the Church of today.
In Advent of 2011 you talked about the four waves of evangelisation; we are in the fourth wave in motion. How do you think Alpha can contribute to this?
I believe this is to do with the group of people who are on the front lines who, basically, take on the task of being fishers of men. I often say that pastors, clergy (not only Catholic but general church clergy) manage to pastor people who go to church, with the Word and through the sacraments, but we are less capable of going out and fishing further afield. So Alpha, together with the movements in the Catholic Church, has this particular task to be fishermen who go further afield (in the sense of going out into the world, into workplaces, into the ‘existential peripheries’ as Pope Francis calls them). Therefore they are fulfilling a task which we can only rejoice about because they are coming to our help.
Next weekend we will have our first Alpha conference in Italy where we will officially launch Alpha in our much loved nation. Please could you leave a message for the participants who will attend?
First of all my wish is that the Holy Spirit will descend on this first meeting, which occurs just after Pentecost, therefore I make a special prayer for a spirit of anointing, of fervour, of harmony to descend on all participants, and as it happened on the day of Pentecost (that as soon as they received the Holy Spirit they went out into the squares to preach with huge efficiency, and the church was born that day). I pray that after this meeting there will be a new launch; a burst of evangelisation. So I am spiritually present at this meeting, I rejoice with those who have worked and tired to make this possible. I rejoice because I know that Jesus also rejoiced when his disciples came together in brotherly harmony to announce Him.
Thank you for your time...
I’d like to add a welcome to Alpha in Italy, because up until now I’ve only known it abroad, but I rejoice that it is also starting to have fellow countrymen involved!