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January 21 2009

Paris: A delegation from the Community of Sant'Egidio took part in the funeral of Olivier Clément. The greeting address of Andrea Riccardi

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A delegation from the Community of Sant'Egidio took part yesterday in the funeral of Olivier Clément, in the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Serge in Paris.

We publish the greeting address of Andrea Riccardi, delivered at the end of the celebration.

Andrea Riccardi's address


Liturgy includes lamentation, thanksgiving, silence. My words cannot add anything. I just want to bow before a life, that of Olivier Clément, but also before the Church that nourished him, before his wife Monique who accompanied him tenaciously until the threshold after which one advances alone, before his family, his friends, and the world of faith and culture that was his own.

Clément was not a man in a prominent position, if a prominent position means some kind of power: his life was sober, modest, sometimes marginal. Yet, after an intense search, he knew the force of transfiguration. He understood that the path of the heart places us at the real center more than any power. His power became that of the word, of writing, of friendship. This way, he helped many, much more than it is known. I want to witness such presence in his deep friendship with myself, with the Community of Sant'Egidio, for which he wrote his last book. But we could say – and we wrote it - how much the force of his friendship and of his talking has supported many, has widened horizons, has built bridges. This is not the moment, however.

Every life is unrepeatable: his life was able to catch the breath of the great teachers of Russian emigration, living this in his being a western man as well as a French de souche. So he was able to breathe and to speak with two lungs, but also able to understand the variety without passively accepting cold detachment, mutual ignorance and conflict. In this, his life, before than his rich work, is that of a man of unity, without easy irenicism. He knew personally the logic of gift and of communion. He knew the value of unity and of peace, like the many who lived the tragedy of war; but also like those European of great stature, who never renounce to having a sight wider than their own country, as much universal as possible.

He did not renounce to hope in a better world, in a time of realism resigned on the future. He who, during the uprising of '68, set himself to listening to that great old man of the tradition, that was patriarch Athenagoras, realizing better that there's no novelty without tradition. This is why he spoke of rebellion of the Spirit. This was evident also in the latest conversations, now that he had become a hermit, where he showed true interest for the news, the sore points of the world, for the delays of the Christians, suffering for the lack of hope. And one could understand how heavy was pessimism for this man that could no longer move, but had not renounced to hope.

I express my gratitude to him for the gift of his guiding, acute, affectionate friendship, gratitude to the Lord, to the family and to the community that were for him mothers and companions. This is not time to take stock, but time of considering the emptiness of death, that pushes us to seek signs and promises of resurrection in his life. While his life with dignity was melting, in the visits of last years, in the difficulty to speak, in an objectively difficult situation, I perceived a beauty that was attracting me: that of a man who really loved life, but who looked death in the face as a passage. It's the beauty of a Christian elderly who made himself little in the arms of the Lord.

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