Andrea Riccardi's visit to Lima: Sant'Egidio in Peru, an expression of a happy Christianity, amidst economic crisis and popular faith

Honorary doctorate and visit to theologian Gustavo Gutierrez
San Lazaro is one of the oldest churches in Lima, the capital of Peru. Entrusted in 2022 to the Community of Sant'Egidio - Frederic Comalat and Francisco Guevara, of the Priestly Fraternity of Sant'Egidio, are the parish priest and vice-parish priest - it has become a meeting point for people of diverse social classes, in a city marked by so much poverty and a great divide between rich and poor.
The meeting between Andrea Riccardi and the communities of Lima and Bolivia took place here. Andrea Riccardi's visit comes at a delicate time for Peru: the impact of the COVID pandemic, the political vacuum (after the ousting of President Castillo), and the economic crisis have generated a massive exodus of many Peruvians abroad. One of the topics discussed at the Community assembly, made up mostly of young people, was the transition from a 'religion of duty' consisting only of prescriptions and traditions, to a happy and evangelical Christianity that can make others happy.
The Community of Lima -started 25 years ago in the suburbs and in poor neighbourhoods - has now become an important actor in significant places of society and culture. The awarding of an honorary doctorate to Andrea Riccardi by the Pontifical University of Peru - one of the most esteemed academic circles of the country - represented the recognition of the value of the work of Sant'Egidio, as an expression of the Church of the Council, in dialogue with all, capable of reconciling  different generations and integrating socially marginalised people.
Archbishop Carlos Castillo, Primate of Peru, highlighted this well, mentioning the witness of service and solidarity that, since 1968, hundreds of anonymous people and volunteers have been developing in the Community of Sant'Egidio to "resurrect the world with peace, placing the poor as a preferential option" and "proclaiming the Gospel as a light of hope for humanity".
"God has not abandoned the city. There are no longer Catholic homogenous spaces, regions and lands in this global world. We are on the open sea, in the midst of different people, fluctuating between differences. It is necessary to understand and navigate in the sea of a complex humanity,' said Andrea Riccardi in the lectio magistralis delivered on the occasion of the conferral. He emphasised the need to build a Church 'capable of welcoming encounters, true communities, true communication, solidarity with the poor and rooted in the peripheries; a Church that helps cities to be more fraternal and more communitarian, instead of being a periphery of the human.'
A faith that becomes culture and also encounters popular religiosity, which is very deep-rooted in Peru. Even the meeting at the Hogar Canevaro, the institution for the elderly where the Community has been serving for many years, revealed how the elderly have a living faith, despite the difficulties.
Sant'Egidio's deep roots in Peruvian faith and culture also emerged in the familiar and joyful meeting between Andrea Riccardi - accompanied by Archbishop Castillo - and 95-year-old Gustavo Gutierrez, one of the 'fathers' of liberation theology.