The change agent
Why an Italian politician, journalist and writer integrated his faith with his commitments — thoughts and writings of Igino Giordani (1894-1980).
By Father Silvester Marquez
Throughout history very many Christians have borne witness to this truth through their own lives. This is the case with Igino Giordani (1894–1980) a married layman, father of four, politician, writer and Focolare co-founder.
Having been wounded as a soldier in World War I, he spent a long period in rehabilitation. There he came to see the futility of war. As a pacifist he never fired a gun at anyone, because in each person he “saw the Lord.”
Just after World War II, as a member of the Italian parliament, he contributed to the birth of democracy in Italy, fighting courageously for freedom. Here is how he spoke about his commitment as a Christian: “Politics is made for the people and not the people for politics. First comes morality, first comes the person. Politics should not become a master, it should not be misused. Its function and its dignity lie in its being of service to society, charity in act.”
On April 5, 1946, he wrote in his diary: “Can a politician be a saint? Can a saint be a politician? Test the answer to the question on yourself now that you are becoming a politician.”
“One day Pius XII called me,” he wrote in 1946. “Being the director of the newspaper Il Quotidiano, he often wanted to see me just to have a simple chat as if among old friends. Such simplicity was all the more striking when compared to how austere and solemn he appeared in public … That day he asked me, ‘Giordani, but what have you written in the newspaper? People have come complaining… They say that you are a revolutionary…’ and he quoted a phrase from my most recent in-depth article, which stated that not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them.
“‘Holy Father,’ I answered, ‘it was said by John Chrysostom.’
“‘But didn’t you say that?’
“‘Holy Father, when you put together an article in half an hour or an hour, you don’t have time to search for bibliographical references.’
“‘It’s true. It’s true,’ he said, smiling again. ‘They say you are a revolutionary, but don’t take any notice ...’
“‘But,’ I answered, ‘a true Christian is necessarily a person of change, a revolutionary. Didn’t the first Christians want to change the world? Only that their revolution is beneficial; it builds, it doesn’t demolish; it spreads love, not hatred; and it remakes society on the basis of solidarity.’”
Despite his work in the heart of the church, he was going through a difficult moment in his spiritual and political life: “I studied religious topics with a passion,” he wrote, “but also because I didn’t want to look at my soul whose appearance wasn’t very edifying. It was weighed on by boredom and, in order not to admit to the partial paralysis, I plunged myself into study and wore myself out with activity. To some degree I possessed all the areas of religious culture: apologetics, ascetics, mysticism, dogmatic, and morality. . . but I possessed them only as a matter of culture. I didn’t live them within myself.”
Giordani eventually met Chiara Lubich in September 1948. He was fascinated by the Gospel-based spirituality of communion which she proclaimed and lived. He became one of Chiara’s closest collaborators. It changed his spiritual life immediately.
One day, when Giordani was presenting a proposal in Parliament to legislate on conscientious objection, he was rudely interrupted by a young member of his party and “felt his confrontational instincts boiling within him,” but he didn’t allow them to explode. “The ascetic life of the Focolare,” he said, “was already at work in me.”
“Politics is charity in action,” he had written, “and its dignity lies in being at the service of society, of the people and of one’s country.” Besides the absolute necessity of charity in general, he saw the need to establish personal relationships with other politicians, both friends and adversaries of the party.
In his speeches and actions he expressed a new principle. He was opposed to the old pagan axiom, “if you want peace, prepare for war,” and instead proposed a Christian one, “If you want peace, prepare for peace.”
At the end of his active political work in 1953, he worked as a writer for l’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily newspaper.
“Every time we open a newspaper, we read reports and reflections on political disagreements brought about by economic disputes and by various ambitions,” he wrote in his diary on January 24, 1960, “And we find out about speeches and undertakings to restore order and re-establish unity, but with scant success. I am inclined to think that what is needed is a charge of love in a world where selfishness rages. Love would again create the ‘new self’ in everyone, would put Christ in everyone, and Christ is one; and politics would become a constructing of the City of God.”
— with Clare Zanzucchi