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  • Universalism and Liberation: Italian Catholic Culture and the Idea of International Community 1963–1978 by Jacopo Cellini
  • Massimo Faggioli
Universalism and Liberation: Italian Catholic Culture and the Idea of International Community 1963–1978. By Jacopo Cellini. [KADOC Studies on Religion, Culture, and Society, Vol. 20.] (Leuven, Leuven University Press; distributed by Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. 2017. Pp. 269. €49,50; $69.50 paperback. ISBN 978-94-6270-108-3.)

One of the peculiarities of Roman Catholicism compared to other churches is the history of the role of the papacy as a protagonist of international relations in the modern era, as a pope king first and as the representative of a "moral sovereignty" after the loss of the Papal State in 1870. This is one of the roots of the relevance of Catholic thought on the relations between the Church and the international community—something that has become relevant again recently due to the new wave of nationalist movements and parties also in Catholic countries.

The book by Jacopo Cellini, from his doctoral dissertation defended at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in 2015, is an insightful exploration of the development of the idea of international community in Catholic culture.

The introduction frames the broad historical context, the terminology, the periodization: the focus is the pontificate of Paul VI, and the case chosen to explore the importance of the idea of international community is Italian Catholicism and specifically the social and political organizations of Italian Catholics.

The first chapter presents the main thesis which looks at three different stages of the idea of international community in Catholicism in the twentieth century: the "traditional universalism" of the early modern period, derived from the claim of the Church to have a potestas indirecta in temporalibus; the rise in the middle of the twentieth century of the "new universalism," which left behind the ecclesiology of Christendom and gave a contribution to the teaching of Vatican Council II; the [End Page 723] emergence, in the first few years after the council, of an alternative to Catholic internationalism with the "culture of liberation" (not just theology of liberation, but also groups like, for example, Cristiani per il socialismo in Italy), against which the papal magisterium reacted especially after the end of Paul VI's pontificate.

The second chapter focuses on the culture of foreign policy of Democrazia Cristiana, the party in power in Italy for almost half a century after World War II. The analysis is based on primary and archival sources and focuses on the convergence between the political elites of the party (especially Amintore Fanfani, Giulio Andreotti, Mariano Rumor, and Aldo Moro) and the Catholic culture of "new universalism" in a careful balance with the demands of Cold War geopolitics, of the new European community, and the geographical position of Italy, in the Mediterranean and very close to the Middle East.

The final chapter expands on the political culture of internationalism in the vast world of Italian Catholic organizations—such as labor organizations (Associazioni Cristiane Lavoratori Italiani), cultural publications (journals like Testimonianze), and new ecclesial movements of the laity (such as Communion and Liberation and the Community of Sant'Egidio). This vast network of Catholic formal groups went through a strong phase of international engagement in the 1960s and 1970s, especially with ecclesial and political organizations of Catholics in Latin America.

The book is very effective in showing a fundamental convergence, despite the obvious ideological differences, between the internationalist cultures of Catholic, socialist-communist, and liberal-free market in post-World War II Europe. The book also shows the transition from "Christendom universalism" to "new universalism" across the board of all Catholic groups and organizations in Italian (but also European) Catholicism between the 1950s and the 1970s, before some of these groups (like Communion and Liberation) turned to the idea of a Christian recapture of secularized society.

The book's structure and pace reflects the nature of a doctoral dissertation, and good editing could have made the English language a little more idiomatic. In the chapter on the roots of Democrazia Cristiana, it would have been appropriate to expand on one of the first steps toward the new, post-Fascist Italian...


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