An interview with Father Raniero Cantalamessa

An interview with Father Raniero Cantalamessa

All those who love Jesus love evangelisation

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!

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Momentum 2018: How I was encouraged!

Momentum 2018: How I was encouraged!


Hello! In case you don’t know me already, my name is Abigail Watson and I’m an intern with Alpha Ireland this year. As part of my ‘work’ with Alpha (if you can call it that!), I had the amazing privilege of going to a youth leadership conference called Momentum recently, and I just wanted to tell you about it and how it has encouraged me.

I definitely came away feeling encouraged, equipped and excited. I was also moved, challenged, and very inspired!

The tag-line for the weekend was ‘Encourage. Equip. Excite.’, which sums up the whole thing pretty well, I think. It was a weekend for anyone interested in or already involved in youth work, from those who have never done youth work in their lives to those who do youth ministry as their full-time job! Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone who came, but personally, I found that it more than achieved the promise in the tag-line, as I definitely came away feeling encouraged, equipped and excited. I was also moved, challenged, and very inspired! It was a very powerful weekend in numerous ways, and hopefully will be the first of many more in the years ahead.

Gathered together for a quiz!

Gathered together for a quiz!


One of the most encouraging aspects of the weekend for me was how honest, open and vulnerable many of the speakers were about the challenges of youth ministry. I was particularly struck by Peter Rigney, the National Director of Alpha Ireland, who shared about how difficult things were for him when he first began working with Alpha. It was especially encouraging for me to hear that he often dreads having to do talks like those he was doing at Momentum, as I often get very nervous when asked to do anything from the front! I am not one of those people who loves public speaking and enjoys giving talks to large groups of people, so it was great to see how Peter has been able to do so much as National Director, despite the challenges he faced in this area.

Other speakers were just as open too, and made sure that no-one tried to put them on a pedestal: they made it really clear that what they do and have done is through God’s grace and not by their own strength. They could have told us all about their success stories, made it seem as if they did everything perfectly, and left us feeling overwhelmed, but they did the opposite – as Theresa Cronin (the Alpha Youth Cork Coordinator) commented, it was ‘sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly’. So basically, I left feeling really positive about youth work in general and feeling that I really can contribute something worthwhile, even if I’m not the super-confident, charismatic type!

Peter Rigney talking at Momentum.

Peter Rigney talking at Momentum.

Momentum was also a great weekend for being equipped in a practical way: finding out about useful games and resources/materials that are available for youth ministry. For example, we heard from Tearfund about their resources for looking at global justice issues with young people, from Annette Evans about prayer spaces, from Youth for Christ about how they use soccer as a fun way to engage with teenagers, from Jonny Somerville about the Nua Film Series, and from several others too! I realised that there are lots of resources available once you know where to look – much more than I had thought! 

Anthony Clarke sharing about his work with youth!

Anthony Clarke sharing about his work with youth!

Finally, I think that Momentum really did manage to excite those who came about youth ministry (even more than they were already, that is) - most people seemed to leave feeling inspired and all fired up! For me, the most exciting aspect of Momentum was probably the sense of shared community and unity across the denominations, and seeing how everyone there was so passionate about youth ministry. Sometimes it’s easy to think that there’s barely anyone doing youth work in Ireland, and youth workers can feel isolated, but this was 130 of us (including those running the weekend) all coming together and realising that we can support each other and work as one big team.

One participant, Aidan Duggan, commented on how the weekend has given him a great sense of ‘hope and purpose’ and also on the potential of the event: ‘I’ve a feeling a lot is going to come out of this.’ I really think that he’s right – it’s the first of its kind, and really brought people together from different denominations, as well as different places. It’s not often that you get to go to an event that is so ecumenical, both in terms of who was running it and those who attended, and this was very fitting as it was coming up to the week of prayer for Christian unity (which is this week).


Playing and praying together.

Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention

It was also exciting to dream big and think about how we can step out of our comfort zones and allow God to work through us. Peter shared a great quote from Mark Batterson with us on this: ‘Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention’. I know it might seem wiser to have dreams that are achievable and reasonably realistic, but let’s be ambitious with our dreams and trust the promise that ‘all things are possible with God’ (Matthew 19:26)!

Abigail Watson            Alpha Intern

Abigail Watson            Alpha Intern

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