The Church is mourning the death of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, who died early Friday following a lengthy illness; he was deeply involved in the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, and was a good friend of Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. “Friends, I just learned of the passing of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, the U.S. spiritual director of the Communion and Liberation movement,” Father Robert Barron, rector of Mundelien Seminary, posted on Facebook Oct. 24. “Join me in praying for the repose of his soul. Msgr. Albacete was a gifted theologian and physicist, an outstanding spiritual guide, and a model for the New Evangelization.” Msgr. Albacete was born Jan. 7, 1941, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He obtained a degree in physics, and after his ordination to the priesthood he earned a doctorate in theology at the Angelicum, officially known as the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He served as the responsible for Communion and Liberation in the U.S. and Canada, and was chairman of board of advisors for Crossroads Cultural Center, a project which hosts events exploring the relationship between religion and culture. The priest was a co-founder of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., and taught at St. Joseph Seminary in New York. He was rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico from 1996-1997. He was also for a time an advisor to the U.S. bishops' conference on Hispanic affairs. Among his books are “God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity”; “Priesthood and the Human Vocation,” a retreat for priests; and “The Sacramental Priesthood: A Gift to Humanity.” Msgr. Albacete's writings also appeared in such places as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Tempi, Communio, and Godspy, and he was interviewed by PBS and Slate. According to Marco Bardazzi at La Stampa, Msgr. Albacete's “simple and clear way of 'explaining' Jesus Christ attracted both ordinary people (particularly those with doubts and agnostics) and prominent figures he met,” citing his discussion with Fidel Castro during St. John Paul II's 1998 visit to Cuba. When Castro “asked him about evangelization in the world, Fr. Albacete began to explain the roots of 'the religious sense' (referring to Fr. Giussani’s homonymously titled book), the importance of the human figure of Jesus and the fact that this was the reason why the Pope 'emphasized that the commitment toward and the defense of humanity is an essential element of evangelization.' Castro was struck by the priest’s words because the priests he had met as a boy had never presented the subject to him in this way,” Bardazzi wrote. Shortly before his death, on Oct. 10, Msgr. Albacete was visited by Cardinal O'Malley, who wrote on his blog that “it was a very moving visit with him and we were able to pray together. I would ask all of you to keep them in your prayers because his health is very poor.” Communion and Liberation released an Oct. 24 statement, recalling Msgr. Albacete as a man who sought “encounter with anyone, challenging the American intelligentsia with the sole weapon of his witness, as a man who had been seized and transformed by Christ in his reason and in his freedom.” “He was undoubtedly so captivating that he immediately became friends with anyone he met, because he was showing the beauty and usefulness of faith for facing life’s needs.” The statement reflected on Msgr. Albacete’s “tireless work,” perseverance in suffering and “love of the truth that is present in every person.” “Let us all pray together and personally that we may strive to live like he witnessed, so that we can inherit his legacy of how to follow the Movement within the Church.”
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