Sant’Egidio founder joins new Italian cabinet

The founder of the influential Catholic community Sant’Egidio will join incoming prime minister Mario Monti’s government unveiled on Wednesday as minister for international cooperation.

Andrea Riccardi, who was born in Rome in 1950, is highly influential within the Catholic Church and has extensive contacts on the international scene.

He set up the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome in 1968 in order to help marginalised people in the capital city’s sprawling suburbs. The Catholic group specialises in interreligious dialogue and mediating peace negotiations.

It has recently played a reconciliatory role in strife-stricken Niger and the Ivory Coast, but is perhaps most famous for negotiating a peace agreement to bring to an end a civil war in Mozambique at the start of the 1990s.

Riccardi meets hundreds of political and religious characters each year at interreligious meetings organised by the community across the world.