Andrea Riccardi

He and his friends got together to aid the poor and pray--and now they help broker peace

Lorenzo Pesce / Contrasto for TIME

Andrea Riccardi founded the Community of Sant'Egidio while still in high school.

PERSUADER

Some call it the United Nations in Trastevere. When Andrea Riccardi founded the Community of Sant'Egidio with a circle of high school friends in Rome in 1968, he did not have big plans. The group would pray together and aid the poor and in that way help improve the human condition at least a tiny bit. "The periphery of Rome was like a Third World city," Riccardi recalls.

Forty years later, Riccardi, 58, has made his presence felt a lot farther than in one small corner of a big city. The Community of Sant'Egidio is now a global family of...

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