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Friday, January 14, 2011
"Dialogue is of mutual importance for us," Patriarch Bartholomew I and Maria Voce emphasised during their meeting in Istanbul on 27 December.

«Deo gratias! – exclaimed the Patriarch of Constantinople as their meeting concluded – Deo gratias for your friendship, for your visit, for the fruits that come from your Movement, for the continuation of this work of God, wheich renders glory to His name». A warm and at the same time solemn welcome had been prepared by Bartholemew I for the president of the Focolare Movement Maria Voce at their 11:00 meeting this morning, at the historic seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate.

His Holiness received the president of the Focolare in his private study together with other representatives from the movement in Turkey – Angela Caliaro, Carmine Donnici and the members of the two focolares in Istanbul. “We are twelve, like the apostles”, the Patriarch observed with satisfaction. Also present were the Metropolitan Apostolos, from the island of Halki, and Father Dositheos, communications director of the Patriarchate.

In his welcoming address, Bartholomew I recalled having witnessed “the esteem, affection and admiration that his predecessor, Patriarch Dimitrios, nourished for her and for the work being done by the focolare.” Maria Voce had been living in this city from 1978 to 1988. In those years, Bartholomew (then secretary of the Patriarch) and Maria Voce became acquainted.

“The focolare unites, in a particular way, the Churches of the old and of the new Rome – then he continued – You are all today the enthusiastic collaborators of the beloved Pope Benedict and our humble self,” Then he pointed out “the already visible fruits produced by the focolare: from Chiara to the young Chiara Luce, the first focolarina to reach sainthood.”

Returning to the topic of the relationships between believers, Bartholemew I wished to underscore that it is only when dialogue is based on life that “dialogue doesn’t remain an empty and sterile academic exercise, easy to attack by those who continue to oppose the ecumenical and interreligious dialogues.”

As a gift, Maria Voce offered the Patriarch photo album showing the principle events, international trips and meetings of her first two and a half years as president. “I told the focolarini I was coming to Istanbul for only one meeting, You Holiness, the meeting with you, without taking other commitments.” “Like Chiara,” he promptly replied.

They were both visibly joyful as they exchanged gifts in a festive and truly Christmas atmosphere. Maria Voce pointed out that she brought the greetings, gratitude and prayers of the entire Movement spread throughout the world, because everyone knew about her appointment with him. “I know well how your communication network is always working,” the Patriarch remarked.

«We’ll say goodbye for now, Your Holiness because we know you must have so many things to do». «The work is always there – replied the Patriarch at the end of their 55 minute audience – but Maria Voce is not always here. »

by Paolo Lòriga