Vittorio Sabbione certainly would never have imagined Argentina as his final destination, when he was still a prominent lawyer and politician in Turin, Italy during the early 1900’s. But is was in this land along with many others in South America that he devoted his life to the birth and growth of the Focolare Movement, together with Lia Brunet.
In 1922 he was born into a good family and an educational environment that favoured his spiritual and intellectual growth. Very soon he felt the urge to dedicate himself totally to God and neighbor through social and political involvement. He became an active member of Catholic Action. During the years of Fascism he joined the Resistence and spent time in prison. Following the liberation he devoted himself to the reconstruction of Italian society as a member of the nascent Christian Democratic Party, becoming one of its regional secretaries.
At twenty-four years of age he graduated in Law and became a lawyer. Following the death of his brother, Paolo, in a concentration camp and, then, the death of his father, he became the owner of the presitigious family firm.
His involvement in political activity and in the field of justice, did not provide sufficient a sufficient answer to his need for change. The first signs of discouragement were overcome thanks to his encounter with Edvige Cinatto, a young woman with his same ideals and interests. Thanks to her he redisovered hope. In 1947 they were married with a strong desire of “consecrating their lives and their union to serving the world.” It turned out to be a very brief but important phase. Edgive was diagnosed to have an incurable illness. Vittorio’s life became a “dark tunnel” after only eight months of married life. Two years followed during which he tried to cover over suffering by throwing himself even more into politics and his profession, but life seemed to have lost its meaning and it was difficult to hold on to the faith.
It was then, in 1949 that he was visited in his office by Ginetta Calliari who told him about the expierence being lived with Chiara Lubich and some other young women in Trent. According to Vittorio’s own words Ginetta brought him “into another dimiension, where the whole Gospel came to life.” The discovery that “we an always love in the present moment,” opened a hole in the armor that he had built and it gave him the possibility of experiencing as never before “the presence of God that totally invaded” him.
From that moment his life had no other goal than to live the Ideal of Unity. In order to know Chiara personally, he visited Rome and then Trent where he met the community and, with Marco Tecilla and Aldo Stedile, began the first men’s focolare. The spirituality of unity penetrated his life more and ore: it influenced his life and his politicial activity. Up until when he felt the call to follow the vocation of Chiara. His house would be the first men’s focolare in Turin, to which he would belong.
Later Chiara called him to Rome, where she entrusted the nascent “Città Nuova”. He also held other positions of responsibility until, as he put it, “something I never would have imagined,” he left for Argentina to open the first men’s focolare in Latin America.
Vittorio made a determining contribution to the development of the Movement in this land: from opening many focolares, to founding the permanent Mariapolis of O’Higgins (Buenos Aires) which would later be named “Mariapolis Lia”; from starting Ciudad Nueva magazine and the Publishing House to setting up schools for Social Study and Research (EDES).
But beyond it all, his greates work was the personal, totally disinterested love that he had for each person, his generosity without limits that made everyone who knew him remember him as a father. Vittorio was an extraordinary guide for all the members of the Movement.
During the final years of his life, while his health declined and his memory faded, his love intensified and became more and more refined. He completely entrusted himself to the hands of God and of his brothers, who accompanied him in an extraordinary experience that can only be called a hymn to mutual love.
Since the 11th of November 2008 his tombstone in the small cemetary of Mariapolis Lia reminds us of his Word of Life: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk” (1 Pt. 2:2). His life was marked by perserverance, a continual “beginning again” and stripping away of his limitations, cultural and material possessions until he became a “Gospel child” who could enter the Kingdom of God.