This time it would be appropriate to say that the time has finally arrived for Portugal! The time has arrived for the long-expected visit of the president and of the co-president of the Focolare Movement to the land of Portugal. The trip, which had originally been planned for last January, was postponed for health reasons. But now neither the fierce summer heat nor Maria Voce’s busy schedule have prevented the Focolare community in Portugal from gathering together to give a warm welcome to the president and co-president Giancarlo Faletti.
There are two antecedents which the Portuguese proudly include in the history of the Movement in this country.
The first goes all the way back to 1948 when Igino Giordani (known as Foco), then Deputy of the Italian State, held a conference at the Geographic Society. During this conference, Giordani, who had met Chiara Lubich only three months earlier and was left fascinated by her spirituality of unity, met then Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Cerejeira.
The second antecedent is particularly dear to the Portuguese Focolare community. It was Chiara’s visit to the Shrine of Fatima in 1955 when the Movement had not yet begun in Portugal. She wrote about it in her diary three years later: “It was September 1955 when a truly exceptional circumstance procured for us the great fortune of meeting with Sister Lucia of Fatima. . . I don’t remember much from that much loved trip, which lasted from 8 September (the Nativity of Mary) until 12 September (the Holy Name of Mary), perhaps because my heart was completely taken by the Cova da Iria, where Our Lady had presented her message to the world.”
Many years would go by before Chiara could personally meet with the Portuguese Focolare community at Santiago di Compostela (1989) along with the community of Spain. Later in 2003, she was preparing to visit Lisbon when her health prevented her from going. On this occasion as preparations were underway for the 60th Anniversary of the Focolare’s arrival in Portugal, she wrote to the members of the community who were gathered for the festivities: “Dearest Everyone, I am imagining you all gathered there in Fatima (…). Even though it hasn’t yet been possible for me to be with you, may you feel that I am with you more than if I were there in person. I know that you’ll welcome this opportunity to renew the unity among you. . . to spread Love through the world.”
Now, with Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti in Portugal, it is as if they are fulfilling the desire of the founder.
We shall remain watching and reporting on their visit so that all those interested from around the world will be able to share in the happenings among the Focolare community in Portugal.
By our correspondent Gustavo Clariá
Photos © M. Conceicao / M. Freitas