In the late 1940’s, almost imperceptibly, the spirit of the Movement began to spread beyond the borders of Trent, northern Italy. In the space of a few months in that first city about 500 people had begun striving to live the Gospel in the spirit of the early Christians. Now, the focolarini were invited to Milan, Rome, Florence, Sicily and elsewhere and, quietly, Christian communities like the one in Trent began to develop.
But precisely during those years of extraordinary growth, the Church began a careful study of the Movement. It was a long period of intense examination, of suspension and doubts. The 50’s and early 60’s were years lived in uncertainty of ever receiving approval, which seemed to never arrive.
The nascent spirituality, which was rooted in Scripture, highlighted words that were not often heard before the Second Vatican Council, words like: “unity,” “Jesus in the midst” of the community, “Jesus Forsaken,” etc. Moreover the first focolarine were young and they were lay people who were trying to live the words of the Gospel, not only to read and meditate on them. This appeared “protestant”. And their practice of the communion of goods in order to offer an orderly and organized assistance to the poor appeared “Communist.” But for them it meant living like the first Christians and they felt a particular affinity with the Church in the years before it was divided.
Thus, in the 40’s and 50’s, without knowing it, invisible threads were woven that linked the Focolare to the main currents of thought spreading throughout the Christian world and later taken up by the Second Vatican Council. Their attention to the Gospel was in perfect agreement with the biblical movement; their desire to live for unity drew the focolarini into the ecumenical movement (from 1960). They found themselves ready, when religious and social conditions demanded it, to embrace dialogue with the followers of different religions and with people who had no specific religious reference point. Moreover, the fact of having been started by a laywoman, for laypeople, placed the Focolare in perfect harmony with the emergence of the laity in the Roman Catholic Church.
This new passion for unity would be fully recognised and welcomed into the heart of the Catholic Church on the eve of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, when it approved the central nucleus of the Focolare Movement-Work of Mary.