Twenty years after the German Bishop Klaus Hemmerle’s death, we present some comments made by Chiara Lubich in her 1999 interview with Fr Wilfried Hagemann about his contribution to the Focolare Movement.
‘Klaus Hemmerle is timeless, because it is was not so much he who lived, but Jesus lived in him. So I see him today as I was him while was still among us. I see him as another Jesus, but with all the qualities that stood out in his personality, ranging from the astuteness of the just to the wisdom of the elect, and ranging from a fatherlike and yet brotherly commitment, given with tremendous resolve to the portion of the People of God entrusted to him, to his freedom in following a charism from the Holy Spirit and his characteristic gift as an artist. That’s what he was like.’
Asked about her own relationship with the Bishop Hemmerle, Chiara Lubich described him as ‘a person called by God to found, together with [me as] its [overall] founder, a specific part of a Work of God. Hence it is a unique relationship known only to those who were in it, a relationship of the purest friendship, full of the charity of Christ.’ Indeed, Chiara called him a ‘co-founder’, and said, ‘He helped me to bring in being two important things within the Focolare Movement: the branch of the Bishop Friends of the Movement, who share in the spirituality of unity, and the founding of the Abba School that translates the spirituality of unity, the fruit of a charism, into intellectual thought.
‘He had many gifts and they shone out from him. When you think of him, even while he is clothed in the dignity of a priest and a bishop, it is easier to see him as an angel than as a man, because of his sublime delicacy of mind, his freedom of spirit, his deep and enlightened intelligence, his constancy of temperament, his fervour, without exaggeration, when it was necessary to defend someone, and his firmness. I and we saw him as an example because of his complete detachment from himself and from all he was involved with. Only after his death, for instance, did I learn of his musical and artistic talents.
‘He was an example in his constant attention to love for every brother or sister he came across as well as for everything that, for him, represented God’s will.
‘And an example in his passionate attachment to the Word of God such that he lived it, for instance, for five years, one Word at a time for a month in depth, in preparation for the Abba School. He had heard of the experience of doing this at the beginning of the Movement before the Spirit gave us some particular intuitions, things that proved to be of immense value for studying the charism.’
And with regard to being a bishop? Chiara Luibich recalled, ‘He once confided in me that, so far as he was concerned personally, he would have preferred to have been a theologian but, I think, becoming a bishop certainly made him useful to the Church, as indeed he was to the Focolare Movement, since to his immense learning he added the authority of the Church’s Teaching Office, and in this way he provided us with some important guarantees.’
From Wilfried Hagemann, Klaus Hemmerle, innamorato della Parola di Dio [Klaus Hemmerle, a Man in Love with the Word of God] (Rome: Città Nuova, 2013) pp. 288-89.