Joy, emotions, surprise and also curiosity, were among the many, diverse sentiments and expectations of the 500 participants of the Focolari General Assembly with Pope Francis. The group, in fact, is composed of people coming from 137 countries: Catholics, Christians of other churches, and some also without any religious belief.
Maria Voce took the floor to present the Assembly gathered in the Clementina Hall in the Vatican, and addressed the Pope with these words: «Those present here today, are of various ages, cultures, vocations, are lay and consecrated people, virgins and married, and people who have lived an exciting experience of communion in which, due to continually renewed mutual love, have undertaken a journey of community awareness, in an attitude of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, so as to identify the guidelines to be followed in order to respond to the sufferings and hopes of humanity today with our specific charisma of unity.»
The fact that she cited the Evangelii Gaudium was significant: «It is almost like a school-workshop where we practiced sharing and thinking and working with Jesus in our midst, to rediscover our being a people born from the Gospel and, therefore, called to live and bear witness to our charisma and bring it to everyone. Your apostolic encouragement has been, undoubtedly, one of the spotlights that enlightened our work sessions.» She added another important note that testified to the “ecumenical” aspect of the Focolari Assembly: «We felt the urge to seek with faith, new roads that could allow our Christian brothers and sisters and members of the Movement who belong to various Churches, to participate ever more fully in the life and organization of the Movement.»
And Pope Francis exhorted all to live the charisma of unity without compromise, up to the end.
(Vatican Radio) Half a century on from the Second Vatican Council, he said, they are called, with the whole Church, to follow a new path of evangelisation, witnessing God’s love to all and in particular to the poor and most marginalised.
Greeting especially the Focolari president, Maria Voce, who has been elected to a second term of office, the Pope said the movement was born from a tiny seed in the Church and has grown into a tree whose branches spread through all kinds of Christian families and through all different religions as well.
Pope Francis said the movement, which is also known as the Work of Mary, flowed from a particular gift of the Holy Spirit which is the charism of unity. The Focolari founder,Chiara Lubich, he said, was an extraordinary witness to that gift which she spread to so many different parts of the world.
The Pope also offered three words upon which all members of the movement can base their efforts as they seek to contribute to the work of challenging task of evangelisation today. Firstly, he said, contemplation is an indispensable condition for effective action. Secondly, he said, they must go out in a spirit of dialogue, giving freely of themselves just as Jesus gave his life for us on the Cross. Finally, the Pope stressed the importance of forming young people, so that they too can serve the needs, concerns and hopes of men and women in the world today.
From Vatican Radio website
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report (Vatican Radio)