In the present context it may seem absurd or anachronistic to speak of unity. And yet the motivation which animates the bishops present at the Ecumenical Convention on the island of Heybeliada (Halki) is anything but a utopia. Their commitment to live reciprocal love among themselves and with their churches is already a vital testimony for anyone who has lost hope in dialogue and peace.
On November 25th, Maria Voce spoke to the bishops about unity in her programmatic speech. Unity is not only a gift from on high, but also becomes an impelling commitment which, she assures us, allows us to “insert ourselves into the sacred history of humanity.” A sacred story in which Christians have an essential role. Unity becomes a response to the challenges of today. “In the face of powerlessness, which at times assails us even today,” she continues, “perhaps we need to take a single first step: to give ourselves to God as instruments in his hands, because he builds unity upon our nothingness. This is our first obligation, the first step we must take singularly and together.”
With the dramatic social problems of today, many people, especially the young, feel the need to be visibly present next to those who suffer. But the Focolare Movement’s task does not finish here. One must understand that unity is an objective towards the goal of a united world. “We are called to unity with all, excluding no one,” stresses Maria Voce. Citing various excerpts by Chiara Lubich, she reveals to the bishops the way discovered by the Focolare foundress. “For us, the door which leads to unity is Jesus Crucified and Forsaken,” which “carried out the reunification of the human race with the Father and among men and women, and it is He, crucified and forsaken, the key to unity, which he will fulfill even today.”
The task which the Focolare Movement poses is to bring the richness of unity to every corner of the world, to awaken life everywhere. “In the refugee camps, ” continues Maria Voce, “in the hospitals for the wounded by war, in the public demonstrations, in the queues of people looking for work and finding none, in the ports crowded with immigrants…everywhere, everywhere, God is asking us to light ever-greater flames.”
In the subsequent dialogue several bishops related their actions in difficult situations, and the solidarity of the faithful of different churches wherever there is war and suffering. They have a strong certainty that the cross of Jesus is the common bond between them and will make lively communities blossom in the most unthinkable places.
The program then took a particular look at the situation of the local churches in the Middle East, the role of Christians and their difficulties. Bishop Sahak Maşalyan, despite the complex situation of the Armenian Church in Turkey, spreads optimism, and asserts: “When Christians lose their sense of optimism, in the end they emigrate to some other place.” An appeal was also made by Bishop Simon Atallah, of the Maronite Church of Lebanon. He asked all to pray with fervor to end the war, so that Christians would not abandon their lands and could return to living in peace and harmony.
At the end of the day Angela Caliaro e Carmine Donnici, representatives of the Movement, spoke about the development and the influence of the Focolare in the whole Middle Eastern area; a seed of hope which engages Christians, Muslims, and Jews and encourages them to continue on the road to reconciliation and peace.
From correspondent Adriana Avellaneda