Along which lines and what perspective drives the Focolare’s ecumenical commitment? In his speech at a recent conference of bishops in Katowice, Jesús Morán Cepedano (Spanish, born close to Avila, Spain, in 1957), Co-President of the Focolare Movement since 2014, traces the premises and characteristics of a spirituality which the 2nd European Ecumenical Assembly had defined as ”ecumenical”.
“With the term ’spirituality’ I mean a way of concretely living the Christian faith.” He mentions a personal feature: “I met Chiara Lubich and the Focolare Movement in 1974. As a Spanish I was reared in a Catholic environment, and the Gospel was meditated in Church. But these new friends proposed putting it into practice. I wanted to change society but the first surprise was that the Gospel changed me.” Those were the years of Chiara Lubich’s contact with the leaders of various Churches, among which was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I, and the Archbishop Robert Runcie, at that time the head of the Church of England. “This charism aroused great interest, and once again in those who were not Catholics.”
Recalling the words of the founder of the Focolare addressing an audience of 7,000 priests and religious men and women in 1982 in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, “The Work of Mary does not only belong to the Catholic world. We are a sole reality together, though with the limits which the divisions still existing imply”.
Moran explained: “The charism God had gifted Chiara has its roots in an ecclesial dimension that can be shared by all the confessions, because it draws inspiration from the heart of the Gospel. And this can be related to the nature of the spirituality which arose from this charism: a spirituality that sets a ‘dialogue of life’ as the pre-condition to ecumenical dialogue. It is an ecumenism of ‘love,’ ‘truth,’ and ‘of the heart,’ terms which also recur today to underline a reciprocity of love that does not replace theological dialogue, but gives the opportunity to grow closer, in a profound ‘exchange of gifts’ that enrich one and the other.” Unity and reconciliation start in the heart, in the encounter between people in a warm reception, Morán underlined. But “the unity we live or seek,” he argued “is not uniformity, it is the Holy Spirit himself who generates diversity.”
Therefore, it is not a theoretical approach, but a dynamic experience of evangelical love, an ecumenical laboratory which, in the experience of the Focolare, now binds Christians belonging to over 300 Churches, and which spread, at least as a self-awareness within numberless ecclesiastic settings. “Dialogue of life is fruitful” – he added – “also in and among the parishes of various Churches: a twinning that helps to mutually know one another and find new forms of collaboration for social and cultural projects. Also the youths belonging to various Churches are committed in the front line to support primary emergency actions or aid to the most needy.”
What are the repercussions at theological level? “Some experts were called to take part in the official theological dialogues. Also at regional and especially diocesan levels, many have personally undertaken the commitment. An example, among many, are the theological symposiums established between the professors of the Rumanian-Orthodox Faculty of Cluj-Naponica (Romania) and the Sophia University Institute of Loppiano (Italy), where last 14 December an ecumenical chair was established, dedicated to Patriarch Athenagoras and Chiara Lubich. Silently but tenaciously, God is tracing an irreversible path to reach universal brotherhood, his design on humanity.”
Morán ended his reflection with the words of the “Ottmaring Declaration” with which the Focolare Movement inaugurated the celebrations for the fifth centenary of the Reformation: “With all our hearts we want to support the Churches in the commitment to reach a full and visible communion. We shall do all that is possible to make our activities and initiatives be substantiated by this open and fraternal attitude among Christians.”