How did Loppiano take the news of the Pope’s visit? “Just a minute after the President, Maria Voce had spread the news on our social media pages and among the groups of inhabitants, there was a storm of messages expressing joy and wonder.”
What does this event mean for you, as an inhabitant? “Even John Paul II was supposed to come here in the year 2000. The visit was cancelled four days before, due to a sudden change of programme. The desire for the Pope’s visit remained in our hearts then, and the same desire is present also today among the inhabitants.
How would you describe the town to one who has no idea of what Loppiano is?
“It is one of the places where one can more deeply experience the charism of unity that Chiara Lubich received from God, and from which the Focolare Movement was born and developed: that unity which is reached by building fraternal relationships, and living the testament of Jesus, “That all may be one.” About 1,000 people from 65 countries live in Loppiano, with various cultures, religions, and educational and social conditions. Here they learn first of all to become a community. What unites them is the desire to live the law on which the town is based: mutual love. This makes Loppiano a place of brotherhood.”
What’s life like in the town? “There are various economic activities, 11 training schools, a university institute, a big church that will host the Pope, many houses and cultivated fields. The inhabitants study, work, socialize, and live the normal life of all the towns, only that they try to do so by living the law of mutual love.”
The Pope will arrive in Loppiano after Nomadelfia. What relationship is there between the two towns? “They have a lot in common, though with completely different histories and charisms: both are places of brotherhood that look to the lowly people and have the Gospel as their law. There have been various occasions for encounters, even recently. So we are happy that the Pope will land here with his heart full of what he will receive in Nomadelfia. He will be welcomed with the same love and enthusiasm.”
Wherever the Pope goes, the spotlight of the world media turns on: how will the choice to visit Loppiano be interpreted? “I think that behind this desire is firstly the love for the charism of unity, gift which God has given us through Chiara Lubich. Bergoglio had met the Movement in Argentina, but even more closely as Pope. Loppiano is the place where this charism is most visible.”
How are you preparing for the visit? “What Maria Voce said has become an imperative for us. In these 100 days we have undertaken the commitment to intensify the life of love and unity rooted in the Gospel, so that the Pope may find that “Where two or more united in my name ” (Matthew 18,20),” the presence of Jesus in our midst, is a reality.
The Pope will stop to pray in the Church of Maria Theotokos, where there is a chapel dedicated to Christians of other confessions: what does this place represent? “Precisely Chiara wanted the Church to be in the geographic centre of Loppiano, so it would become the entire town’s point of unity. It is the place where we inhabitants meet daily to pray, but it is a reference point for the entire territory. It is the city’s seal.”
Is it also a way of underlining the centrality of the figure of Mary in the Movement? “Certainly. Not by chance the Church was dedicated to Maria Theotokos, Mary Mother of God, to underline the strongly Marian feature of the charism and of the Focolare movement. And precisely because Mary is the Mother of God and thus of humanity, the Church is open also to people of other Christian confessions, and other religions and beliefs. Inside there are various points where each one can pray, feel at home and contemplate.”
The Pope’s visit will take place on the 10th anniversary of the passing of Chiara Lubich. A coincidence? “I think we can consider this visit as a gift of God, a caress, and a sign of His love for the Work of Mary. Then we shall see what the Pope will want to say to us.”