Twenty years ago, Focolare founder Chiara Lubich was awarded an honorary citizenship in Palermo by Mayor Leoluca Orlando. Today, as Palermo is named the “Italian capital of culture”, the Movement re-solidifies that bond in the name of universal brotherhood and acceptance, in opposition to the negative actions that are recorded each day in a city of many contrasts. The programme was comprised of meetings, artistic displays and workshops about dialogue among the generations, cultures and Churches of Sicily.
Maria Voce devoted her speech to the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Sicily. “Arriving in Palermo at this moment in which many events concentrate the attention on the city, I could hear the words of Chiara Lubich to this city, resounding in my ears: “let us promise to have Palermo always in our heart and in our thoughts until, because of our courage and audacity and the courage of this city’s citizens, it will come to be a model for many other cities both within and beyond Italy, a veritable city on the hill.”
Maria Voce went on to say: “Chiara Lubich left an indelible mark with her efforts in favour of communion in the Church, for ecumenical dialogue and for brotherhood among peoples. As far back as the 1940s Chiara expressed her longing in words that were charged with zeal and urgency. “Look around: we’re all brothers [and sisters] – no one excluded!” This was how she exhorted us “to live out our universal brotherhood in one only Father: God who is in Heaven.” This was a plan that could be carried out in every city, but a plan that found particularly fertile ground in Palermo, a place “of encounter over the centuries among peoples, cultures and different civilizations,” a plan rooted in “the values of diversity, acceptance and solidarity.”
What has this charism contributed to the Universal Church and to the individual Churches in Sicily and beyond? Maria Voce responded: “With the charism of unity, a “new way” has been opened in the Church,” a spirituality that is in perfect harmony with the Second Vatican Council. “From this spirituality of communion we have seen communion blossom within the Church among the different ecclesial Movements that enrich it, among the variety of ancient and modern charisms. We have seen how useful it is in contributing to the unity of Christians and opening dialogue with people of other religions, which represents one of the most urgent and challenging frontiers of the third millennium. And these are things that are also experienced at the level of the local Church.”
“Despite the many emergencies in recent years – indeed, because of them – the Movement in Sicily is deeply focused on witnessing to unity and building it among the members of the human family wherever that family may be threatened. This is the way they respond to Chiara’s appeal when she urges all of us to “build a new culture that would be a culture of human rights, a culture of law and order, a culture of love, a culture of life and never of death.”
Maria Voce went on the say: “I think I can say something has already begun towards that goal. Certainly there is still a long road ahead, but it is a goal that with the entire Movement we renew today: to do our part at creating that ‘new civilization’ which contains all those values that are often trampled on . . . and to grow more and more – as Chiara says – all our Christian brothers and sisters, without leaving out the other religions, without leaving out anyone.” In so doing, we will truly be able to give life to a ‘culture of unity’ which Chiara more than once defined as the ‘culture of the Resurrection’.”