People & Places – Focolare Movement Official International Website Mon, 21 May 2018 17:17:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Message of Unity from the Pampas Mon, 21 May 2018 01:10:35 +0000 It began as a dream, just as every other Focolare town had. In 1950, Switzerland, after contemplating from a mountain above the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln, Chiara Lubich had the idea that one day the spirituality of unity would produce something similar: “A small town with all the elements of a modern city: houses, churches, schools, shops, businesses and other services. A community of people from diverse backgrounds joined by Jesus’s new commandment: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’” Her dream came true, first in Loppiano, Italy, then in another 24 small towns. Mariapolis Lia is one of them in the middle of the Argentine Pampas.

Carlos Becaria, who is co-responsible for the town, was a member of the first group of pioneers: “There wasn’t anything yet. But there was a prophetic inspiration. Vittorio Sabbione, one of the first focolarinos, said to us: “You’re here because you chose God. Discomforts won’t be lacking, so you’ll have to keep Jesus on the Cross in mind. I’m not offering you anything ready-made: you have to build it all for yourselves. We stayed because we believed in that dream.”

Mariapolis Lia is named after Lia Brunet (December 25, 1917 – February 5, 2005), one of the first companions of Chiara Lubich, invited by her to become a pioneer and take the charism of unity to the Latin American continent. A woman of Trent, like the foundress of the Focolare, she was labelled a revolutionary because of the radical way they lived the Gospel on a continent marked by so many social problems. Obviously, she never imagined as she gave a strong push to the Mariapolis in Argentina, that one day it would bear her name. “Lia”, just like Loppiano in Italy, which was recently visited by Pope Francis, strives to be a tangible sign of a dream that is coming true: a more fraternal world renewed by the Gospel. Currently 220 people live in Mariapolis Lia, but it welcomes hundreds of visitors throughout the year, mostly young people for long or short stays. Nearby stands Solidaridad Business Park, inspired by the Focolare’s Economy of Communion Project.

More than 250 people took part in the celebrations at the end of April, which will continue during the 50th anniversary year of the Mariapolis’s founding. They will be attended by Church leaders, representatives from the Movement, Christian Churches, Jewish faithful and people with no religious affiliation. “We got there at night,” recalls Marta Yofre, one of the first young women to arrive on at the threshold of the Mariapolis. I was feeling a sense of powerlessness, but also one certainty: Our Lady would be the one to build it.”

Nieves Tapia, founder of the Latin American Centre for Learning and Solidarity Service, attended the training school for young people in the 1980s: “Here I learned to love the other country as my own and to enlarge my heart to all of Latin America.” “Without realizing it, I was given the gift to experience as something normal, what was actually totally revolutionary: love for neighbour.” For Arturo Claria, a psychologist, UNESCO Master in Culture of Peace, what he experienced in the Mariapolis twenty years ago “is a mark that I will never be able to erase, a living demonstration that love transcends life.”

The Bishop of Mercedes-Lujan, Augustin Radrizzani: “It’s moving to realize what significance it has had for our country and for the world. It unites universal peace and brotherly love, illumined by the grace of this ideal.” Eduardo Leibobich from the Hebrew Organization for Inter-Confessional Dialogue, recalled the numerous “Peace Days that were held by the Mariapolis. Methodist pastor Fernando Suarez from the Ecumenical Movement of the Human Rights of People With Different Convictions: “I extend an invitation to join forces. It’s too beautiful the ideal of a free and equal human race, made brother and sister by respect and by mutual love.”

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Signs of unity and peace Fri, 18 May 2018 03:10:45 +0000 “Recently, just before the Holy Father visited Loppiano, I was in close contact with five Buddhist monks from Thailand,” says Luigi Butori. Originally from central Italy, Butori has lived in southeast Asia for close to 30 years. “I speak their language, and for the occasion I was their interpreter. It’s been an intense, profound, and demanding experience.
“When they visited the Focolare Movement’s international center for religious near Rome, they were struck by way two religious brothers, who are no longer so young themselves, served them concretely and did everything they could for them. That’s when the monks began to perceive a light, a harmony, or as one of them put it: a unique ‘voice’ within and around them.”
“The monks’ stay continued with a visit to the capital, accompanied by a guide who is a focolarina. The monk’s saw that her eyes ‘had that same smile as the brothers we met earlier.’ Then they spent a day in the city of Lucca, with the Focolare community there – close to 80 people ages 2 to 94. ‘You could see the same light in their faces,’ they said.
“The monks briefly stopped for a few hours in Pisa, where the Leaning Tower is, and there was someone from the local community there. They had the same smile.
“At this point one of the youngest monks exclaimed, ‘This child of Chiara Lubich has the same type of smile that we found in Rome, Castelli and Lucca – how is that possible?’

Buddhist monk Phramaha Thongrattana Thavorn (Luce Ardente) greeting the pope – Foto © R. Orefice – CSC Audiovisivi

Then Loppiano. “In that city of 850, where everyone knows and was waiting for Luce Ardente, as the monks’ teacher is known, there was a ‘special harmony,’ as they put it. It was an entire city of smiles! The monks’ hearts opened like flowers in spring, since they are so sensitive to the spiritual atmosphere.
“But the moment of moments came when the pope’s helicopter appeared in the sky. One of the monks, who had never experienced anything similar, was moved inside, as he told me later, and even shed tears, which is quite rare for monks. All the joy and hands waving to Pope Francis overcame any Buddhist restraint, and spontaneous joy shone from their faces and gestures.
“They listened to the songs by Gen Verde and Gen Rosso and nodded, happy with the meaning that they express. I tried to translate the Holy Father’s words, but I noticed that they understood them from within, beyond whatever I told them.
“‘We want to be a sign of unity and peace for the whole world,’ they told me.
“When they personally greeted the pope, they did so with an incredible serenity within. They told him: ‘Holy Father, we are Buddhist monks and we are a part of the Focolare: we studied the spirituality of unity of ‘mamma Chiara’ and want to live it: loving everyone, being first to love, loving right away with joy. We want to live unity as Chiara taught us to, like the rainbow in the sky: different colors, but united. We offer you this Thai fabric, so you can remember us.’
“The pope listened and agreed, smiling.
“Then, beyond what they had planned to say, one of them added, ‘Thank you for everything you said, but especially how you move – it is a sign of love and peace that I will always take with me wherever I go.’
“Later one of them told me: ‘Such an important man moving in such a simple way and sitting on a simple chair is a shock for me. It is not by chance that we met him: it means that we must work together for the good of humanity.’”

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Joyful anticipation Wed, 09 May 2018 01:10:56 +0000 «What did you do when you were my age? What games did you like best?». 10-year-old Luis Francisco from Mexico, now in Loppiano, has these questions in mind as he awaits the arrival of Pope Francis. Together with all the residents of this international Focolare town, Luis has been counting the days to May 10th since early February when the Pope’s secretary first announced this surprise visit to the Christian communities of Nomadelfia and Loppiano, both located in the Tuscan hills. Pope Francis is coming in person to see how life is lived “in the school of the one and only Master”, as he once described Loppiano, the first of 24 Focolare towns around the world. Focolare President, Maria Voce expressed “surprise and profound joy” at the news of this totally unexpected visit.

Loppiano is full of life, its streets illuminated by the happy smiling faces of young people who came in their hundreds to spend the last week of April together. With thousands more, they have just celebrated the all-Italy “Genfest” on May 1st when their joy could not be dampened even by the threat of rain. Now, as the big day approaches, the atmosphere of hopeful anticipation is becoming even more palpable.

Video camera in hand, we walked through Loppiano, speaking to residents as they carry out their daily duties in this countdown period to the papal visit.
Benedetta came to Loppiano for formation in the school of the Focolarine (the consecrated members of Focolare). She is welcoming the Pope’s visit as a personal gift from God as it comes on her own birthday. «No matter how short the visit, I hope he finds a family. That’s what we try to build among us every day».
Since 1966 Loppiano has been home to Gen Rosso, a band inspired by Chiara Lubich’s desire to spread the message of a more just, peaceful and united world through music. The musicians strive to express this spirit in their own lives and not just in their songs, with a lifestyle of communion and fraternity. Michele Sole joined Gen Rosso a few years ago. He is preparing to sing “Sweetest of Mothers” on the steps of the town’s church dedicated to Theotokos, Mother of God. Michele is grateful to the Pope for having «the courage to take the name Francis. I don’t know how easy it was for him to choose a name which means preferential option for the poor and the least». The notes of “Turn on peace” float through the air, as Gen Rosso rehearse nearby with fellow Loppiano-based performers, the distinctively international band Gen Verde.

The artist Ciro, born Roberto Cipollone, has lived in Loppiano since 1977, where he exercises his gift of transforming discarded and waste objects into captivating works of art. This artist breathes new life into trash items. From his workshop emerge sculpture, craftworks and paintings, created in the fusion of an artistic imagination with love for the natural world. Ciro’s perspective on the forthcoming visit: «I hope the Pope may find some of his innermost desires fulfilled here».

Aranza came to Loppiano with her family from Mexico to participate in the “Loreto School” for families of different countries and languages who together deepen their knowledge of the spirituality of unity. The annual courses which run from September to June provide a unique experience of cultural exchange and mutual enrichment. Aranza’s question to the Pope would be: «How can we young people best overcome the conditioning stereotypes the world tries to impose on us?».

Natalia, is a Brazilian student attending Sophia University Institute in Loppiano. She would like to ask the Pope about the role of young married people in the Church.

So many different questions, hopes and wishes, united in such joyful anticipation.

LIVE STREAMING from Loppiano on 10th May at 10.00 (CEST)

Vatican Media Live: from 8.00 am to 12.00 noon


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Pope Francis in Loppiano Tue, 08 May 2018 01:10:19 +0000 In Loppiano all is ready to welcome the Holy Father. Around 6,000 people from all over Italy are arriving, but thousands will be linked up in streaming in the five continents. We asked Maria Voce, Focolare President, how this encounter will take place. “We want to present to the Pope.” she explained, “this tiny town, the first among other 24 diffused worldwide, which wants to offer a model of coexistence founded on the evangelical principles of solidarity and fraternity, certainly unique, but able to be spread and repeated elsewhere.

In Loppiano, the Pope will not only meet the 750 inhabitants, ” Maria Voce continued, “but also a representative group of the Focolare’s global family. We shall ask him some questions on themes that we hold dear: the challenge of fidelity to the charismatic idea of Chiara Lubich in contrast with the changed conditions of today; the education of the young people in a culture of fraternity; and Loppiano’s model of coexistence as a contribution to the current announcement of the Christian message and the overcoming of barriers, nationalism and prejudices.”

The Focolare Movement is a variegated constellation that places at the core of its actions and dialogue a lifestyle that concurs to construct unity and peace in the world. It counts over 2 million members belonging to many Christian Churches, but also of different religious beliefs and lay inspirations. It undertakes around 1,000 social actions underway in various countries, and around 800 enterprises worldwide that work according to the principles of the Economy of Communion. The Sophia University, based precisely in Loppiano is now in its tenth year of life.

Upon his arrival in the town, the Holy Father will go directly to the Church of Maria Theotókos, where he shall stop briefly to pray. He will also pray before the painting of the Madonna with Child, the work of a painter belonging to the Hindu religion and symbol of the dialogue which is one of the many pillars of coexistence in Loppiano. Then in the churchyard, Maria Voce will greet the Pope on behalf of the Focolare Movement. A moment of dialogue will follow in which some citizens of Loppiano will ask him some questions. This session will be interrupted with music pieces of artists from various countries and religious environments. Lastly, around 30 citizens will personally greet the Pope who will leave to return to the Vatican, after the benediction.

Live streaming 10 May 2018, 10.00am till 12.00 noon (CEST):

Vatican Media Live

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Month of May focuses on youth Sat, 28 Apr 2018 03:10:03 +0000 Zooming in on the young. Once again this year United World Week will be launched from the Focolare’s little town of Loppiano, Italy. Events will include a global network of projects marked by the spirit of brotherhood among peoples from a variety of cultures. This event has been held for over twenty years by the young members of the Focolare Movement who wish to bear witness not only to their peers, but also to public institutions that the dream of a united world has not been crushed by war or underneath the weight of social injustice – especially if the new generations who have been formed in a culture of peace are the ones taking the reins of society in their own hands.

On May 1st, the Italian Focolare town will host one of the many “national” events in advance of the Genfest that will be held this year in Manila, Philippines (“Beyond all Borders, July 2018), and assemble 3 thousand young people from all over the world. It will be a festival to talk about the most difficult border to overcome when reaching out to others: oneself. “Beyond Me” will tell the stories of people who have wanted to bring about a change, beginning with themselves, stepping out of their comfort zones, to open themselves to such values as solidarity and to the needs of the people around them. For many of the young people, this experience of openness deepens its roots into a personal encounter with God, which has transformed their lives and allowed them to overcome their fears. For others, it has been overcoming an illness or disability or taking notice of someone else’s need. In name of a great friendship with the community of Nomadelfia and in view of the Pope’s visit to the two towns on May 10th, there will also be a large group of young people from Nomadelfia.

United World Week, which will begin right after, will be a single event located in different places around the world. It is an international expo that is an integral part of the United World Project, which for more than twenty years – the first edition in 1995 – returns every year at this time to promote peaceful relations and exchange among peoples and cultures, especially among the poor, marginalized and lonely, but not with out the help of famous people from the worlds of culture, sport, civil society and religion. Over time, United World Week gained ground on the local, national and supranational levels of public opinion through the social and mass media, and its projects in favor of brotherhood.

The 2018 edition will focus on the topic “Generation Zero Hunger” one of 17 sustainable development objectives contained in the Agenda approved by the member States of the United Nations, to be reached by 2030. The teenagers and young people of the Focolare Movement have long been engaged in offering an important contribution to the project being brought forward by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with regard to things such as malnutrition, wasting food, respect for Nature and personal and collective projects geared towards the responsible use of the earth and its resources. Hence, the Week will be an opportunity to show the results of this collaboration and to engage other teenagers, citizens and institutions in reaching the goal.

At the conclusion, on May 6th, the Run for Unity relay race will be held with hundred and thousands of teenagers of all nationalities, religions, cultures and ethnic groups. It will cover the earth, offering a testimony of “fraternity” from East to West. At every stop along the run – on foot or on bike – the most counter-current relay that exists will be enriched with sporting events, games, acts of solidarity and whatever else can help to bear witness that the dream of a united world lives on, in spite of the tensions or signs to the contrary. Perhaps these kids will be among the main actors.

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An Anniversary in the Family Tue, 24 Apr 2018 01:10:22 +0000 “Ten years after her death, we’re here to remember a great woman», announced the Archbishop of Belgrade, Serbia, Most Rev Stanislav Hočevar while celebrating an anniversary Mass on 14th March. He continued, “At a time when darkness overshadowed the world, a new Light illuminated Chiara’s heart. Even as sin, hatred and evil were creating divisions, Love came close, connecting and unifying, to restore and rebuild. Today, as in those times, surrounded as we are by the chaos of social, cultural and historic conflicts, we too are called to enkindle a new light of understanding, unity and cooperation.”

Connecting, coming close, uniting, rebuilding’: these words convey something of the global celebration which began in March and is still ongoing; each event an occasion to recall and relaunch the spiritual legacy of the Focolare founder, Chiara Lubich. «If I was to leave this earth today and you were to ask for my last words, the last word on our Ideal, I would say, sure that you would understand exactly what I mean: Be a family.” Chiara said this back in December 1973, but her words, her legacy, touch hearts today as powerfully as ever, as seen in the news arriving from all over the world of encounters and actions inspired by this anniversary.

First to the mountainous region of Northern Thailand with its hundreds of elaborately-decorated Buddhist temples, to the city of Chiang Mai. Sixty members of the Focolare community, from five different ethnic groups (Thai, Karen, Akha, Lahu, Kachin), together with others from the Philippines, gathered together to mark the anniversary by offering practical assistance to a rural community in need, the Kachin tribe. As the Focolare members explained, “After celebrating Mass, we set off from the city, adults and children alike, on the 7km journey to a rural village where our friends of the Kachin tribe live in very simple and at times difficult conditions. At their request, we cleared a patch of land and prepared it as a playground for the children. When we had finished transforming that space, we realised that the biggest transformation had actually happened within our hearts and in the relationship among us, as we worked together under the burning sun. In that small place, we experienced the presence of God. We saw how we can work with Him to change the world, one village at a time.”

In six regions of Kenya, each in their own way subject to socio-political tensions and at times openly violent conflicts, the local Focolare communities held a series of day meetings proposing a message of unity, more needed than ever to tackle the challenges and difficulties of this multi-ethnic multi-faith nation. Venues included Garissa, eastern Kenya, where tension remains high between Christians and Muslims, Amukura and Seme in the west, Mombassa on the coast, as well as Karatina in the central region and Meru in the North East. “Chiara continues to guide us to this very day,” was the general reaction.

The presence and participation of religious leaders and Church representatives in numerous events was appreciated around the world. In Warsaw, Poland, the head of the Methodist Church sent a warmly-received message, and the Papal Nuncio conveyed greetings from Pope Francis. In Russia, a gathering in Moscow recalled with renewed joy the pioneering era of the 1970s when the first Focolarini arrived in the then Soviet Union. Nearly 2,000km away on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains, a Focolare community met in Chelyabinsk. While 4,000km from Moscow, in Central Siberia, a 3-day “Mariapolis” at Krasnojarsk also reflected Chiara’s call to be “a family”.

Chiara Lubich’s “legacy” rang out loud and clear in Dublin, Ireland, the city preparing to host the forthcoming World Meeting of Families in August. Particularly moving were testimonies of care and support between the generations inspired by Chiara’s life and words. In Stockholm, Sweden, a group of young people prepared an abundant supper for the whole Focolare community. Over the meal, the conversation revealed the lasting effects of the spirituality of unity in each person’s life. Yet another characteristically “family” celebration.

Nomadelfia and the law of fraternity Mon, 23 Apr 2018 03:10:08 +0000
Copyright © 2018 Nomadelfia

Nomadelfia rises amid the hills of Mediterranean countryside, south of Tuscany (Grosseto, Italy). There are 300 inhabitants who have chosen the evangelical law of fraternity as their “rule.” This explains its name, a neologism concocted by the combination of the Greek terms nomos and adelphia that mean “brotherhood is law.”
“We want to demonstrate that the Gospel can be lived on a social scale, by giving oneself entirely to the others and implementing those principles of justice and fraternity which we chose to abide by, on a path of the sharing of faith and life,” recounted Francesco Matterazzo, current president of the community.

The town is structured into 12 family groups, composed of about 25-30 people. They have a communion of goods, there is private property, and money does not circulate. Work is taken as an act of love for the other and the families are willing to foster children. For the Catholic Church, Nomadelfia is a parish composed of families, single laity and priests who share an experience that recalls that of the first communities of the faithful, precisely a stone’s throw from the Etruscan-Roman town of Roselle, an ancient Episcopal seat. Its origin, however, comes from Northern Italy, from the city of Carpi.

Fr. Zeno Saltini. Foto © 2018 Nomadelfia

It was there that around the 1930s, Fr Zeno Saltini started to gather abandoned children and raise them as sons, thus founding the Work of the Little Apostles. Soon other priests joined him, and also Irene, a young student who offered to act as mother to those children. With the approval of the Bishop, Fr. Zeno entrusted the smaller children to her, launching a new consecration path in the Church, that of the “mothers by vocation.” With the end of the war, also many families joined up with Fr. Zeno, who were willing to gather the war orphans and raise them as their very own.
On 14 February 1948, the entire community approved the text of a Charter, which was signed at the altar: so the Work of the Little Apostles became Nomadelfia. After a series of adventurous trials, the “Nomadelfians” found a home suitable for the development of the community in the city of Grosseto, in an estate donated by the daughter of a renowned Italian businessman.

“Our mission today has not changed,” explains Francesco Matterazzo. “In an ever more connected world that develops new instruments for communication and unity, there are other coexisting realities that deny the dignity of the other and build walls… this is why I think that the proposal of a path of brother is important for mankind more than ever! Here in Nomadelfia, families, priests and singles can share a daily more suited to humanity’s natural aspirations for superior values like love, friendship, prayer and contemplation, and socially richer due to the variety of experiences and range of ages.”

Nomadelfia_Visita Centro Focolari
22 April 2018: Official visit to the international centre of the Focolare Movement in Rocca di Papa (Rome). ©CSC Audiovisivi

It is a community open to the world, and open in sharing the path with other charisms, as testified to by the experience underway with the Focolare Movement: “I hope – he continued – that the road we are taking together can be a real witness to the Church, not only because of our shared anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit and our young people’s participation in the May 1st Genfest, but in many ways, including our common work on the project for a Prophetic Economy. The Lord has sown many flowers in this meadow which is the world, and many charisms. I believe we should seek all ways of working together, since this enriches the gift which each one is for humanity.” To underline the words of Mr Materazzo, on Sunday 22 April, a lively delegation of “Nomadelfians” composed of the heads of the town, adults and numerous children visited the Centre of the Focolare Movement. A joyful moment in a truly family atmosphere.

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Muslims and Christians together Thu, 19 Apr 2018 03:10:08 +0000 “We were born in two traditionally conservative families from Tlemcen, an ancient city, the cradle of Arab-Muslim culture,” says Farouk. “We’ve been married 42 years, have three children and two grandchildren.
“During the first year we were married, like many couples, we discovered that we had very different personalities, and this caused friction between us.
“Meeting the Focolare Movement helped us understand that we needed to start on the path to true love. This experience showered us with God’s love and helped us take early steps toward each other. We really wanted to learn all about the spirituality of unity deeply, to the point that our lives began to be between Orano, where we live, and Tlemcen, where the Focolare center is.
“We started sharing our Muslim faith and understanding how to embody the spirituality of unity within our beliefs. A small community took shape around us at Orano, where our house became a gathering place, a “beacon,” as Chiara Lubich herself named it.

“Many Muslims met the Focolare, and we started to share more and more, nourished and enriched by a supernatural love. In the early 1990s, the guerilla war in our country reminded us of the similar circumstances when the movement was born, and that same discovery of God as the ideal of our lives.”

Schéhérazad continues: “We went through a pretty turbulent stage when our children were teens. We tried to debate and dialogue with them, but above all, love them. We can now say that with the two eldest we were able to create a relationship based on sincerity.
“In the Focolare community I heard experiences about the love of God. Little by little I learned to trust faithfully in God, in his mercy.
“Taking up this spiritual path freed me from my ego and fear in my relationships with people. The commitment to put God in the first place in our lives is certainly personal, but we chose to live it as a family.

“Realizing one’s own limits and those of the other is a never-ending exercise. We need to constantly begin again, ask for forgiveness and start again.”

“In Islam,” explains Farouk, “prayer is a solemn moment. Our prayers didn’t used to be that regular before, and each of us prayed alone. Now we try to pray together, out of love, not obligation.
“In Algeria there are many sub-Saharan young people who come to study. Some come to the Focolare. We try to meet their needs, since they often don’t feel integrated socially.
“One of these young people, who is Christian, lived with us for a year and a half. We built a relationship so profound that he considered us his second parents. We often gave him our car so he could go to Mass.”

“In the Focolare community,” says Schéhérazad, “there is a sincere exchange, with out any misunderstandings about faith. Any introduction is done with respect for everyone, with love that has no agenda, with no intent to convert the other, but instead to help them be more authentically themselves.

“When we meet a Christian, for us it is natural to see him as a brother to love. We are not made to compete, but to work on a common project. Building unity cannot be taken for granted; it is a commitment that needs to be constantly renewed.
“Together, Muslims and Christians, we can go toward the unifying One. In our life, thanks to Chiara Lubich, we have understood that this unifying One can be reached when at least two of us love each other, ready to give our lives for each other.”

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Ecclesial Movements incarnate the Gospel Tue, 17 Apr 2018 08:10:53 +0000
Marc St Hilaire. Focolare Movement

“The institutional dimension and the charismatic dimension of which the Focolare Movement is a very significant expression, are co-essential to the very constitution of the Church founded by Jesus, because they work together to make present the mystery of Christ and his saving action in the world.” Twenty years ago, on Pentecost 1998, speaking before 250,000 members of 50 ecclesial Movements and new communities who had gone to Rome for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, Pope John Paul II clarified for the first time the place in the Church of the numerous new phenomena that had emerged from the charisms in the Church.

Since then, thousands of initiatives around the world have been nurturing the process of communion among movements. In the meeting at Castel Gandolfo (April 5-8), members of different ecclesial organizations gave presentations that highlighted the fruits of that ongoing process, giving a new impetus to their efforts in favour of unity.

“The word co-essential refers to the nature [of the Church],” Marc St Hilaire stressed. He is a counsellor for the Focolare, along with Margaret Karram, working for communion within the Catholic Church. “It means that there is no Church without its institution, and no Church without its charisms.”

Salvatore Martinez, Aurelio Molè, P. Marmann, D. Angelo Romano

“It’s the Holy Spirit who asks this of us,” Salvatore Martinez insisted, president of the Renewal in the Spirit in Italy, according to which “Communion is a grand challenge among the charisms within the Church.” It’s a spiritual friendship, “born of the Spirit, and it’s a marvellous gift.”

“Chiara Lubich (founder of the Focolare) gave some advice on building communion,” Margaret Karram recounts. “Before all else, build personal relationships, not with movements, but with the people in the movements. Then, pray for one another, offer homes and facilities for meetings and activities, and give make space for one another in your publications.”
To develop a dialogue that is fruitful, said Fr Micahel J Marmann, who is the current general president of the Schoenstatt Movement, “Technique is of no use. This type of dialogue has to be inspired from within, that is, by love” in the awareness that diversity is an enrichment and communion and co-responsibility a must.

It’s from here that initiatives are begun around the world. Beginning from a small group, in 2015, “Together for Mexico” involved five thousand from 60 movements desirous to do something for their country. “Now we’re working on the 2019 event with 80 movements,” Margaret Karram reports. “Whereas, in other countries they hold projects in favour of the environment or for disarmament, in the Middle East they pray for peace; in Italy they hold concerts to raise money for the victims of war and the poor.

Fr Angelo Romano, Rector of the Basilica of St Bartholomew in Rome, for the Community of Sant’Egidio and in charge of dialogue, “There are sectors in which the path of communion has to grow: as Christians we cannot refuse to question ourselves about the phenomenon of migration and take steps together. Another topic to examine more deeply are the conflicts, which generate poverty and suffering and send a message that is contrary to the Gospel, which says that those who are different can never live together; whereas, we believe that the Gospel is a leaven of unity and peace, and Christians are called to provide a new perspective.”

The work of the movements is an incarnation of the Gospel: “We’re the answer,” says Martinez, “of that dichotomy that many would like to put between doctrine and mercy, because the theology of the spirit is done with the life.” And proposing a Church that is poor and missionary is not in antithesis with the doctrine, but part of it: “It’s that dialogue with the world and modernity that the Second Vatican Council prophesied,” says Martinez, “which Paul VI was the first to attempt and all the popes to continue. It’s this original synthesis that the Pope asks us to give witness to: a doctrine that one incarnates in the history.”

In this prospective, twenty years from 1998, the ecclesial movements appear more and more to be “the Providential answer to the needs of our time”. It is an answer that implies a constant effort towards unity, to bringing the face of Christ to the human peripheries.

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Dubai: at the top Mon, 16 Apr 2018 03:10:02 +0000 The Burj Khalifa is currently the world’s tallest building, its 160 floors rising to a dizzying 830 metres. At ground level an immense choreographed fountain is illuminated by laser beams bouncing through water jets to a constantly changing musical accompaniment. Although its “world-highest” title is under threat from the Kingdom Tower of Gedda (200 floors) and other skyscrapers rising up in various countries, the city of Dubai is synonymous with its  ‘At The Top’ observation deck, offering breath-taking birds-eye views of stunning ultramodern constructions. In recent years, the so-called ‘city of dreams’ has seen one of the highest immigration rates in the world, attracting people from many different countries looking for work. This has produced a distinctively cosmopolitan environment, one not without difficulties, particularly for its foreign workers.

In this high-rise ‘concrete jungle’ dwells a small community of the Focolare Movement. Many left their own countries for Dubai  – like countless others – hoping to find better financial opportunities for their families.  For three weeks in February this community enthusiastically welcomed Romè from the Philippines, Fadia and Susanne from Jordan and Murad from Syria, later joined by Alessandro from Italy for part of the time. Together they formed a ‘temporary focolare’ in this unique location.

The visitors recall: “We were welcomed at the airport by a group of radiant faces. Each one of us was presented with a beautiful flower! Instantly we were made to feel at home. Our first morning in Dubai dawned with an email greeting from Focolare President, Maria Voce: ‘May Jesus be always present among you, and may He be the most beautiful gift for those you will meet!’ These words guided our steps as we entered into the heart of this community. On tip-toe we contacted one person after another, setting up appointments in their homes, in churches, restaurants, shopping centres and even in metro stations.  Wherever we met, people brought items – providence – to share with others. Every moment of the day, and well into the night hours as well, provided opportunities to build a ‘shelter’ for Jesus, for Jesus among us. And what joy every time!”

The visitors joined an international and culturally diverse group of Focolare animators to prepare a 2-day Mariapolis. “Our presence in Dubai was in order to serve. But each one of the 70 participants at the Mariapolis, from eleven different nationalities, gave their own active contribution. Chiara Lubich’s last wish ‘always be a family’ was evident there.”

The visitors continue: “Talking with several Dubai residents, we became aware of how many worries they may have – discrimination, the fear of losing a job, the high cost of living combined with disproportionately low salaries, no permanent residence, and often no clear future. However, beneath all this, lies a ‘treasure’ hidden in each one’s heart: God, whom they have chosen as their ideal in life.” In conclusion, “We saw how it’s the life of unity lived as part of a community which helps each one withstand the daily challenges.” This – and not height in metres – is what characterizes their distinctive race to The Top.


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